Nov. 8, 2010
Heading into preseason practice, junior setter Patricia Figueiredo knew things would be difficult in becoming acclimated to the Florida State University volleyball team. She was transferring from tiny Missouri State West Plains, would have to learn to adapt to a bigger campus and needed to once again become acquainted with a whole new set of teammates.
Those were just some of her social challenges. As one of FSU’s two setters, she needed to learn her new hitters and her team’s offensive philosophy on the fly, with only three weeks remaining before the Seminoles’ first match against New Mexico State.
“In the beginning I was trying to do everything I knew I could do before, but it wasn’t the same playing for the Brazilian Team as it has been playing for college,” Figueiredo said. “Now I’m able to just relax and I think I’ve been able to play better because of that.”
Relaxation has been the key to her improved game, as she now fully understands head coach Chris Poole’s nuances and her exact positioning on the court.
“It was really different. New hitters, a new coach and a new way of playing. I’ve been getting more used to it, so it’s been getting better,” Figueiredo added.
Splitting time with fellow setter Duygu Duzceler, Figueiredo has made plenty of progress since the season began. Following FSU’s 3-1 victory over Clemson on Oct. 8, it was Poole who singled out Figueiredo as one of the team’s great improvements with each passing week, giving his emerging setter even more confidence to finish the season strong.
Despite all the progress she has made, Figueiredo’s development as an athlete pales in comparison to the strides she has made socially since moving from her beloved hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Like many of the international players on FSU, Figueiredo is prideful of where she grew up, knowing her heart will always belong to the place that she can truly call home.
“The people, the place itself, I can’t describe it,” Figueiredo said of her home country. “My city is a big city, there’s always traffic, and a lot of people walk the street. Tallahassee is quieter. The biggest thing for me is my family and friends. If I can take them and bring them here, it’d be perfect.”
Living her life in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, which was granted the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Figueiredo was never short of things to do as a child. One of the things she misses most is the Brazilian food, which includes a special dish called Feijoada (pronounced Fay-Jew-Ah-Duh) that makes her savor every bite.
“It’s a Brazilian dish with beans and different kinds of meats and you mix it all together,” Figueiredo explained. “We also have Farofa – it’s a kind of flour with eggs that are whipped together. It’s a typical Brazilian dish. My dad and my grandmother cook it, and it’s really good.”
With Portuguese as her native language, Figueiredo also speaks Spanish since taking it in high school. Her biggest challenge when she made the overseas trip was to learn the English language, knowing that she would have to learn at a rapid pace in order to communicate more effectively with her teammates at both Missouri State-West Plains and FSU.
However, Figueiredo also saw the prospect of becoming trilingual as a major asset toward her career goals.
“When I came here that was the first thing that I was thinking about,” she said. “I knew wherever I go I’d have to speak English, and that was the most important thing for me. With Spanish, I took that in high school but I haven’t spoken it in a while. It’s pretty similar to Portuguese. That is my goal – earning a new language and being able to get better jobs when I go back to Brazil.”
When asked what her proudest moment has been to date, Figueiredo described that she is currently living that moment. Her journey from growing up as an underprivileged individual to making the enormous commitment of living away from family in order to pursue her goals is something that gives her self-satisfaction.
“I grew up in a poor family and studied in public schools. If I wasn’t here, I think I’d be back at Brazil working somewhere – like shopping or a place like that to help my home and to pay for my studies,” Figueiredo admitted. “Now being in the United States and being at Florida State University, I would have never imagined that someday my life would be here. I worked real hard to be here, and now I feel like I’ve got it.”
Whenever she makes her permanent trek back to her roots, the environmental chemistry major hopes that she can convince several Americans of what her home country is all about.
“People think Brazil is a big forest and we eat bananas and that’s it,” Figueiredo said with a laugh. “That there’s no population. I think people should go there to visit. It’s really different, but it’s also really pretty there.”
Continuing to improve in all facets of her life, Figueiredo is on track to make her experience in the United States all-the-more worthwhile. As she makes her exciting trip home to Rio de Janeiro for the holidays in nearly a month, Figueiredo figures to share plenty of valuable moments that have occurred in her first season as a Florida State Seminole.