It's been a month since I stepped off the plane at the Confins Airport in Belo Horizonte and it's been a whirlwind ever since. My host mother and father have been a wonderful help in my adjustment here. Even though it’s their first time hosting, they have taken me in with open arms. Their daughter, Carolina, was here for a week before she left for Denmark and she was great. She showed me around a bit and helped me with the language. My host family has a large family and they meet up every Sunday for lunch. I love how involved the families are here.
I started school the first Tuesday I got here and it was interesting. I have been attending a university unlike other exchange students with Rotary. I love PUC (Pontifica Catolica Universidade). The university structure differs from the ones in the U.S. Students can choose from morning, afternoon, or evening classes. I am in afternoon classes where I go from 1pm to 7pm. I have 3 classes a day lasting an hour and 40 minutes each with two breaks. My favorite parts are the breaks because then I can talk with people. I am taking freshman level classes under the International Relations major. I even have past Rotary exchange students in my class! My friend Silvia was a Rotary exchange student to Taiwan and another girl was a Rotary exchange student to Oregon. I have also met exchange students at the university, a few from France and one from Italy so I’m meeting even more exchange students! I try to understand the classes but it’s difficult, the only class I truly un derstand is Macroeconomics because I already took it but everyone really tries to help me out and honestly I couldn’t have asked for better classmates. For example, this one girl came running up to me squealing “ELLI! ELLI!” had I ever met her before, no, but okay sure I’ll take another friend.
School takes up most of my day but the weekends have been great. In the beginning, I was afraid I would have difficulties making friends but that has not been the case at all. I have met an incredible amount of new people and have already started to build friendships. I went out with some Rotary Rebounds from last year one weekend. Then, another weekend I went to a soccer game (VAI CRUZIERO!) and then had lunch with some Australian exchange students that have been here 6 months already. My friends here love taking me to get acai, pao de queijo, coffee or bubble tea and we go to the mall and this part of the city called Savassi often to walk around. This weekend I am going to a family wedding and then a university social with some classmates. I’ve been trying to speak Portuguese with all my friends but it’s difficult so I’m trying to start some Portuguese classes.
My host club of Liberdade has meetings every Saturday morning at 10am and all the Rotarians have been so kind. My club President Carolina was even an exchange student to Canada. There are three exchange students in my club at the moment including myself; the others are Julia-Australia and Christin-Slovakia. They are great. ☺ Our exchange student orientation is a weeklong and it starts on September 29th and I can’t wait to meet everyone else!
Brazil has been amazing so far and I have just been adapting to it as quickly as I can. Today at school, honestly, was the first time I felt like this was my home too and that this year could truly be the best year of my life. Thank you Rotary. Until next time!
December 10, 2013
NOSSA GENTE! I’ve been here 130 days. 130 days in a new country. 130 days with new families. 130 days with new friends. 130 days of building a new life. In 130 days, I made Belo Horizonte, Brasil my Home and I feel as if I’ve been living here for years.
I started October off by having a weeklong Inbound Orientation and it was incredible. My district 4760 has 56 exchange students so it was huge! We went adventuring to Ouro Preto, a famous historical city in Minas Gerais and Inhotim, a contemporary art museum. Within a week, I had another new family, my exchange student family! We had Portuguese lessons and took Forro and Samba (Brazilian dances) classes. There were so many exchangers to meet; it’s hard to explain. We would just jump from one person to the next, “HI! Where are you from???” “Oi! Você da onde???” It was an experience like no other that is for sure.
In the middle of October, I changed families. I was so sad to leave my amazing, first host mom and dad but I was super excited for a new experience! My second family is a mother and father and two daughters Bia (18) and Marina (20). It’s perfect because I’m about to turn 19, so my sisters and I are 18, 19, 20! I’m so thankful that both of my families have been so welcoming and warm.
My Rotary club and I have become closer now that we are getting to know each other! They are the sweetest group of people and I’m so glad to be part of their club. I go to the meetings every Saturday morning without complaint and we are having a holiday party at a Rotarian’s country house. (The last time I was there the Rotarian that owned the house literally handed Kristian (the exchanger from Slovakia) and I a horse and walked away! It was so funny.) Anyways, the Australian girl and the Slovak boy did their presentations about their countries within the past few weeks and I’ll be doing mine soon! Yes, the presentations must be made in Portuguese. Yes, it will be interesting but hopefully I won’t trip on too many of my words. It’s nerve-racking enough to make presentations in English in front of a bunch of people much less in Portuguese but we will see!
I truly believe my Portuguese is improving. I’m definitely not perfect but it’s getting decent. I can see the difference in my speaking and understanding between month 1 and month 4 and I am really happy about that! Everyday conversation and basic actions such as asking for directions, taking a taxi, going to the grocery store, shopping, eating out have become natural. I will be completely honest I’m still having difficulties telling stories and jumping in on conversations at a normal, Brazilian speed but I’m working on it and doing my best. I give myself an “A” for effort. It’s a bit difficult here though because in my city of 2.5 million, a lot of people, especially people my age and at the University, speak English. Even when I go up to people speaking Portuguese as soon as they notice my accent they try and change to English. Also, at some restaurants, when I go to order the waiters hear my accent and they ask, “Would y ou like an English menu?” and I’m just like “…………………………nāo, mas obrigada.”
I can’t believe this year is going by so quickly. I wish it would freeze or at least slow down and let me enjoy every moment a bit more. I’m extremely content with my life here and there are only a few things from home that I miss. I miss my family of course but I Skype with them on Sunday nights for a little bit to check in. I miss my car and my friends! But what surprised me the most was how much I miss my job, more like the paychecks! Other than those things, life in Brazil is quite amazing and I wouldn't change a thing. What I am looking forward to the most right now is the Northeast Trip in January!!! It’s a 26-day trip through the Northeast of Brazil with my district! We are starting in Natal and ending in Rio!!!! I am so excited and cannot wait!!!!
Thank you so much Rotary! Until next time! Tchau! Beijos!