My Ode to Fargo

When I was 18, I moved to Fargo, North Dakota from Caxias do Sul, Brasil. I grew up in Brasil’s southernmost state, in the South American pampas near Uruguay and Argentina. But when I was 18, I got a scholarship to go study architecture abroad. And it was in Fargo, North Dakota. And so I went.

Every time I tell this story, I get questions. The most recurring of them is “Why?”

“Well”, I say, “I actually received two partial scholarships, meaning we were responsible for part of the costs. One of them was to a place we couldn’t afford, and the other was NDSU. So if I was going anywhere, it would be to Fargo.”

I arrived on January 1st, 2010. It was a beautiful winter morning with clearest, largest sky, and it got to -45 degrees that night. My suitcase didn’t come for another day and a half. No one was in the dorms. I can still smell the radiator heating.

Eventually I struggled through my first studio. I had issues with my financial aid. I had never been so cold in my entire life. But I was so incredibly happy. This was the most free I had ever been. And the most alone. I became who I am during that time as an international student. And so Fargo (and NDSU) became my home away from home.

That first semester, I took a ballet course so that I could continue my dance track, and eventually found my way to the Fargo-Moorhead Ballet company, where I met some of my dearest friends and grew to love the community. I danced there until my last few months in Fargo.

I worked for the university and for the Architecture department. I worked in so many sectors the HR personnel would have to call me to update where exactly I was working that semester – due diligence, since I was only allowed to work 20h/week as an international student. I helped the department with NAAB accreditation, published research, TA’ed, helped clean. I belonged.

I was supposed to stay for one year; I stayed through my Bachelor degree. And my Master of Architecture. I married my husband there, the guy I met on my first day of classes. I had an internship, and I kept working. My first projects were for NDSU, and I can’t tell you how meaningful it was, to be able to work on the campus I called home and with the people who cared as much as I did for the institution.

This fall, I get to attend my first meeting as an Advisory Board Member of the NDSU Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. It’s fitting that it happens during Homecoming. While in school, I got to learn about what that was. Mind you, I never actually participated – somehow I was always working. But this time, I get to participate! After 7 years, this is my first Homecoming. And I am so excited to come home to Fargo.

I looked through my photos to find a good picture of Fargo. I couldn’t find any – only of my friends, many of whom have moved elsewhere or those few ones who remain in the city. But then I found this one, taken for the FM Ballet in one of the alleys. And this is a pretty good portrait of who I am. The person I became, in Fargo.


Photo credit: Lacey Gasper for the Fargo-Moorhead Ballet


This post is part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks, a monthly series of posts by architects encouraged to write about a shared theme. This time, the theme was “Homecoming, or Looking Back”. Please visit these blogs to read more and participate:

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Coming Home to Architecture

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
looking back i wonder

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Coming home as an architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
homecoming, and looking back: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
9-11 — A Look Back

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Michael Riscica AIA – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Homecoming & Looking Back

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Homecoming Memories

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Homecoming Memories

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Letter to a Younger Me

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Looking Back…Was Architecture Worth It?

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Homecoming, in 3 Parts

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Just give me a reason : Homecoming

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Is It a Homecoming If You Never Left?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Looking Back Through the Pages