Emily O'Day


Hometown: Dunwoody, Georgia
School: Dunwoody High School
Sponsor District : District 6900
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Dunwoody, Georgia
Host District: 4580
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Viçosa

My Bio

Oi, my name is Emily O’Day and I’m 17 and a senior at Dunwoody High School. I am so happy and grateful to say that I will be going to Brazil next year. I live in Dunwoody, GA with my parents and an older brother who is a sophomore at UGA- Go Dawgs! Unfortunately, I have no pets, but I am certain I will have two dogs when I grow up. My favorite subject in school would definitely be math, but that doesn’t reflect my love for books and fictional worlds! I adore playing club and school volleyball as a libero and outside hitter. I started playing volleyball when I was in middle school and once I reached high school I started to play club volleyball at NAVC. I also do Taido Karate and have been attending since I was 5 years old. I received my black belt in 2015 and love performing and competing in tournaments. Actually, my father and brother have also been attending the same karate for years and received their black belts as well. I also love cooking. Whenever I’m stressed I always run straight to the kitchen and bake away my worries. Though another room I often find myself in is the ceramics room. I specifically love throwing on the wheel and making abstract pots. I am incredibly excited to become an “estudante de intercâmbio” (exchange student) for an experience of a lifetime in one of the most beautiful and cultural countries in the world as well as become a part of the awesome community that Rotary International has created. I look forward to keeping you updated, but until then... Beijos, tchau!

Journals: Emily-Brazil Blog 2018-19

  • Emily, Outbound to Brazil

    Wow it's been a few weeks since my last post and time is flying by faster than ever. THe clock is ticking and I feel like I have to count my moments here and make sure they aren't being lost. I’m starting to make sure that I'm reaching harder for those moments. The moments that will make my exchange and that I will remember forever. I’ve realized that my exchange is going to change the way that I live from here on out. One of these changes in attitude is definitely that you cannot just wait for things to happen for those “holy cow my life is awesome” moments to be handed to you. My generation, including me, has become very afraid to ask for what we need or want. That is what I'm starting to change as my last few months of exchange roll out. I’m starting to reach out harder for my goals and I've found that a lot of times they are a lot closer than you think. It’s just the daunt of that first leap that's stopping you.

    More food for thought: Every single exchange student leads a life that is so unique and special. We are united in many ways and do similar things on exchange when in reality each and every one of us is experiencing something completely different. Our exchanges are specialized for us allowing each student to make it what they will. No one else knows exactly how it is or what is was. Not our parents, not our friends back at home, neither our fellow exchange students. It's a year in our adolescent and vulnerable lives that is completely and entirely our own. I think exchange allows us to take more chances, make more choices and experiment with who we want to be. All this without feeling analized under a telescope by society as many of us felt growing up. And at the end of the year we can say that it was us who stepped over every obstacle. That feeling of pride and achievement is one that few can experience.

    Now after pouring out all my random thoughts, I can give those curious the new update on my life. The most important of which is to enjoy the time I have left in my city with those people that I love. I slept over at my best friend's house this past weekend and we talked, baked brownies and laughed the entire night. It's these people and these relationships that I have made here that I will miss so much.

    The most significant thing that has happened recently is Carnaval. Originally my family was not planning on doing much and on top of that my city does not celebrate Carnaval. Then at the last minute, they told me that we were going to Belo Horizonte to visit family and friends and do some celebrations. There is nothing in the world quite like Carnaval in Brazil. It’s a chance for everyone in the entire country to come together, friends and family, and just be happy and spend time in each others company. I was also able to reunite with some exchange students that I met on the Rotary Northeast trip for the first time. Overall, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

    I started a new portuguese for foreigners class recently with the University here. The class is small and made up with graduate students from all over South America. Therefore I have been able to also practice some of my spanish as well. I has been really nice doing these classes because everything that I’ve learned so far has been self taught and learned by reading books and conversing with people. The class will help me correct a lot of grammatical mistakes and errors I didn’t know I made.

    I also started playing volleyball for my high school and the federal college team here in Vicosa. It has been really fun getting to play volleyball again and meet all my fellow teammates. I hope to play with them as much as possible before I leave.

    This weekend is my host mom’s birthday, and we have become very, very close in the past few months I’ve been living here. I'm going to be cooking and baking American food for the entire party that with come to celebrate her birthday. I’m a little bit nervous because I’ve never cooked for a group this big, but it will sure be fun.

    In a few weeks I will be going on another trip to the Amazon rainforest with the Belobrasil company and other exchange students. I’m super excited go see all the tropical plants and animals, especially the pink freshwater dolphins. I’m also excited to spend some more time with my exchange student friends.

    I feels great to write a few thoughts down on paper! Until next time!

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs

  • Emily, Outbound to Brazil

    Wow I cannot believe how the time has flown by. I'm arriving towards the middle of my exchange and finding that it's has become ever so slightly harder to talk in English. I take this as a positive boost because it means that I have immersed myself into the Portuguese language enough that my mind is confusing the two languages. For example the other day I was having a conversation with my mom about how my 90 degree F, huge Brazilian family Christmas get together was going. Apparently, I was stumbling on my words and every now and then unconsciously blurting out Portuguese words instead of English.

