Plenty of Commonwealth students speak another language at home: Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese. Many, sometimes to their parents' frustration, tend to use English with their siblings. In Nick Fomin's Brazilian family, he says, "we make sure" everything is in Portuguese. The "we" includes his brother Thomas (Commonwealth '22) but extends to a vibrant network of relatives and friends in both countries.
Anyone who has seen Nick in school on the last day before a vacation knows the joy in his face as he anticipates another visit to São Paulo, especially his maternal cousins. "They're not just cousins," he says; they follow the same soccer teams, Netflix shows, and memes. The cousins know it gets under his skin when they call him a gringo, and he knows he can't keep up with all of the culture when "there are only five Brazilian TV channels here." At the same time, he declares cheerfully, "I'm an American." When he talks about his family, he shifts fluidly among his father in Brazil and his mother and stepfather here, his "American cousins" on his father's side, and others who move easily back and forth between cultures and countries.
In this web of relationships, many threads converge on the café his family operates: seven branches in Brazil and one here, now in Framingham. The cafés originate eight year ago, with his father, in a park in São Paulo, making a friend who became his business partner. The story of their first café includes Nick and Thomas taking two-week courses, getting up at 5:00 a.m., to learn to work as baristas. By now, Nick says, "I think every single person in my family is involved." Nick's stepfather managed the café here in its first location on Newbury Street. His mother and his paternal grandmother, who love to bake, work together in the kitchen when his grandmother is here.
The more you hear about the cafés, the easier it is to understand why Nick says, "I have never felt like the child of a divorced family." His father and mother are separated but talk all the time. He describes his grandmother as effectively an aunt, not an ex-mother-in-law, to his mother; they come from the same town in Brazil. He calls his father's business partner "pretty much a member of the family." Just as Nick's cousins are also his friends, no one seems stuck in a single role. That includes Nick as an employee in the cafés. He acknowledges that it's more fun in São Paulo, where the pace is faster, the dishes pile up at rush times, and he has to jump in wherever he's needed.
When he's in Brazil, Nick says he pushes back against one prevailing idea of the culture here: that "Americans don't get it." At Commonwealth, he sees his classmates as "aware of what's going on in the world." He doesn't take credit, but he could, for contributing to that awareness within this community.