Ryan Cullum
2009-10 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St. Augustine HS
Sponsor: St. Augustine Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: São Paulo Alto de Pinheiros Rotary Club, District 4610, Brazil

Ryan's Bio

Hola everybody! My name is Ryan Cullum and next year you can find me in Brazil! I am from a little old beach town called St. Augustine, Florida. I have lived here all sixteen years of my life with my mother, father and sister. My parents bought our home in St. Augustine the day I was born, and here I am. I currently attend St. Augustine High School, and love to do all different kinds of sports and activities there as well as many out of school things. My main hobbies are surfing, playing music, and hanging out with my friends (bonfires, beach).

My father works as a water resources engineer and my mother teaches college engineering courses through my high school. My sister attends the University of Florida (go Gators!). My awesome loving family has always been there for me, and there is a lot of mutual trust and respect in our household. My dad and I can enjoy hanging out at the beach, surfing and playing sports. My mom and I can talk for hours on end about everything.

When I was little, I attended a small private school with only 10 classmates. In fourth grade, the school closed and the fun of public education began! I am now in the AICE program at St. Augustine High and am staying very busy while also studying aerospace technology. I make pretty good grades and my studies are very important to me.

I have always had pretty close relationships with my friends and sports teams. One of my best friends moved to New Zealand when I was in Middle School. Losing a friend was tough, but it also sparked my curiosity about the world. This curiosity has grown into a strong desire to see the world and experience other cultures. I want to thank Rotary for all of the effort and support they put into this program, and for enabling so many students to be able to experience it. There is no doubt that I will miss my friends and family during the year abroad, but I feel that I am ready for the experience and growth that Rotary Youth Exchange offers.

Carnaval - yes we were horses

Carnaval - yes we were horses

Brazilian beach

Brazilian beach

The Northeast Group

The Northeast Group

With my host mom

With my host mom

Ryan's Journals

August 30 Journal

To start off my first journal, I have a secret for everyone.

!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE BRASIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been here for almost a month, and I have a host family that loves me, friends that speak to me in Portuguese, and a brain filled with more knowledge in almost a month than I could learn in a year of public school.

I adore Brasil. Everything and everyone is beautiful and awesome. I exchanged flags with my Rotary, and the other weekend I had the Rotary Orientation for my district with so many awesome kids from Earth. I go to a private Rotary founded school named Colegio Rio Branco, and it is sooo welcoming and amazing for exchange students.

My family is amazing. Pai is a Rotarian and is a wonderful cook and very intelligent and nice. Mãe is awesome and speaks to me all the time in Portuguese and is very easy to understand, which I love. My older bro Juan is currently in Taiwan, though when he was here he was awesome, and I am positive he will represent Brasil in a wonderful way abroad. My younger bro Gigio is also awesome, and speaks English better than I do, yet we NEVER speak in English, for that would be walking backwards wouldn’t it? Actually, I have spoken in English probably twice a week since I got here, and every day I read and speak and listen and study Portuguese. So desculpe-me if I am typing incorrectly haha it is difficult. I have met my second host family that is currently hosting my friend Lorenz from Germany, and I love them too. I go to the ACM (YMCA) and work out, and play basketball and futebol in school.

