As I walked up a flight stairs, I smelled a mix of waxed floors and cafeteria food and I was taken back to my first day of middle school in Buffalo, NY. Only I wasn’t in Buffalo, or even New York, I was in a Brazilian high school, or “college.”
Arriving in Brazil I had never been away from my family for more than two weeks, I had never traveled alone, and even more, I had NEVER FLOWN! Saying I was nervous to come to Brazil would be an understatement.
After two years of preparation, I was finally in Brazil and yet, here I was feeling the exact same way I did my first day of middle school. Nervous, excited, and all around bubbling with energy. I was exploding with excitement as I was about to have the opportunity of a lifetime: teach in a Brazilian classroom–about physics!!
I was instantly greeted by the warm people and an atmosphere that felt like home. The students were as curious to learn about us as we were of them. My friend Kate and I were answering the questions of some first year (ninth grade) students about the American Space Program.
They were so inquisitive of our opinions, asking questions about Mars, the solar system, and even more, what we believed about extraterrestrials and time travel!
However, one question that really struck me was when a student asked: “Do you believe in the Big Bang Theory OR God?”
For me, this question resonated deeply because it was something I had reflected on in my physics class this past year. This was a concept I had often struggled with too until I did a lot of research and had many conversations with professors and realized that science and God are not opposing views. I explained to the student that I had come to the conclusion that God is outside of our universe–greater and bigger than the Big Bang. Perhaps God had spent time planning the Big Bang and “flicked it into motion.” Kate added that in the Bible it says, “In the beginning,” and that with this view, the Big Bang aligns well with the Bible because there is a definite beginning to our universe.
Being able to speak to these students about a subject I was passionate about and to also share with them a fundamental life view of mine was an absolutely beautiful moment. I realized that not only are Brazilian schools, students, and teachers similar to American schools in many ways, but that people are all the same.
No matter where we come from or where we go in life, we are all asking the same fundamental questions and trying to understand the world in our own unique ways. In the midst of meeting people who speak different languages, walk all different paths of life, and hold different views of the world, one thing is clear: we are asking the same questions and have the same God.