Swim meet: Got to travel to another city with my team for 4 days. To any future outbounds, I highly recommend becoming involved in a sport or an activity because it gives you the chance to make a bunch of new friends who you share a common interest with.
Beach swim relay: Each relay consists of people from all ages, starting from pre-teens to master swimmers so its a lot of fun because everyone gets to meet new people and cheer them on. Since my city is on the beach, my team started to organize different swim events at the beach to keep everyone involved and engaged.
Summer Concerts: AMAZING.. I never thought I would fall in love with Portuguese music given the fact I hated it before leaving. Saw all my favorite Brazilian artists and actually cried at one of the concerts.
RIO: Best travel ever! One of the most beautiful places i have ever visited in my life. Going into Rio I was actually really scared because ever since before my exchange everyone has been warning me about how dangerous the city is. Thankfully i had a very smooth experience there. It actually super funny to hear the different accent they have in different regions in Brazil and the different jargon they use. You can 9/10 times guess where someone is from in Brazil based on their accents and even the exchange students are able to notice the difference.
Christmas: Spent Xmas day visiting family and ended with Christmas dinner at my exchange students house with her family and mine. X-mas dinner started at 11 PM ! I was starving hahahaha. Christmas really depends on your family more than your host country. My Brazilian Christmas experience was completely different from other exchange students in Brazil, let alone form the other exchange students in my city. This is also an important time to remember that everyone's exchange is different and you shouldn't compare your exchange to others.
Rotary Christmas Celebration: Rotary organized a Xmas weekend with all the exchange students in my multi-district. Left the hotel in the morning, rode buggies everywhere around the city, visited historic monuments, went to beach via ferry, watched the sunset on a boat, and came back for a Xmas dinner with gift exchanges and give aways.
New Years: Best new years celebration ever. Beach followed by a concert (More about this below) I want to spend every single New Years Eve in Brazil.
Family change: Who knew that leaving a bunch of strangers would be so hard? Changing families was one of the most heartbreaking parts of my exchange so far. I've created a certain type of relationship with this family that is hard to explain. Like family lunches on Saturdays at grandmas house ending with everyone singing and dancing and telling jokes. I became really close with my host mom's family especially with my cousin and my mom's twin sister and her younger brother and his family and of course his wife who is absolutely insane and one of the funniest people I've met on this exchange. So the day before switching families I packed up all my stuff and we put everything in the car and head out to grandmas for a farewell lunch with my favorite meal. The afternoon ended with a full stomach and a bunch of hugs and kisses saying goodbye to everyone. It was very difficult and I was very reluctant to change but I ended up liking my new family a lot. At first I was frustrated with Rotary for making us do this and change families. I spent my first five months with my first host family and truly became part of the family. I truly believe that they will always be my family. However, I honestly believe that family changes allow you to experience a lot more from your exchange because it forces you to step outside your comfort zone even more than you already are. My first family reunion with my new family i was so nervous and wouldn't talk to anyone because there were around 50 family members. However, I got to meet my host cousin who is around the same age as me and her friends who are practically family. So changing into this family allowed me to become really close friends with around 8 girls all my age who I started going out and having game nights with. Another positive to changing host families is host siblings. I come from a family of 4 kids and I am the youngest so I was really excited when i found out that I was going to have younger host siblings in 2 of my families. So far I have loved being an older sibling, it's something i have always wanted to experience. I became really close with my 9 year old brother; he helped me improve my Portuguese more than most people I have met on my exchange by listening to Brazilian music with him and singing along during car rides. Its the small things in my exchange that i am beyond grateful for.
As Exchange students ROTARY prepares us for the year ahead by explaining the different stages an exchange student goes through throughout the year. So going into December I was a little bit nervous because of feeling homesick during the Christmas holiday and missing New Year's tradition. However December was by far my best month so far. Learning about a new culture doesn't mean you have to let go of your old one. Around the third month of my exchange my host parents decided to get a divorce and given the fact that my host mom's parents were divorced my Christmas was a lot of jumping around. It was mainly me, my host mom, and my nine-year-old host brother and we went to different houses and congratulated everyone before going to another exchange student's house to celebrate Christmas with her family. It wasn't the traditional Brasilian Christmas but it was one to remember and I'm glad I got to experience something different this year.
NEW YEARS EVE
This New Years Eve was by far the best New Year's eve I've ever had. I actually never want to spend another New Year's eve outside of Brazil. Brasilians really enjoy celebrating New Year's eve and have several free concerts on the beaches, which everyone goes to and usually leaves around 5am in the morning. Spent the day at the beach with my family and my exchange friend, then i spent the rest of the day with my swim mates, and for the count down the five exchange students in my city met up at the beach to celebrate together. It's so simple but so perfect at the same time. New Years in Brasil is something else. I'm completely in love with the Brasilian tradition of wearing white for New Years as a symbol of peace and happiness. They also have a superstition on the color of underwear you wear on this day in which each color represents a resolution for the new year; like pink is for romance and yellow is for money. Another superstition is jumping seven waves at the beach and making a wish for each. We ended the year at the beach with friends and family and we got a panoramic view of all the fireworks going off in my city. Finally ended the night at a New Years concert and got home around 5am. I am beyond blessed to be on this exchange and cant thank the people who made this possible and keep making this possible enough.
I am completely satisfied with how my exchange has been so far. I was sad that I had to change families but I feel like it was for the best because this family fits me just as well as the other family did. Playing dominoes till 4 AM with my host parents and host brothers, crazy competitive monopoly games until 2 AM that end up with my younger brother cheating and stealing the money out of the bank and hiding the houses, sunrise watching every morning that end up with the best grilled cheese sandwiches. I'm around halfway or a little bit more than halfway through my exchange and I couldn't have asked for anything different it has actually been better than I even imagined. All the little stuff make it so much better and make me proud to be the person I am today.
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