Everything has been so wonderful in Brasil, so I think I will tell a story about the day that I had the most trouble. But it absolutely did NOT dampen my exchange. DEAR EXCHANGE STUDENTS. DO NOT GET LOST. Because I did and it was lame. I believe I grew a substantial amount however, for I have never been lost in a huge city and not know the way home before now. It was sooooo crazy! OK so on some days I have to wake up at 5:00 am because it is illegal for my parents to drive their car after 7:00 am to cut down on the intense amount of people in traffic. So I wake up and everything is going fine and school is wonderful, and I am all excited for my Portuguese lesson that day. So I am waiting for the bus for my Port lesson, and after 40 minutes I got on the bus. It absolutely would’ve been faster if I had walked. But anyways the lesson was wonderful; I take Portuguese lessons with a past exchange student a long while ago to the United States named Diva, and she is awesome and doesn’t mind if I am 30 minutes late because of the bus. So after the lesson I am waiting for a different bus, and I’m waiting for forever. Again. So I get on the bus finally, and after riding on it for a while I look around the bus and see the name “ave pacaembu”, which I mistook for “ave paulista”, which is a totally different street. So I thought I was on the wrong bus. So I get off the wrong bus, which was actually the right bus, to wait for another bus that came in like another 40 minutes. Guess what IT GETS MORE INTENSE! So I am all relaxed on the right bus, going home finally. Somehow, I FELL ASLEEP ON THE BUS…. and two hours later I wake up, at the last stop, with everyone gone, and I have no idea where I am. But thanks to my almost a month in Brazil, I understand and speak Portuguese a reasonable amount. The people here are incredible, and the driver of the public bus personally drove me home. So even though I got home at like 7:30 when I usually get home from Diva’s at like 3:30, I somehow wasn’t in the least bit sad or depressed that I was really lost!

Right now, while I am writing this email, I am listening to awesome music called Forró, and am downloading rap brasileiro. And I also figured out how to change my keyboard to Portuguese! Çãëîõâêä!!!

So, to every future exchange student and reader out there ... FACT: exchange is absolutely incredible.

Abraços,

Ryan

December 24 Journal

Olá World,

I'm going to start out this journal writing about how incredibly life changing this year is. So many things have happened, and there are way too many different experiences to write about, and each one keeps popping into my head and disappearing. Seriously it is impossible. I didn’t catch in enough time to post this before my one month long Belo Brazil trip to the Northeast, so I am absolutely sure huge journals are going to be pouring into Al’s mailbox the next couple days. =] Merry Christmas Al!!!

The first great thing I want to talk about in this particular journal is my sweet school: Rotary founded, full of exchange students, with a sweet uniform of sweat pants and white shirts. Also, you can bring a camera into school unlike the USA, which is a good way to flaunt our attractive uniforms. The teachers change classes every period, and you don’t have to move around or basically meet anyone else besides your classmates. This is a good thing where you get stay with the same people all day, every day and get to become good friends. I am now understanding almost all of the classes (besides physics, math), and enjoying them a lot. The school starts at 7:15 every morning, which is the most terrible thing that has ever been established. Though it is kind of cool because the school gets out at around 12:30 and being located in the middle of the city, there is this sick mall very close and everyone in the school goes there after school every day to chill.

There are 8 Rotary exchange students who go to my school, because it is a Rotary founded school and the program for exchange students is phenomenal. My best friend that is on exchange in Brasil is a guy named Lorenz from Germany, and it is cool for he studies in the class across the hallway from mine, so we can hang out a lot in school and out. One day his class had a party during school so we all chilled in there all day and there was music and we danced and ate food (Exchange tip # 1 dude you MUST go to the gym on exchange, because…foreign food is delicious? I tell the mirror this, it helps.)

I know when I am reading these journals I LOVE TO READ LISTS. Usually I just skip to the lists (large paragraphs are so boring and long right?) So to list it up a little these next few experiences are going to be short and snappy.

1) My district went to a Brasilian club team (Corinthians) soccer match, and it was REALLY AWSEOME! Not only was it really sick soccer, but WE GOT TO SEE RONALDO PLAY!!!! AND HE SCORED!!!!! So we all now have cool Corinthians shirts that you can buy in the street for a high price of four American dollars.

2) I have stopped taking Portuguese classes. Reading hard/big books (Harry Potter) really kicks up the vocabulary and speaking every day all day with everyone is the best way to practice. At home, my host mom has started to speak to me in Spanish, and switches back to wonderful Portuguese whenever I don’t understand something. It is seriously wonderful when you have a set of host parents that do not speak anything in English.

