Lucas Picasso Trindade, a junior student who studies sports, exercise, and wellness at Dakota Wesleyan University, knows these challenges all too well. A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, he became interested in attending an American college when he learned of the opportunity to play sports and attend college to get an education. Since his arrival, he has worked to help the school and other international students navigate the application waters and attend a college away from home.
His efforts recently earned him the Collegiate Student Athletic Personality Award, part of the Personality Champions Awards given by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Paixao told Mitchell Republic about the award in a recent interview. “It was totally unexpected but it made me really happy.”
Coming to America
Paixaw said the seeds for his travel to the United States for school were sown when his mother made him take English lessons when he was 11.
“When I was 11, my mother told me that she would teach me at school to learn English. At that time, I asked why?,” Paixao said. “But now I thank her very much. English is the language of business all over the world.”
Learning English was also a bridge that allowed him to consider studying abroad after he finished his primary education. He had stopped playing football at the age of fourteen to focus on his school education and art studies. He eventually earned a degree in construction management and worked in the field while continuing his studies.
Paixao, now 21, said he hadn’t seriously considered studying in the US until a YouTube video told him of an opportunity to combine two things he enjoyed – playing competitive football and education.
“When I found out through YouTube that a student can study and play at the same time, I was amazed. I started researching how it worked, and ended up hiring an agency that recorded me playing, and based on that and my English test scores, they found me a place in Texas, Baixaw said.
He first came to the United States as a student-athlete in 2018 to attend Coastal Bend Junior College in Texas. He moved to Dakota Wesleyan and is currently studying sports, exercise and wellness. Since arriving at DWU in January, he has demonstrated leadership in the classroom and on the field and as a student director and student assistant. Paixao has been voted as co-captain of the 2021 men’s soccer team and promoted to student manager in the campus cafeteria.
He said it was a successful stop at Mitchell, but he learned during the application process to come to the United States that he had a lot to learn about how American colleges work. Drawing on his own experiences, he soon became a student assistant on campus to help establish DWU’s International Student Services.
“The United States of America and Brazil have two different educational systems,” he said. I faced challenges like ‘What’s the app?’ What do they want from me? What does it offer? You have to worry about getting your visa. Everything you did in the admission process will not be reflected in anything if you do not get the visa.”
Lucas Paixao Trindade, a freshman at Dakota Wesleyan University who studies sports, exercise and wellness, was recently awarded the College Student Athletic Personality Award by the National Intercollegiate Athletics Association. A native of São Paulo, Brazil, has helped DWU enhance its resources to welcome new international students by providing guides to the college application process and orientation for newly arrived students on campus. Earlier this month he also participated in a meal for international students at DWU, where he served vijado, a traditional Brazilian dish. (photo provided)
Paixao has worked with DWU staff, including Missy Leuthold, the International Student Service Coordinator, to enhance the school’s website with clear information about what international students should do as they apply to attend classes at the school. It has included step-by-step instructions for starting a university application as well as obtaining other important documents. He has also since helped organize orientations for international students, introduce them to the campus and the Mitchell community itself and review class credit procedures.
He said that DWU is a great place to receive an education, and he knows that other international students are enjoying their time here too. The school has many international students coming from places like Germany, South Africa, Peru, Chile and Panama, and they all have to overcome similar challenges.
But once they complete the process and get here, they find DWU and Mitchell a great place to be. As a native of São Paulo, a city of 12.3 million people, Paixao said he enjoys the slower pace of the small-town atmosphere that the school and community provide. He is glad to have had the opportunity to make the transition of his fellow international students smoother because he knows that experiences like the one he had at DWU are worth pursuing.
And the process continues. Campus life for international students is a continuous learning process, which can expand them in ways that extend beyond the classroom. This is something he wants to keep promoting in his fellow students.
“The challenges (as an international student), you face every day. I like to say that this is our choice, we are the ones who chose to be here and the reasons are different. Some of us want to come to the US because they think they will have a chance and a better education.” “Some come for sporting reasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard to stay away from family, especially if English isn’t their first language.”
Leutold, who nominated Picsau for the award, said he made an excellent candidate for recognition for the work he accomplished after drawing on his own experiences in coming to the United States for the school.
“There were two things that stood out – his leadership and his compassion,” said Leuthold. “He was willing to put future international students first and look at how to get additional scholarships and make the process easier for them. He took his own experiences and took what could be useful for him and applied it to other students.”
Jim Carr, CEO and President of the NAIA, said Paixao and the four other winners recently recognized by the NAIA represent the organization’s core values.
“Personality-driven athletics is a primary focus for us and our organizations. These honorees embody those five values, and we are excited to celebrate their accomplishments,” Carr said in a statement.
to the future
Paixao said he and DWU staff will continue to improve their approach to welcoming international applications. He expects the process to improve only when they get more feedback from students around the world who have taken the leap to study at a school away from home.
For him, he is expected to graduate next December and wants to apply for a one-year work visa to work in his degree field. He is considering staying in the US to work for a short time, but his ultimate goal is to return to Brazil with the experience he gained while studying in a faraway land called South Dakota.
“Once I’m back there, I have a plan to create a company that can help people get the same opportunities that I had. To make those opportunities more accessible to them,” Baixau said.
After all, he was able to enjoy the benefits of studying abroad, and hoped that others would follow in his footsteps on their way to a career.
“I liked this process very much. I would like to share it with more people,” Paixao said.