April 1, 2013
UCF Athletics Social Media Directory
By Joey Nelson
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Andrea Rodrigues was raised in a culturally immersed home and one that put family first. Her parents are Rio de Janeiro natives and shared their Brazilian roots with Rodrigues and her younger sister, Adriana. As a senior at UCF, Rodrigues has used the game of soccer as an outlet to further her understanding of who she is and where she comes from.
Moving to the United States before Rodrigues and her younger sister were born, the Rodrigues parents sought a better life. They hoped to provide their children with the opportunities they believed would create success. At the end of the day, it was all about sacrifice.
"A lot of their part-time jobs, or working for little money, it was so we could go to school and have our opportunities," Rodrigues said. "I did the International Baccalaureate program when I was in high school. There were times when I would think, `Why am I doing this? This is hard. I don't want to do eight hours of homework.' And my mom would say, `We're doing this for you.'"
Even though Rodrigues was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Fla., she grew up in a Brazilian atmosphere. Remembering times at daycare when teachers couldn't understand her Portuguese requests to use the potty, Rodrigues learned English at an early age. While Rodrigues and her younger sister adapted and grew up in the States, her parents made sure their children knew where they came from. They also made it a mission to keep family in Brazil updated on everything that was occurring for the Rodrigues family in the U.S.
"I remember growing up, we had tons of home videos. I never understood why we filmed everything. I found out that every VHS was sent to our family in Brazil," Rodrigues said. "When I was 16, my sister and I went to Brazil for the first time to see them and they knew everything about us. They tried as best as they could to stay connected."
Rodrigues' family wasn't just rooted in Brazil. Her father's side of the family lived in Portugal before they moved to Rio de Janiero. His Portuguese citizenship was in effect passed down to Rodrigues and gave her a chance to play for Portugal's national team. She made her international debut in June 2010 in a 1-0 victory over Slovenia, and in qualifying for the 2013 EURO Cup this past year, she led Portugal with four goals scored.
Her Portuguese culture was never truly explored before her time with the international squad. Rodrigues says the black beans she was raised off are never eaten in Portugal and traditional Christmas codfish dishes she believed to be Brazilian were actually rooted in Portuguese culture. She also speaks Portuguese with a slightly different accent, one she described as an "American-Brazilian-Portuguese mix."
However, Rodrigues says she is finally beginning to piece her cultural puzzle together. The midfielder carried her family-oriented mindset from UCF to Portugal and more than 4,000 miles right back here to campus when she helped the Knights win their first conference tournament championship in 2012.
She has balanced being a college student-athlete with playing as an international starter and now shares her experiences in Portugal with her sister who has also joined the team, which Rodrigues finds to be the sweetest part.
No matter which passport out of the three she is using for the day, Rodrigues can always find her home in family. Just as her parents sacrificed when moving to this country, she continues to work and sacrifice to make her parents proud and learn more about her roots.
"I'll go to Brazil and I'm American. I'll go to Portugal and I'm Brazilian. I come here and everyone is like, `A-Rod, I don't know what to call you.' I'm thankful to have so much diversity in my life."
This story appears in the March issue of Knights Insider magazine. The publication, which is published six times per year, provides an inside look at UCF student-athletes, coaches and alums. To order the magazine, click here.