Say Olá to Thomas Augusto dos Santos Claro

Meet a stranger from another part of the world (and even from another generation) and the saying that we have more in common than we have differences has credence.  

Thomas is an interesting young man. Born in São Paulo dos Campos, Brazil, he has lived in the Lititz area for the last five years. A career move on the part of his mother, Valeria Santos, who is an engineer with Kenvue (formerly Johnson & Johnson), brought the family to the United States. 

The move was an answer to Thomas’ dreams. “I’ve always wanted to come and live in the United States,” he says. That desire took root when he was a sophomore in high school and  spent a year in the U.S. as an exchange student. “I lived with a family in New Jersey, about 40 minutes from New York. It was an amazing experience! I loved being in nature. I got to see snow fall for the first time. They took me many places, including Memphis, where I saw Elvis’ home and toured the factory where Gibson guitars are made. I play the guitar, so that was really special. We also went to California; that was amazing!” Seeing all that the country has to offer instilled a yearning in Thomas to return for college and to ultimately launch a career in acting. 

Thomas has achieved one of his goals (college) and is working diligently to establish the other (an acting career). He graduated from Millersville University last May, where he majored in speech communications with a concentration in theatre. He works at the university’s costume shop, which also allows him to take part (behind the scenes) in stage productions. Otherwise, he is working on his craft, reaching out to talent agencies, auditioning, interacting with members of career-related Facebook/social media groups and engaging in whatever he discovers that will help move his career forward. “I’ve done some voiceover work for Millersville and had a part in a training film that was made for the Pennsylvania School Safety Institute,” he notes. “I am open to anything except singing and dancing. I don’t do those things.” He has sent audition tapes to agencies in New York and California. 

Now that he’s completed his education, Thomas is also working toward getting a different visa. “My status has changed,” he explains. He’s hit roadblocks but is determined to secure the visa that will enable him to remain in the United States. “I’ve seen several immigration attorneys and they’ve all told me different things,” he says. “I really need to be represented by a talent agency,” he says, explaining that it would really help his cause. He is hopeful that an agency that recently expressed interest will take him on as a client. 

Thomas, who is bi-lingual (Portuguese and English), is also a devotee of American movies and television. “American television shows are really popular in Brazil,” he reports. However, the selection doesn’t compare to being stateside. “I’ve become a binge-watcher,” he says. He has a list of favorite actors but names the late Robin Williams and Johnny Depp as his top two. “I like Robin Williams for his range and genius,” he points out. “Johnny Depp is interesting because of his quirkiness and weirdness.” As for favorite television shows, there’s no hesitation: Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Last summer, he binged Games of Thrones over a two-week period. Outlander, which he always watches with his mother, is another favorite. “She loves Hallmark movies,” he shares. Thomas is also enamored of classic movies. “I like to study the actors,” he says.    

Thomas also dreams of expanding his horizons. “Through my father, I’ve become an Italian citizen,” he says. He loves Italy and recalls spending time there through a program called Children’s International Summer Villages. “They match your interests with a child in another country. They spend 20 days with your family and then you spend 20 days with their family. I got to go to Italy, where I visited places like Pisa – yes, I saw the leaning tower – Florence and Bologna. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The interesting thing was the language barrier. We didn’t speak Italian, they didn’t speak Portuguese and this was before Google Translator existed. Somehow, the brain works out a way to communicate.” 

Thomas’ roots – Italian on his father’s side and Portuguese on his mother’s – have inspired an interest in genealogy. “I want to travel to those places,” he says. He also wants to explore the British Isles and Peru. Learning to speak Italian is also on his to-do list. 

Thomas has returned to Brazil, where his father lives, only once – during Covid. “I really needed to be with family and friends again,” he explains. “Because Millersville was doing classes via Zoom, I was able to spend a whole semester in Brazil.” While the trip provided a change of scenery, it was far from a vacation. “The rules were equally as strict – and confusing – there,” he recalls. 

What assumptions do Americans typically make about Thomas? “When they hear I’m from Brazil, they always assume I’m good at soccer,” he laughs. “They are wrong. I’m terrible at soccer,” he says, explaining that he falls into the category of having a “perna de madeira” or wooden leg. “I’m not a sports guy, although I do like to play handball.”   

As for the reverse scenario, like most newcomers, Thomas is intrigued by Amish culture. He loves the fact that Lancaster champions artistic expression and is home to so many ethnic restaurants. One, the Brazilian Table, in Lititz, even provides a welcome taste of home. 

“I’ve enjoyed a lot of different experiences in my life,” Thomas shares. “But, I’m ready for more!” 

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