Guilherme’s Perspective: A Brazilian in South Bend

Guilherme’s Perspective comes from one of 14 professional fellows in the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program that were placed in the South Bend area. During the five week YLAI Professional Fellows Program, “Gui” worked with Visit South Bend Mishawaka and experienced the South Bend area. Check out this international perspective of a growing US city!

Hey there! My name is Guilherme Pereira Franco (you can call me Gui – pronounced “gee” ). English speakers have a hard time saying it, I know. Before talking about the experiences I’ve been through in the region I think it is important to know a little bit more about me.

I am a 25 years old and originally from Brazil. This is my first time in the United States. I love traveling and living in cultures different than mine. That’s why I built a platform to connect travelers to Brazilian local communities ( This project brought me here to work with the Visit South Bend Mishawaka team.

I am learning a lot from them and I was really happy when they invited me to write about my experiences here. That is why I want to tell you a little bit about how it is to be a Brazilian in South Bend and my impressions about the places I’ve visited so far.

Lindsay Ference from the VSBM team took me on three different tours. It was an afternoon full of fun activities (Thanks, Lindsay!). We went to the Oliver Mansion, the Studebaker National Museum, and the South Bend Chocolate Factory for this first visit.

Oliver Mansionoliver-mansion-interior-3

Any house around here is interesting for me, since I have never been to the United States before. They make me remember movies and series that I watch all the time, but are very different from the ones in Sao Paulo (the city where I live in Brazil). However, being inside the Oliver Mansion is a few steps further.

The tour there started with a movie that told the story of the J.D. Oliver family, from their humble beginnings in Scotland to their financial prosperity in South Bend and the building of the mansion.

After that we entered the mansion. It is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. But having a guide made the whole difference me. It wasn’t about a big and fancy house, it was about three generations of history there. Kyle, our tour guide, guided us through the three floors and he was very well prepared.

He told us everything about the Oliver family, how they lived and used each room and a lot of curiosities about the place. *Tip* Ask your guide about the bed in the kitchen and the face-shield.

Studebaker National Museum

I left the mansion and not two minutes later I arrived in a place full of antique cars. It is the Studebaker National Museum. The two museums are right next to each other. Studebaker was an American wagon and automobile manufacturer based in this region. They went out of business after the big companies implemented production lines and mass production.

There Abby, my tour guide, showed me around. It was a whole pavilion with an amazing collection, from the carriage that brought the Studebaker family to South Bend to a lot of Presidential Carriages, even the one that carried President Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre on the night of his assassination.

South Bend Chocolate Factory

This place is really cheerful. All employees were smiling, some even singing and having fun. All in bright color uniforms, as well as the walls and the products. Something like a smaller Willy
Wonka Chocolate Factory.SB_ChocFac_0702_1_small

I don’t remember the name of our guide here, but she wore a nametag written little “Merry Cherry Malt Ball”. She wasn’t looking very excited about it though.

The tour started with the history of the chocolate, with the Aztecs and how it is made nowadays. They showed us some cocoa seeds and then we went to the line of production. It was break time and there was nobody there, but we got a free sample over there. I recommend the pumpkin-covered Oreo it was very good!

We went to the packing area and I got surprised that a lot is hand made over there. After Merry Cherry Malt Ball gave us a spoon to take some chocolate off the fountain and she put it to be cooled while we went through a vast collection of antique chocolate boxes.

With our second sample we also got a 10% discount at the store and they sum up with the 75% sales they were having in some of the products. Moral of the story: I came back to the hotel with gifts for my whole family in Brazil.