Anna Simeone is the recipient of the 2021 Pedro da Silva Award

April 21, 2022 by Berenice Villagómez

The Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of Toronto is proud to announce Anna Simeone as the 2021 recipient of the Pedro da Silva Award, sponsored by Caixa Geral de Depósitos.

This award recognizes academic excellence in the Portuguese program courses offered in our department. Simeone is being recognized for her work in the Major program in Portuguese during the academic year 2020 / 2021. The award includes a scholarship payment, courtesy of the Portuguese bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos.

Anna Simeone is currently completing her undergraduate degree with a double Major in Portuguese and Philosophy. Her journey with Portuguese has been full of love, growth, and recognition.

When asked why she decided to Major in Portuguese, she said: “My mother is Brazilian. She met my father – who is an American – in Toronto. I was born in Maine, in the northeast USA and I spent some time as a toddler in Brazil, near Vitória. After my family moved back to Canada a year later, I unfortunately lost the majority of my Portuguese skills. So, when I came to Toronto to attend university, I knew I really wanted to re-learn my mother’s language and honour that part of me.”

“My experience in Portuguese has been very positive. I appreciate the fact that it is a small program. In my first year at university, I had classes with hundreds of students in huge lecture halls and barely had the chance to talk to my professors or get to meet my classmates. In my Portuguese courses, I feel part of a community. I enjoy the feeling of collaboration between professors and students.”

Anna was delighted to learn that she is the recipient of the 2021 Pedro da Silva Award, as this was a welcome reminder to herself that hard work pays off. “As for many people around the world, the last two years have been some of the most challenging in my life. During the pandemic, I was very affected by the isolation of living in a remote community and the constant worry about my family’s well-being. The turn to remote online classes was also stressful, and I am thankful for the professors in the Portuguese program! They are some of the best teachers I have had in my academic life: they are enthusiastic, they care about engaging with us, and clearly want their students to succeed. They showed us compassion and were willing to accommodate our needs. Because of their support, it was easier to keep my commitment to my Portuguese studies while we all went through rough times. However, I still had to work hard to complete all my courses successfully. So, it feels awesome to receive this award! It was a nice surprise, a warm pat on the back that makes me feel seen. After I learned the news, I took a chance to pause for a moment and recognize that, despite all, I am doing okay and my hard work will pay off in the end.”

For any student considering a program in Portuguese, Anna shares:

Learning a language can be such an intimidating goal, and there have been many times where I’ve felt frustrated or overwhelmed. Although I had some exposure to Portuguese growing up, I began this program unable to hold a conversation and with zero formal academic experience. So, I would say to anyone considering the Portuguese program, regardless of your background level, if you’re passionate about the language, you will be able to say you speak Portuguese by the end of it. You honestly won’t find more supportive professors or a more welcoming community. There are courses here for everyone, including PRT219, an introductory course designed specifically for students like me who’ve had some previous contact with Portuguese. My best advice is to try not to be shy about speaking out loud or worried about your accent. I still struggle with this self-consciousness occasionally, but we are all here to learn without judgment.

The Pedro da Silva Award, sponsored by Caixa Geral de Depósitos, was created in 2012 in honor of the very first postman in Canada, who was of known Portuguese ancestry. This award recognizes the academic commitment and merit of students of Portuguese students at the University of Toronto. The award ceremony was part of the end of year celebration of the Portuguese program, an online event held on March 25, 2022.

Caixa Geral de Depósitos in Toronto is the Portuguese state bank and, being the top bank in the country, is a reference both to Portuguese citizens, in Portugal and around the world, as well as to all of those wishing to invest in the country. As Canada represents a significant share of the Portuguese immigration abroad, Caixa Geral de Depósitos intends to be present within the communities, and very close to those dedicated to teaching and promoting the Portuguese language.

As the representative of Caixa Geral Depósitos in Toronto, Marisol Ribeiro, explains "CGD is delighted to join the prestigious University of Toronto (Department of Spanish & Portuguese) in rewarding the best student in the Portuguese programs.  Through this award, we intend to recognize good performances in the Portuguese language, which year after year gains international prominence. We proudly support the “Pedro da Silva” award, named after an icon of our community. By partnering with the University of Toronto, we reinforce our commitment to being part of the Portuguese community, to promote the Portuguese language and to strengthen the ties with Canadian institutions."