Luke Mahan

Brazil

Hometown: Saint Augustine, Florida
School: St. Augustine High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: St. Augustine, Florida
Host District: 4420
Host Club: Rotary Club de Santos

 

My Bio


Oi! My name is Luke Mahan and next year I have the amazing opportunity to live in Brasil for a year! I am incredibly excited for this opportunity. I am 18 years old and am a senior at St. Augustine High School. My Sister, Sara, was a Rotary exchange student 4 years ago and went to Spain. Going to visit her and see her assimilation into a foreign culture really inspired me to take on this challenge myself.

My Father, Mark, is a port engineer and manages ship repairs for big shipping companies. He’s my best friend and I enjoy working on old cars and motorcycles together with him at our shop. My Mother, Leah, is a first grade teacher at St. John’s Academy, a private school I went to for K-8.

A little bit more about me, I’m a super big car and motorsport guy. I love tinkering with all things mechanical. I love taking machines apart and putting them back together (most of the time haha). I love watching Formula 1 and Endurance racing and someday hope to get involved in the sport. I’m very fascinated with engineering of all kinds. I’m looking forward to spending this year abroad and really learning about other cultures as well as myself. Thank you Rotary for this amazing opportunity!

 


View looking across the beach

View looking across the beach

My first Churrasco with my family

My first Churrasco with my family

I cooked Baked ziti for my host family, they loved it

I cooked Baked ziti for my host family, they loved it

Playing futebol with some Brasilians

Playing futebol with some Brasilians

My favorite pastelaria "Pastel Carioca"

My favorite pastelaria "Pastel Carioca"

"Vila Belmiro" my futebol club's stadium

"Vila Belmiro" my futebol club's stadium

Greeting the bus with the futebol players. Everyone holds bright flares as the bus passes. Lots of crazy chanting

Greeting the bus with the futebol players. Everyone holds bright flares as the bus passes. Lots of crazy chanting

Crazy futebol fans getting hyped up for the game

Crazy futebol fans getting hyped up for the game

Bom dia! View from the porch outside my bedroom

Bom dia! View from the porch outside my bedroom

Canoagem

Canoagem

Canoagem

Canoagem

Craziness with friends before the game 1 final

Craziness with friends before the game 1 final

Journals: Luke - Brazil 2015-2016

  • Luke, outbound to Brazil

    Greetings again from down south!

    It's been a little while since I wrote my last journal. I can't help but feel guilty limiting all these amazing experiences here to a short journal entry. Christmas and New years has come and gone with its emotional roller coaster. Time seems to slip away like sand through my hands, falling more rapidly with each passing month.

    Summer break has ended and school has started again. The usual grind of classes accelerates time, yet a new class and meeting new people continues to breathe new life and different understandings into my surroundings. It's different this time. I can finally communicate fluently with people and share my thoughts and emotions easily. I feel that I can begin to connect with people on a deeper level than just the usual "Hey where are you from, and do you like Brasil?" speech.

    Speaking a person's native tongue allows you to step into their own culture. You begin to understand why certain things that appeared so strange to you upon arrival, exist as they do. It lets you enjoy a casual conversation with a stranger on the street. It lets you feel more confident in yourself when you're able to explain a complex order to a waiter. It lets you enjoy dancing and laughing with friends during carnaval. It lets you discover new music and expand your music tastes. It also lets you empathize with close friends as they share their own personal struggles with you. You think deeply about how you would try to handle a lack of job opportunities, rampant corruption, massive wealth gaps, and an incredible cynicism of the future for your country.

    Brasil is not in a good place right now. I don't need to elaborate, you can see it on the news and the currency exchange rate. It is painfully obvious to any person living here. This certainly creates an uncomfortably situation for an exchange student from the United States. How do you respond when countless bright and young teenagers in school tell me that they are trying to move to the US as soon as possible for work, often times leaving behind their families? Part of me is proud that my country can represent opportunity to people around the world to create a better life for themselves. People always joke that exchange students and international travelers are the most unpatriotic snobs. But, after living in a foreign country for almost 6 months now, I can't help but feel a powerful pride in my home country. But it's a different kind of pride. It's not a blind pride of relishing in past greatness and staunch nationalism. Rather, it's a pride that my country opens its arms to the "tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free," of the world and hopes to become stronger through diversity. We don't "Make America great again" by closing our doors and trying to emulate the past. Rather we need to connect with what makes us human, and look boldly into the future.

