By Kiran Ramratnam ‘22
- Where do you call home?
I actually had to do an essay at the start of the term about “what is home?” for my English  class [with Brace Adult Advisory Board Member, Ms. Staffaroni]. I don’t exactly have one place I would call home. It sounds kind of cliche, but home is where your heart is: wherever you feel comfortable, accepted, and embraced.
- How would your answer differ if instead asked: where are you from?
I would probably say automatically, “I’m from Brazil. I’m from Rio,” but there’s much more than that. Every single person represents much more than simply the place they come from. [Belonging] is way more than a single country or a physical place.
- How did you get introduced to the Brace Center?
I got one of the emails and was very interested because gender studies were something completely new to me. I had [researched] them myself, but I never had those at school; the closest we got to gender studies was sexual reproduction for health. [I was especially interested] when I saw that students could engage in discussions and research [by] themselves.
- Tell us about your experience being a remote student and a new upper.
It has had upsides and downsides because at some moments I feel that [my ability] to manage my time is good, but I’m not a very self-organized person[…] Being new is strange considering there are not many new students. More often than not [in class], I [am the only] new student, and everyone else is a returning upper, so I’m kind of just there.
At the same time, one day we had to do a project in my math class. It could be a group or individual, but I didn’t know anyone so I was planning to do it individually. [Later], I got an email from one of my [peers] who asked me if I would like to be part of her group. I was like do you even know me? I didn’t even notice that I was noticeable in that class. You are not just existing. People are caring for you.
- What is the most important thing you learned last term?
It has a lot to do with self-knowledge.
Specifically, in my English class, we studied The Book of Delights [by Ross Gay] and our mission was to post an essay each week talking about delights. [In our essays,] we reflected and expanded. What is the definition of a delight? When is it not necessarily a good thing?
When you sit down to write, you end up learning about yourself. You end up reflecting. Who are you? Who are your friends? Who are the people you hang out with?
[Before Andover,] I had been in the same school for the last five years. I had built a community and now I don’t have it anymore. But at the same time, people [from my old school] are supportive. I’m still in their study groups and we chat all the time.
When I sat down to write, I noticed that I am very privileged to have people who care about me. They are always there for me.
- Are you involved in any extracurriculars on campus?
I actually [started the] Portuguese club with another new upper named Emilia [Fonseca ‘22]. We do want to teach a little bit of Portuguese, but we also know that people will not be as committed because it’s not a class. [Additionally,] Portuguese is a complex language.
Our goal would be to talk about the culture in Brazil [and in other] Portuguese-speaking countries. [We aim to focus] on history, fashion, art, music, and literature. We think that even though we have a movement of Latinx people as a whole, Brazil still has a very different and particular culture.
One of the things [Emilia and I] have reflected a lot on this term is [as Brazilians], are we Latinx or not?
[Before Andover], we had never classified ourselves as so, and then suddenly we had to. It’s not that we don’t agree or that we don’t feel comfortable. In fact, every single Latinx person I’ve met so far has been very nice, warm, and [in] solidarity. They really want to make you feel part of the community, but at the same time, it’s strange to get labeled from one day to another. That is something we are still digesting.
I’m also part of the GSA [the Gender and Sexuality Alliance]; I went to pretty much all their meetings. I’ve also been engaged in the Spanish Club because I love languages.
- What do you enjoy doing most in your free time?
I enjoy chatting with my friends and listening to music. I’m very into pop music, like Ariana Grande, Anitta, and mainstream pop artists. I’m also fond of Little Mix. I have been a fan of theirs for the last three years or so because I really love their music. They just sound perfect.
- What is something that most people do not know about you?
One thing that most people do not know about me, and that I’m not exactly proud of is that I used to attend a single-gender school.
There was a lot of sexism and homophobia[…].
Even though Andover has its problems, I think it is kind of a break from [everything that happened] in those last five years, which were definitely rough. But at the same time, I feel proud that I was able to handle it. I know that I am not the best “role model” that I can think of, but I know many people looked up to me when it came to discovering and accepting themselves. Being queer in a place where you’re totally kept from being yourself is very hard. When [others] saw me and my friends being so open about ourselves, I think a lot of people found the strength they needed to actually move on.
I’m actually sad that I left because I think [our openness] would be important for [new students to see], but I am proud when I look back. I see some legacy. It is interesting to see that people got something from my presence there. I’m very happy about it.
- Who do you look up to?
I look up to my mother. She is a very strong woman. She had me when she was 22. She had a dream of going to college, and I was seven or eight when she got in. She was a wife and a mom, a housewife, and also working part-time. She was so dedicated and finished her courses with honors. She had the highest grades [out of] everyone in her class, and I’m proud of her. [My mother] has gone through some [hard times] like when her father, my grandpa died when I was five. It was a difficult period for her, and she went through depression. But somehow she found the strength to move on. She was able to [bring] her life back up again, and I’m really proud of how strong she is.
10. Who is your feminist ancestor*?
I have a friend who founded a group here in Rio [that I’ve become] a part of. We have been working on a project that aims to include tampons and pads in what we call food baskets here in Brazil. Food baskets contain the [essentials] needed for one month. They include items such as rice, beans, oil, salt, and sugar, but here, [menstrual products] are considered cosmetics and not hygiene products.
We have been granted some very nice money and are still waiting for some more. We have already donated three baskets to a girls’ orphanage [and we are going] to donate more. We really want to impact more people.
While I’m doing some of [our project], it was pretty much [entirely] elaborated by [my friend]. It was she who came after [our partnerships]. [My friend] is a very driven person and I definitely look up to her. She is someone who is very dedicated and committed to [social justice] issues.
*Note from the Editors:
We use the word “feminist ancestor” instead of “role model” or simply “someone you look up to” to signify our roles in continuing, adding to, honoring, and learning from the gender and sexuality justice work of those in our life and/or before us. Brace Faculty Advisory Board Member, Ms. Engel, introduced us to this term, riffing off of the “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast episode on “being a good ancestor” — an interview with adrienne maree brown.