Jojo Woolbright
2013-14 Outbound to Brazil

Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St. Augustine High School
Sponsor: District 6970, Florida
Host: The Rotary Club of Apucarana

Jojo's Bio

Hello! My name is Jocelyn Woolbright and I am so excited to start my year abroad in Brazil! When I found out I was going to be living in Brazil I was overcome with joy because it was my first choice. I never imagined I would have this great opportunity presented to me and am so thankful to be going to my dream country. I am seventeen years old and am a senior at St. Augustine High school. My year abroad will be my gap year after high school and before college. My city is the oldest city in the United States, filled with history and adventure! Though small, I could not picture growing up anywhere else! I live with my mom, retired greyhound dog Sheba (named after Queen Sheba “The Destroyer” which does not fit her at all), and 20 year old brother who comes home on the weekends from college. My brother really sparked my interest in studying abroad because he was a Rotary Exchange student in 2010 living in Paraguay. I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to travel, spending a month in Thailand visiting an exchange student that lived with me, and visiting my brother in South America. I'm very active in school participating in many clubs, playing on the tennis team and being a member of the AICE program. Since soccer is so popular in Brazil I am excited to learn and show off my skills when I return home. I have been told that I was a beast at soccer when I was little but would always quit in the middle of the game, but that won't happen in Brazil! I'm loud, outgoing and eager to learn anything new. Almost anything will make me laugh! I am looking forward to the challenges of leaving home and living in another country! I would like to say thank you to my family who always supported me with any decisions I've made, friends who supported my leaving (though sad on both parts) and Rotary for this great opportunity! I cannot wait to start this great chapter in my life, meeting new friends, having three more wonderful families and learning a new interesting culture! Who knows who I will be this time next year?! Tchau!

Jojo's Journals

September 4, 2013

Being a Rotary Exchange student is hard. It is not for the weak, you have to be very strong and independent to leave everything you know to start a new life which may be better or worse then your previous one. I will be very honest in my journals with all of my experiences. When I lived in Florida I had a very easy life, going to the beach most days, sleeping until noon, hanging out with my friends everyday, here in Brazil I live very differently. When I signed up for Rotary I thought I knew everything about exchange because I had hosted 3 exchange students in my home and my brother studied abroad in 2010 in Paraguay. But I never knew this is what it would feel like.

I left my small town of St. Augustine for Apucarana Brazil on August 22. I was not nervous or afraid, it was a numbing feeling. I was in a sort of limbo because I was leaving my family and simple life, to start a unknown life which I had no certainty about! Of course I had talked to my host families through Facebook but how do you really get to know someone's way of life through a social website?! I said very quick goodbyes to my mom and brother because I knew my mom would cry and when she cries everyone cries! I am very lucky I did not have any problems on my way to Brazil, though I did get lost in the São Paulo airport which was kind of scary but I made it! I arrived in the Londrina airport at 10:17 Friday morning with my first host family welcoming me! They immediately hugged me and kissed my cheek and in that moment I knew I did the right thing deciding to become an exchange student. Though I had never met them they treated me like family and I felt safe! My c ity is an hour away from Londrina which is the largest city in my state of Paraná. Everyone in the car was speaking Portuguese and I was jet lagged because I did not sleep a wink on the plane so my mind was going crazy from sleep deprivation and shock! I arrived at my house, which is a small apartment in Apucarana. It is very different from my house in Florida but I love my families apartment in Brazil! It is small and cozy and I think it makes the family closer living in a small place. My next couple days were busy meeting my first host families family, they have a huge family!! Everyone is so kind and love to ask me questions about America and my life.

I love my city in Brazil! Everything is very close and everywhere you look you see hills with many houses and building which is different to me because in Florida all you see is trees! My first week in Brazil was amazing. I went started school which is extremely boring, and very different. Also I am a little older than most of my classmates, but I can't speak Portuguese very well so I might as well be a 5 year old! School starts at 7:15 and goes to 12. I do not understand a word the teacher say because they speak very fast, so I usually read or study Portuguese. It is not very difficult to make friends here because people at my school love to talk in English and are so interested about my life in the US. I try very hard to talk in Portuguese because I really want to show everyone that I am trying to learn which they admire! Although my first week was amazing, with delicious food (did I mention brigadeiro, OMG!) and loving people I did not expect to get emotional whatsoev er. My host mom is so kind she is probably the nicest woman in the planet and we always talk in google translate at night about my day and how I am enjoying Brazil. The first couple days of this I would let out a couple tears, not because I miss my home but because everything is so different and new to me. I am used to being very independent and here it is hard because I cannot get my opinions and feeling across because I do not know how to say it! People think I am shy here but I am the exact opposite, it is difficult to show your personality when you can only say very little.

I love Brazil so much and my first couple days I dreamt that I was being sent back to the US and I woke up so happy because it was only a dream! I have a very busy life in Brazil, I play tennis twice a week, dance classes twice a week with my host mom and sister which is so fun and Portuguese classes twice a week! I am a busy girl! I love it though because it allows me to meet more people and create a stronger bond between my host family. I am so thankful for Rotary for giving me this wonderful opportunity, my Rotary club is very welcoming and I seriously could not have asked for a better experience here in Brazil. I would not change one thing about my new life, actually maybe starting school a little bit later. I get excited when I learn new world and phrases in Portuguese because I know it is one step closer to being fluent! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world for being placed in a great family, having awesome friends and making so many great memories. I have only be en here a week and a half and it has already gone by so fast!