    Every morning I wake up and am at a loss for words at how my mind has transformed on exchange. Believe it or not it is possible to think and talk in another language. Although I´m still conjugating words incorrectly and, at times, frustratingly saying things that make absolutely no sense, every day it gets easier and more natural speaking in the language I have come to love.

    Now on to how my holidays have been going. I'm not going to lie, they have gotten off to a pretty sweet start. On the 23rd of December, I left for the capital of my state Belo Horizonte with my host family to spend Christmas at my host grandfather's house. The city is huge and a big change from my cute and quaint town, set the famous rolling hill countryside of my state. The following days were filled with with a series of get togethers with various members of the family (of course always involving some sort of yummy food or churrasco). Finally, the festive celebration ended with a final dinner involving 25+ members of the family where we ate made from scratch Capelliti. Capelliti is an Italian pasta similarly compared to tortellini with a cheese stuffing paired deliciously with a chicken broth soup. Members of the family get together about a week before Christmas to make the dough, stuffing and form the capelliti to be ready for the 25th of December. Then Christmas day is dedicated to perfecting the broth all to be eating that night.

    One of my favorite things about exchange is about indulging in different traditions not only unique to Brazil, but also within the families that I stay with. Becoming a part of your host family involves spending the quality time making soup and seeing how the family enjoys the holidays.

    After our time in Belo Horizonte, my family and I drove to their beach chalet in Paraty, a historical port city in the state of Rio. There we spent our time exploring islands and going to secret beaches with my host father´s boat. It was a week and a half long dream where I got to bond with my host sister and drink freshly picked passion fruit juice. One of my favorite memories was the day we had a churrasco, a huge outdoor barbeque get together with extended family and family friends. We ate picanha and pao de alho (certain type of meat and garlic bread) until our stomachs were more than full. At the end of the night, our family friend picked up the guitar and we all sang classic Brazilian songs until half the group lost their voices. This night will be a night to remember and on top of that, I got the chance to learn many new songs that every Brazilian must know.

    Now as I sit here typing this journal entry, I am preparing and packing for my Rotary trip with the exchange students. Tomorrow I will be catching a flight to Fortaleza, a city in the northeast of Brazil, and from there we will start the descent on the coast of Brazil by bus visiting beaches and cities along the way until we reach Rio de Janeiro. I am incredibly excited for this trip and cannot wait to get to know new exchange students as well as new cities in Brazil.

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs

  • Emily, Outbound to Brazil

    Wow, yet another month has gone by in my journey through exchange. It seems as if it was just last week that I was writing my first journal entry. Life here in Viçosa has sped up a bit as I have accustomed even more into a daily and weekly routine. That means days are passing by even faster. Sometimes I have to stop and remember to enjoy every second and cherish every minute.

    What has happened in the past month? Many things. The 2018 Brazilian elections occurred last week and a runoff will be happening within the next few weeks to determine once and for all the president. All around me I hear debates and political banter about the current climate in Brazil and may I say, Wow! What a time to be exchanging in Brazil. I have been able to learn new political terms, learn about foreign politics and even have deep discussions about how the country should be governed.

    Another big thing that has happened recently was the state-wide Interact convention that I was lucky enough to attend along with a little over a dozen other exchange students from around the state. The convention was called EMIC and was in the city of Mario Campo, a few hours from my city Viçosa, just outside of Belo Horizonte (the state capitol). This four day convention was packed with dance parties, lectures, group activities and games. Each morning after breakfast we received a lecture from Rotarians and Rotaract members about the difference Interact club can make in a community and the world and how to better organize the club itself to be more productive. Each night we were able to dress up in themed costumes and just enjoy each other’s company.

    The weekend was incredibly memorable for me as I was immediately able to click and become closer to many of the exchange students around the states. I was able to make a friend out of each and every one of them. On the other hand I was able to become even closer to many of the Brazilians. It just solidified my belief that Brazilians are the most receptive and excited people I’ve met. Each and every Brazilian I met was eager to hear my story, just as I was to hear theirs, and help with any Português doubts that I had. In just this one weekend I know that I made friendships that I can count on for the rest of my exchange and maybe even longer.

    I think one of the most memorable events that happened was the color party. This entails that everyone dress in all white. Then neon colored powder packets are passed out to the crowd. Everyone counts down to one and throws up the powder into the air screaming and laughing. By the end everyone is covered in every color combination imaginable. For the rest of the night we danced and talked in the now far from white clothing.

    It’s these types of memories that make exchange “vale a pena” (basically meaning “worth it”). It’s these types of memories that I cannot wait to write about in my diary, and it’s these kinds of memories that I will remember for the rest of my life.

    I can’t wait to see what happens next on exchange and tell you guys. By the chance that any student thinking about joining exchange is reading this, I write this directly to you. Exchange changes your life. A year ago this time, I had no idea that I would be living halfway across the world. Exchange was only a dream; I never truly thought it was attainable. I made excuses that I don’t have time to stop my life in the US. Whatever the problem or doubt you have that may be impeding you from applying, just apply and see what happens. There are so many Rotarians, Rotex and people around you that you may not even know willing to help you get there. Because exchange doesn’t stop your life, it starts it.

