Alison Siwica
2011-12 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: Orlando, Florida
School: Edgewater High School
Sponsor: Orlando Breakfast Rotary Club, District 6980, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Belo Horizonte - Pampulha, District 4760, Brazil

Alison's Bio

Ola! My name is Alison Siwica. I am seventeen years old and I live in Orlando, Florida. I have been fortunate enough to be chosen for the Rotary Exchange Program. I can't believe my luck in being selected to spend a year in Brazil. I can't imagine a more exotic and exciting way to spend a year of my life. There are so many things that intrigue me about Brazil, from the obvious things like the Amazon, the rain forests, and the rich history, to the extraordinary political/social/cultural aspects of this fascinating nation: hey, it's got to be a great place if it has a female president doesn't it?

I am a senior at Edgewater High School in Downtown, Orlando. My favorite class is History, which is probably why I so look forward to going to Brazil: I can't imagine the equator, dipping my feet into the waters of the Amazon (it will no longer be something that exists only in books), and meeting the people of another continent. I have a younger sister, named Lizzie, who is understandably very jealous of this incredible opportunity. I think my parents are a little jealous as well. Although I have had several opportunities to travel, including a short class trip to Southern and Western Europe, this will be the first time I have been away from my family for such a long period of time; I look forward to the adventure.

I think the exchange program is something I've always wanted to do, but just never knew it. I expect to learn more about myself and to grow as a person. I also want a global perspective for the future. However, I have to admit that I am a little bit scared of that first time I will have to make my way on my own, with a Portuguese dictionary as my only friend.

This brings me to my biggest fear. It isn't being lonely, and it isn't being homesick; rather, it is being able to communicate and sharing my thoughts and ideas in an entirely foreign environment. But overcoming this fear and becoming a part of the community and the society, and sharing thoughts and ideas with people from another culture, like Brazil, is the point of the exchange program.

Alison's Journals

October 17, 2011

On the day of my departure, I never felt so many mixed emotions in my life. When I looked back at my mom, dad, sister, and best friend, I couldn't feel my legs. And when I walked forward, I knew I was on my own. I took a deep breath and didn't look back. I knew that I could do this and I knew it would be the journey of a lifetime.

I cannot believe two months have already gone by. It feels like just yesterday I was getting off the plane. When I saw my family for the first time, I loved them immediately. Their home is absolutely amazing. And they have the cutest dog named Julie.

I'm not going to lie, on my first day of school I was terrified. It's always scary to start at a new school (especially if you are in a different country and you don't speak the language). When I walked into my first class, I was surrounded. Everyone was coming up to me and asking me so many questions. I couldn't believe how nice everyone was. And I was already being invited to parties! Oddly enough, I actually enjoy going to school now! And it makes it even better that it ends at 12:30.

Everyday I take the bus home from school. I was scared I would mess up and end up on the opposite side of the city, but it turned out to be easy. The hardest part has been the language. But I know it will get easier soon. I also can't stop eating. The food is absolutely amazing and there is always so much! It's a dream come true.

This amazing place has already changed me so much. It has made me grow up and become more independent. This has been the most exciting and eye opening experience I have ever had. I truly am having the time of my life.

January 2012

Wow! I can't believe it is already January! It feels like I just arrived in Brazil yesterday. I have been having the time of my life these last five months. Christmas was definitely memorable. Almost the entire family (about 25 people) gathered at my house and celebrated for a week.

 There was an endless amount of food, beverages, and things to do. It was amazing experience. And on Christmas day, we did a Secret Santa and a lot of people said a little speech. I decided to make a speech too to thank everyone for making me feel like part of the family. I got a little emotional because it made me realize just how lucky I was. I will never forget it.

New Years was also amazing. The whole family stayed at a beach called Cabo Frio (very close to Rio) for a week. It was so beautiful and everyday was perfect weather! The water was so blue and clear. We went to the beach every day and stayed all day. On one of the days, we decided to take a day trip to Rio. I got to see the awesome beaches, the Statue of Jesus Christ, the soccer stadium, and many other cool things. It was definitely a day I won't forget. On New Years Eve we had a party with the family! It was so much fun. And when the clock struck twelve, we watched an absolutely amazing fireworks show on the beach. It lasted for about thirty minutes and it was definitely the best one I have ever seen.

It took awhile to come back from Cabo Frio. It is about six hours away and we made a lot of stops on the way. It's funny because it seems like I have some family connection in every city we pass. I feel like I have about 15 aunts and 30 cousins! And I am finally back in Belo Horizonte!