Maddie Tibbetts 
2012-13 Outbound to Brazil
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
School: Ponte Vedra Beach High School
Sponsor: District 6970, FL
Host: District 4760, Brazil
Club TBA

November 2012

These past 2 months have been the best of my life. Brazil is so indescribably wonderful, but according to my agreement with Rotary I have to attempt to describe my time here.

Everybody tells you time flies on exchange, but for me those were the same people that said that high school would fly by. So of course I didn't believe them. I've been here for over two months, that's 1/5 of my exchange gone. That's 25% of the best year of my life, over. Days, weeks, MONTHS pass and I'm left astounded and wondering where all that time went. So please, all you future exchange students, promise me you will realize that your time on exchange is very short and don't allow yourself to waste a moment of it.

Although time has flown by, I feel proud of how I've spent it. I live in a very small town named Varzea Da Palma. When I say small, I mean truly tiny. When I first heard the news that I would be living in a town a little smaller than Sawgrass and Marsh Landing combined (residential neighborhoods in my home town) I was disappointed. Upon my arrival I realized my initial disappointment was absolutely ridiculous. Although I live in a small town, I still live in Brasil. It's still radically different from anything I've ever experienced and every day is better than the last.

An average day for me consists of school from 7:15 until 12:15, a traditional Brazilian lunch from 12:30 until all the food is gone, A city wide nap from whenever lunch ends until 14:00, then I volunteer at the local orphanage from 15:00 until 19:00. After all of that I'm free to hang out with my lovely host family, go to festas (parties) or boates (nightclubs) with my host sister, or just grab some delicious acai with my friends.

I adore my host family. I have yet to switch host families yet and I don't think I want to. But here's hoping my next host family is as lovely as my first. I currently live with my host father, Pio, my host mother, Nadia, and my host sister, Ariella. I'm so grateful to Rotary for giving me such a perfect first host family.

Having a host sibling around your age is amazing. Ariella and I do absolutely everything together. From day one Ariella has been helping me, with my Portuguese, with school, with making new friends, with everything. I also had the good fortune to be placed in my sister's class. I'm currently in the third year at CNEC. I'm the Brazilian equivalent of a senior.

I just got back from my first inbound orientation; in our statewide district we have 47 exchange students. We had to part ways two days ago, and we already miss each other greatly. Our orientation was the best one I've ever been to. How many Rotary orientations end with spelunking in hundred year old mines? We toured the beautiful cities of Ouro Preto and Belo Horizonte. These two cities alone hold so much history; I loved every minute of our time there. Although none of the exchange students are Brazilian, we've definitely all become accustomed to spending nights singing and dancing together. I can't wait to see them all again on the northeast trip!

I was able to stay an extra day in Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon) with the lovely Katharina. Katharina is a 16 year old from Germany; she lives in Montes Claros which much to my dismay is nearly 3 hours outside of my small city. My city is small and sort of secluded; therefore I'm an hour away from the closest exchange student. Although being the only exchange student in my city can be lonely, I feel that it allows me to delve even deeper into Brazilian culture.

I love Brasil, my town, my family, and all my new friends. I've never been happier; the culture here is so vastly different. My language skills have improved immensely and I couldn't be more proud of how far they've come. Learning a language is not easy but it's rewarding. I'm so thankful for this amazing opportunity rotary gave me and all the hard work Rotarians did to get me to this point.