    I feel for the Brasilian people. I have fallen in love with their culture and language. I have felt incredibly welcomed and a wonderful sense of warmth from so many people. I would argue that Brasil is one of, if not the best country in the world for a cultural exchange. The people are beautiful inside and out and genuinely love to share their emotions with you. There's a reason dinner reservations are made for 3-4 hour time blocks. Everyone enjoys socializing!

    I just finished a book last week called "Why Nations Fail." It was a very lengthy, yet compelling read. It just made me feel good to be a human. The main premise was this: Nations can only grow and prosper when political and economic institutions are designed to be inclusive and allow every member of society to have a hope to participate in the future. This is how people's beautiful and unique gifts are able to create disruptive technologies which ultimately improve the standard of living for every member of society and continue to allow freedom of expression.

    I feel a personal connection with the Brasilian people and hope they can weather this storm. I see the beautiful personalities and artistic gifts of so many people and am inspired in humanity. I see dedicated and hardworking entrepreneurs like my host dad and see hope for innovation. I hope very much that the society as a whole can make a stand against massive corruption and continue to grow along with the other BRIC countries in the world.

    I again can't say enough thanks to Rotary and my host family. I feel a wonderful warmth and genuine sense of caring from them all. Even if they don't see this, I wanted to recognize the many people who make exchange possible.

    To see my homepage click HERE


  • Luke, outbound to Brazil

    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.

    To see my homepage and some photos click HERE


  • Luke, outbound to Brazil

    Ola todo mundo! Tudo bem? Hello everyone, greetings from the beautiful city of Santos, Brasil! It has been a real whirlwind since I arrived here two months ago. I’ve already had so many amazing experiences that I will carry in my memories forever. I feel like the luckiest exchange student ever.

    My flight and the travel went smoothly. I arrived at about 5am in Sao Paulo. Circling the city and seeing the massive sea of lights, it finally hit me that this was it. What I had been working towards for so long was about to begin.

    I can’t say enough praises about my host family and city. My family has been absolutely wonderful to me. We get along so well. They just had a baby 8 months ago so it is nice to have a cute baby to take the attention away from “the exchange student” at family gatherings and events. My host mother slaves in the kitchen so many hours a day to put wonderful fresh meals and delicious fruit juices on the table. She is a saint, I love her. While it took me a little while to get adjusted to the cuisine (rice and beans at least once every day), now I feel like I can’t live without it.

    Santos is a large port city located 2 hours outside of Sao Paulo on the coast. It has about 430,000 people. It has been an incredible change to live in an apartment in a big city. There is so much to do here in Santos. From cheering on my local futebol clube, going to concerts and baladas, or just enjoying a nice coconut water and pastel on the beach with good friends, there’s hardly ever a dull moment here. I have those “pinch me I must be dreaming” moments all the time. This past weekend I took a bus on my own to a suburb of Sao Paulo and cooked a Churrasco (Brasilian bbq) party with a bunch of exchange student friends. It was an accomplishing feeling to finally be able to communicate and travel on my own speaking Portuguese. It was also very cool to actually cook Churrasco this time after observing many Brasilian dads teach me their secrets.

    If you weren’t an introspective person before exchange, you certainly will become one during it. So many times when you’re sitting clueless as to what people are talking about. So much time left to your own thoughts, wishing you could communicate. It’s nice to take a long run down the beach to clear my head. I’m finally starting to understand most all of conversations and can communicate, but it wasn’t easy. I’ve had to work very hard to learn this language. It is very different from English. The education system in the United States really does a poor job of preparing students going into international settings. It is pretty embarrassing to be surrounded by trilingual/quad-lingual European exchange students and all I know is English and broken Portuguese.

    I can’t believe that almost 2 and a half months have already gone by. I can’t begin to thank Rotary enough for everything they’ve done to build this program. Both RYE Florida and Rotary Club de Santos have been very professional and devoted to my success and wellbeing. I feel incredibly fortunate to be where I am. I am especially thankful to Rob Overly for giving me this opportunity to live in Santos. I now understand why it is so fiercely defended by Rotex who lived here before me. I can’t wait to see where this year takes me. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me thus far!

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


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