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs

  • Emily, Outbound to Brazil

    It’s hard to imagine that only a few weeks ago I was sitting at home daydreaming about Brazil. Before I arrived, I had no idea what to expect. I had formed many ideas in my head about what exchange would be like, but in reality, I was clueless that I would be living what is now my day to day life.

    My flight touched down in Belo Horizonte, the capital of my state, Minas Gerais. From there, my host family picked me up. Immediately I felt a part of the family as if I had known them for years. We then went to eat dinner where I had my first tastes of the Brazilian cuisine. I ate rice and beans with with farofa, mandioca fries, steak, and chicken hearts on a stick. Now every exchange student talks about their experiences trying “exotic” foods, so for me, this was definitely one of them. I’d say out of all the things that I’ve tried, I’ve especially liked the fresh acai and salgados (various Brazilian pastries).

    My second day in Belo Horizonte my host family and I visited some extended family where we all sat on the rooftop balcony and talked the entire night. This was an absolutely amazing experience and introduced me to the Brazilians’ love of simply being in each others company for hours on end. As we sat of the rooftop and watched the belo horizonte (Portuguese for beautiful sunset) in Belo Horizonte, I had my first aha moment. My exchange had started. I was to be living, eating, and speaking Portuguese like a Brazilian for the entire next year.

    After four days of exploring Belo Horizonte, my family and I drove four hours to Viçosa, my new home. My bedroom window opens up to a huge Ipe tree (the national tree of Brazil) that is currently in bloom with yellow flowers. I share a Jack and Jill bathroom and closet with my host sister, which is great because makes it really easy to hang out.

    My typical week has come to vary a lot, but it is loosely structured with a routine, something I believe to be really important in having a successful exchange. Three days a week my host mom drops me off at ensino médio (high school) by 7 AM. I’m currently in the second year of high school and have six classes a day with a twenty minute break in between. Another thing I like about my high school is that we stay in the same classroom with the same classmates while the teachers move between subjects. This made it a bit easier for me to get to know my classmates and make friends. One thing I love about my experience here so far is that everyone is very animated and curious to know each other. My classmates are always very accepting and willing to help if I don’t understand something.

    The other two days a week I go to Univiçosa, a university less than a 15 minute walk from my house, with my host sister. She goes to Univiçosa full time for psychology. Therefore I have been privileged to audit classes with her, get to know her friends and classmates, as well as understand a piece of university life here in Brazil.

    I always love telling the story about my first day at Univiçosa. When I arrived to class, the professor immediately started to lecture about the upcoming semester and what the class will be like. I was understanding bits and pieces of the lecture, but definitely was missing something. The professor kept saying this one word “comportamento,” probably about 50 times. I had no idea what it meant and for the rest of the class it became sort of a mystery game to figure it out. I finally discovered “comportamento” meant “behavior.” Ironically enough, I later found out the title of the class was Behavioral Analysis and that the entirely of the class was about “comportamento.”

    I’d say this story encompasses a lot of experiences I have had since the beginning of my exchange. A lot of things are lost in translation and many times I have no idea what is going on, but slowly day by day I’m learning more and more about Brazil and the Portuguese language. I’ve found that I can hold longer and more profound conversations. I’ve found that it’s getting easier to connect with people and forge deeper relationships with those around me. It all depends on me being open to putting myself out there, unafraid to make mistakes.

    I’ve also learned to appreciate my host family and each and every friend I’ve made, because those are the people who are supporting me. Something as simple as going to the open market with my host mom to buy groceries is valuable. I’ve also learned to be more flexible and malleable, because not everything is going to go as planned. I have had to accept that and realize it’s inevitable, but on the other hand, things I never even fathomed before exchange have also happened. That’s what I think is absolutely incredible. Yes, I won’t lie. There are days that are harder than others, where I may feel alone, miss things, or make mistakes with my host family. But these are the things that make exchange matter, that make exchange significant. It’s a chance to seek discomfort. It’s the opportunity rotary gives you to change your life forever.

    This past weekend D-4580 had its first orientation. The ten exchange students in my district met in a city called Juiz de Fora. From there we drove to our coordinator’s farm in the countryside. It was an absolutely incredible weekend. It was my first time meeting the other exchange students in my district and we all immediately hit it off. At the farm we hiked, rode horses, had a churrasco, picked farm fresh eggs and mandioca, and much more. I will never forget the trip and I got to meet many Rotarian in the district who are supporting me. Our last night, our coordinator, Juliana, and her husband told us the history of the farm, showing us tools and objects they found over half a century old. One object that was especially interesting was an unopened glass bottle of snake venom antidote that had expired 50 years ago.

    Over all I’d say that my experience here has been beyond anything I could have imagined. I’m not going to lie and say that everything has been easy, because it’s not. Coming here, it has been up to me to adjust, learn the language and make stronger relationships. It has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced in my life. But it’s these challenges and slowly overcoming them that is the most rewarding achievement.

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs

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