Embarrassments, laughter, awkwardness, plateaus, and moments of feeling on top of the world. What do all these have in common? Being an exchange student.
Summer has just started here (weird, I know), and school is out! My simple life here just got much more simple.
Some of the things I've been up to lately:
-Waking up around 12-1pm usually :)
-Struggling desperately to not gain an exorbitant amount of weight. They weren't kidding about "The exchange 15."
-I just joined a Hawaiian canoe club. It's really popular here and an awesome workout! It's always interesting trying to stay in sync with 15 other people in an outrigger canoe and understand what the heck they're saying! Finally starting to get rid of my farmer's tan. It's an amazing way to enjoy the nature here and meet more locals. Any exchange student in Santos should definitely try it once.
-Eating lots of beans and rice "feijão com arroz"
-Lots of running on the beach
-Watching lots of futebol with Brasilians. I honestly didn't care much for soccer before coming here. After my first week I realized that Futebol is a religion, Pele is the Lord, and you better not like the club from the neighboring city! My city, Santos, is playing tonight in the final round of "Copa do Brasil" (the national championship). Needless to say, many games have been nervously watched and cheered on, leading up to tonight. It has been very exciting. I would strongly encourage any exchange student coming to Brasil to at least follow a little futebol from your city as it is a great way to strike up a fun conversation with plenty of locals.
-Eating more feijão com arroz
-Making a fool of myself as always trying to make jokes with people. Nothing boosts your self confidence more like hearing crickets when no one understands what you said :) :) :)
-Feeling awesome after carrying a conversation with a friend for a couple hours in Portuguese
-Having circles ran around me trying to play futebol with locals. They're really good!
-In search of a samba club and want to take classes...
-Making new friends almost anywhere I go. Brasilians are incredibly friendly and love to talk. A quick bite to eat at a restaurant can turn into 4 hours of conversation, usually culminating in a nice "cafezinho" to wake you back up.
-Discovering new places in my city all the time. Santos is HUGE (430k people). And there's always something going on here.
-Did I mention feijão com arroz?
-Thanksgiving day was an odd experience. It was the first time I had been away from my family for the holiday and I definitely felt a bit empty. Skype is pretty dang cool though. It's an amazing time to be alive. Being an exchange student 30-40 years ago would be a dramatically different experience.
Learning a new language in a foreign country is an incredible character building process. You feel like you're running into a concrete wall, and when you least expect it, you realize you can actually hold a conversation. The way the brain works and trying to process everything is incredible. Don't try to translate everything word for word. Just let your mind flow. It's very akin to how we learn song lyrics by just hearing them over and over again without realizing it. A little studying verbs and phrases goes a long way though. I always try to think in Portuguese and that helps tons.
It's starting to dawn on me how fast this year is going to fly by. I'm over 3.5 months in and the weeks keep ticking off. Re-adjusting is going to be incredibly difficult and I am not looking forward to it. I am already a very different person from who I was when I left home and it will be weird to return.
Exchange changes your life and world view in an incredibly rapid and dramatic way. You suddenly feel split between two cultures and aren't sure what to make of it. You look back on the person you were before coming and see such a narrow minded and ignorant person. You have moments of feeling lost, unsure of where you fit into this crazy world we live in. You're constantly rediscovering who you are every day and what you're capable of.
I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.
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