3) We always go to these sweet birthday parties and like religious ceremonies that last all night long and everyone dances and dresses up in nice clothes and we all eat sooo much food. The cultural time schedule here in Brasil on the weekends is very different than the United States. You usually arrive an hour late at a party at 9 PM, and then the party ends at like 4 in the morning (instead of arriving on time at 4 pm and ending at 9 like most USA get-togethers).

Before I end this blog, I just want to say that there are so many cultural things that I have experienced here in Brazil that I cannot wait to bring back to the United States. I love Brasil, and want to thank my Rotary District in São Paulo (4610), and my District back home that made exchange possible for everybody in Northeast Florida.

March 24 Journal

Hey Florida!

To be an exchange student isn’t just about learning a language, meeting new people, and experiencing a new culture, for this is just the first fraction of the exchange year. Now I have lived more than seven months in Brasil, I am viewing everything in a past perspective, though as if it happened a day ago… The culture “shock” has become my life, and the language has become a simple daily thought process. It is getting difficult to not realize the days flying by as the year is hitting the last set of months.

These last few months have been the most eventful times of my life.

To start, my district went on a month trip to the whole northeastern section of Brasil. Seriously it was intensely rad. TIP TO EXCHANGE STUDENTS: You must travel!!! You will absolutely make good friends with people around the world and from all different places around your host country! Trust this: The world of exchange is huge, but incredibly connected. There will be people in your country that somehow know people you know through Rotary, which could connect to various countries and people around the world. Not only did we visit awesome locations including Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, though we also got a chance to experience the different types of people here in Brasil. Social differences that can be recognized in the different sections of the USA, such as accents and slang, also exist here. Living in the center of São Paulo city, I learned to speak Portuguese with a different accent of a person who is from the farther north or south of Brasil. It was awesome to be able to travel and see and hear the broad differences between the people of the same country.

The following month the three exchange students from my club (Lorenz from Germany, Silje from Norway, and myself) went on a month trip to a beach house that is owned by Silje's family, my third host family. If you chose a northern hemisphere country, you are missing out on the best part of an exchange a Rotary student could have. SUMMER!!!!! We went surfing, slept in hammocks, ate, joked, slept more, laughed and played every day for a whole month straight. There were days we would surf until it was too dark to see, or until we would have board rash so bad we couldn’t move. It was these days as everyone walked home in the dark with our surfboards that I came to realize how awesome these experiences are, and how these are once in a lifetime opportunities that every exchange student will remember for the rest of their lives.

After we returned from the beach, the three of us changed families. It turns out that I have three amazing host families that I have fallen in love with! I am currently still located in my second host family, and they have been amazing to welcome me into their home. I live even closer to the center of town, and can take any bus to the center in less than 10 minutes. My family made it possible for us to enter into the Samba school called Império de Casa Verde, and 5 exchange students from my district were able to dance in the street with costumes for Carnaval! Seriously it was the most tiring night of my life. We started dancing at 4 in the morning, and got home at about 9. TIP TO EXCHANGE STUDENTS: When you stay up all on your feet dancing in the street, YOU WILL GET SICK! Make sure to get as much sleep as you can when you can, to help your body fight the not only foreign illnesses, though foreign sleeping schedules. ALSO, learning a language makes you double tired. You will absolutely see that no matter what you do not have enough sleep.

Future exchangers, be warned that there are difficulties as well as the ups to this year, just like any other year at home. Exchange students get sick, get tired, feel neglected, feel bored, feel stupid, complain, and have the same problems that normal teenagers have. However, these problems pass and are forgotten in a blink of an eye (like the last months of the exchange!) I am currently trying to fit in as many trips as I can to the different parts of Brasil to make the best out of the rest of my exchange.

To end this journal I would like to send a big Brasilian kiss and hug to everyone I haven’t been able to keep in touch with very much in the last months. The urge to write “THANK YOU SO MUCH ROTARY” over and over again in these journals is the only thing that comes to mind; seriously, it is literally impossible to not want to send a whole journal with just love.

Abraço,

Ryan