After spending most of my day in natural pools in the ocean in Maceio, I am sitting in my hotel room reminiscing about my time spent in Brazil. It feels like it was just yesterday that I got off the plane in Rio de Janeiro, anxiously awaiting to discover what adventures would follow in the next six weeks. ‘
I specifically remember getting off of the plane and getting in line to get our passports checked when a woman that worked there said “foreigners to the right!’ and guided us in the right direction. This really stood out to me because it was the first time for a lot of us that we were the foreigners in a different country…. I was the one who didn’t speak the language, I was the one who didn’t know how to get around, I was the one who stood out and looked like an outsider.
Although six weeks ago I entered Brazil feeling and looking like a gringo, I now feel that I fit in here a little bit more because I have a better understanding of the culture. Everyone and everything here in Brazil has fulfilled my expectations, especially my home-stay experience. My host family was the exact epitome of how I expected Brazilians to be based on my class lectures and readings…they were so full of life and had such big hearts that they truly made an impact on my life.
Here and there I would encounter people on the street who weren’t as friendly as my host mom and sisters, but for the most part I felt that they were very welcoming. When we would go out dancing at a restaurant or at a samba school, there was always someone who would come up to me and offer to teach me how to dance.
One thing that I was not really prepared for, even though I knew a lot about it because of my history and political science class was the extreme visibility of poverty. Whether it was in Rio, Salvador, Brasilia, or Maceio, there were always some homeless people on the street and young children collecting cans or begging for money. Actually being in Brazil helped me realize the huge gap between the rich and the poor that exists in Brazil, something that I was not really able to grasp by just reading it in a book.
Despite the poverty, Brazil’s beauty is undeniable…the natural beauty of the ocean and the green grass and trees, the beautiful movement of dance, and the lively and energetic music is impossible to ignore. However, this trip has also made me have a greater appreciation for the U.S and the things that I used to take for granted. For example, before coming to Brazil I never really considered that some people do not have accessible clean water…in the U.S. you can go to any restaurant and immediately be served a free glass of water, but here, you have to buy bottled water everywhere you go because you cannot drink the tap water.
We are leaving Brazil tomorrow afternoon and I am experiencing an assortment of mixed feelings. I am so excited to be reunited with friends and family but at the same time, I am going to miss the friends that have turned into family here in Brazil. I am going to miss the beautiful weather and waking up every morning knowing that I would be embarking on some sort of adventure.
My experience in Brazil has been amazing and I would do it over again in a heartbeat. My advice to anyone that is debating whether or not to go on foreign term is: DO IT! You will learn so much about yourself and the world around you.