December 4, 2013

 So much has happened since the last time I have written! Many things have changed in good and bad ways. I have been in Brazil for about 3 months, I have so much to say about my experience here. I will start with school. I recently changed school which has been the best decision I have made here. The previous school I went attended was not the best, most of the exchange students in my city went to that school so it was hard to branch out and meet new people. I spoke English all the time with them, so learning Portuguese was harder. The people in my school were nice but it was hard to communicate with them. After about a month or so, I asked my host family if I could change schools. It was a hard decision for me because I was having an internal debate on whether to change my daily routine and comforts of my exchange student friends, for something I did not know. I did not know if I would have friends at my new school or what people would think a bout me. But a huge part of me liked the excitement of meeting new people outside of my group of exchange friends. My first day at my new school was one of the best days ever. I went to every single class room and talked to all the students, and everyone was so excited to be my friend and ask me questions about my life! People in my school call me the "famous Jocelyn" which is so strange! I can say I am 100% happier at my new school and that is because I made a change. My Portuguese has improved tremendously! I understand so much more! It is crazy how your brain starts to adapt to a new language! Before my exchange year, it was so difficult to study the language because no one in my city spoke Portuguese! I thought I would be very slow at learning. But now that I am here it is crazy how much you pick up by hearing it all the time. I think it is so fascinating how much your brain can adapt!

My host family is amazing. I have had no problems with them. They treat me as their daughter and I am so thankful to have such an amazing family! It will be so hard to leave them, it makes me sad just thinking about it! I only have two host families here which is nice because I will have more time to create relationships with them. I will move back to my first host family in May, which is better for me because I want to be able to thank them for everything when I can talk Portuguese very well! I go to Rotary meetings every Wednesday night, which are dull but I look at it as something I have to do because I am here because of them! I make a huge effort to talk to everyone at my Rotary club because I want them to remember the amazing American girl they hosted :) My Rotary club came up with the best idea for me and the other exchange student in my club to do during the day every Wednesday! Before every Rotary meeting, I go to a different Rotarians house for lunch and follow them around the whole day! I see where they work and how they live their life. I have been to three house holds so far and I have learned so much! I works in auto shop one week, a rice farm the next and a plastic factory after! I love seeing the different jobs of the people in my Rotary club, and asking them questions about work and their personal lives!

It is now summer now for me, which is nice but I miss my friends from school! Now that is is summer, I have time to travel with my family which is going to be amazing! Last month I went to Isla do Mel which is a beach about 7 hours from my house! The water was so cold, and very different from the beaches in Florida. But it was nice to be with my family on vacation! My family works so much, I am home alone a lot so it is nice to bond with them when they are not so busy! Though I am home alone a lot, I am very busy! I always am out eating with friends, going to see movies or walking around town! I make a big effort to hang out with my friend from school because I do not just want exchange friends, I want Brazilian friends too!

May 12, 2014

 I have been in the best country in the world for about 6 and a half months! I can’t believe how fast it has gone. When I first arrived here I was happy to be in a new country but it was not easy. Trying to learn a foreign language and make friends when you can barely understand the language. But now everything is easy. I have friends and don’t need to speak any english at all. Its fulfilling knowing that I did it! I understand so much and can actually have good conversations with Brazilians easily. It is hard understanding people talk in large groups but I am getting there! I recently started school again, Brazilian summer starts in December and ends in February. So it has been a change, waking up at 6:30 and going to a new class with new classmates. I switched host families February 1st which was hard. I love my first host family so much, they helped me with everything when I first arrived here. My first host mom is unlike anyone I have met in the world. She is friendly with EVERYONE! She has this warm essence about her, there is no way you cannot love her! All of my exchange friends always talk about how jealous they are that my first host family is so family-like. I call them Mãe and Pai! So yes it was very hard to move, but I was excited to have a new surrounding! My second host family is very nice too! I am so lucky I have two amazing Brazilian families! I have a host sister who is 15 and is going on exchange next year. We get along so well! My house is a lot bigger than in my previous host family. I lived in an apartment and now I live in a two story house. Also I have air conditioning in my room! Everyone who has been to Brazil will tell you I am a lucky girl! It is incredible hot here and most houses in my city do not have air conditioning so I feel so blessed!

Although my exchange has been the best year of my life so far, I have had some problems. I was sick for about a month which was scary and frustrating. I went to the hospital for 3 days and then had to visit many doctors for a month straight. Back in Florida I never had any problems with my health, but here all hell broke loose!! For a while I was told I might have to return to the states which was so devastating. When I first arrived here in Brazil, I was home sick and a couple times I wished my exchange would go faster. But now, my whole outlook on life has changed! Of course I miss my family and friends, but I have made so many friends here and I feel so comfortable here!

I have been able to travel a lot with my families and Rotary! My favorite trip was with Rotary to Florianopolis which is in the state of Santa Catarina which is just below my state of Paranà. It was a very small group of exchange students, only 10 of us. I have always dreamed about Carnival and have seen the celebration in movies but the real things exceeded my expectations! The other exchange students and I danced all night! It was the best vacation I have even been on in my life! We went to two different street Carnivals, which were basically a street marked off so cars couldn’t pass with food and music. Everyone was dancing in the streets and spraying foam everywhere. On this trip I also went to many different beaches, which were so beautiful! But the water was very cold! I went sand boarding, which is a lot harder than it looks. I was happy to meet new exchange students from my state and make amazing memories with them. I am now back to the real world of scho ol, gym and studying Portuguese. I am going to start taking Portuguese classes twice a week. When I first arrived here I did them and they helped tremendously. I want to do them again to be able to talk like a Brazilian! I have so many amazing things planned for the next couple months, the first half of my exchange was great but I know the last half will so much better. I am so excited to see what the future holds :)