It has officially been a month since I have arrived to Brazil. What can I say, time flies when you’re having fun…
This has already been such an incredible journey. Brazil never stops surprising me! Everyday feels like a blessing and it is all because of my amazing host family, my colleagues at school, and the brand new culture which I’ve given into to teach me valuable lessons and help me adapt to a different way of life.
My family here makes me feel like I won the golden ticket. They are simply the best. My host mom and dad are both of a Japanese descent so I have the luck of experiencing two different cultures, Brazilian and Japanese! I have a really big family here which I am not used to because my family back home is really small. I have two uncles and one aunt… All three of them already have families of their own. I also have a cute little brother Matheus who lives with us as well. My family here is nice enough to take me on road trips to some of the most beautiful places in Brazil. During this one month I have already visited Brasilia (the capital of Brazil), Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, Ouro Branco, Lavras Novas, and Caldas Novas, along with experiencing beautiful waterfalls across Brazil.
Brazil is incredibly large; however, I live in a very small city called Paracatu in the amazing state of Minas Gerais (MG). Apparently, Minas Gerais has the best food in all of Brazil! This is the state where the famous pão de queijo originated. The food here is incredible and very easy to get accustomed to. People in Brazil eat rice and black beans EVERYDAY. It sometimes feels like they don’t really have a variety of different foods but it’s the churrasco that makes the world of a difference. Churrasco is a famous Brazilian barbeque and people in Brazil have them whenever! You get married – CHURRASCO. You get divorced – CHURRASCO. Someone is born – CHURRASCO. Someone dies – CHURRASCO. School ends – CHURRASCO. School starts – CHURRASCO. Friday – CHURRASCO. Sunday – CHURRASCO. MONDAY – CHURRASCO! No occasion is too frivolous for some cooked meat. To put my experience with food in simpler words, I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like yet. The restaurants here are very different! Instead of waiting for a waiter to bring you the menu for you to order from, you are presented with a variety of foods in a self-service style and after you just put your plate of food on the scale and receive your total. It’s that simple and convenient. Brazilians eat A LOT of food, so this is the perfect way for them to bring service to their clients. After every meal, Brazilians like to finish with a cup of black coffee with sugar. The other surprising thing to me regarding food in Brazil is the variety of different fruits they have here. My personal favorites are papaya (mamão), Brazilian pinha, and pineapple (abacaxi). Brazilians consume a lot of freshly squeezed juices, it’s like water to them. Two other VERY Brazilian things are local soda “Guarana” and açaí! I really wish we had that back home. The açaí here is so much different than it is in Florida because here they add the guarana berry to it… won’t understand the taste until you try it for yourself!
The language is definitely hard… My biggest advice is to learn a lot of verbs before coming here. It’s a lot easier to try and explain an object by playing a little “charades” (you will notice using your hands a lot more to help you describe things) but it’s a lot harder to connect words together when you don’t know the verbs. My knowledge of Spanish and Russian has also helped me tremendously to understand people and translate sentences quickly in my head. Going to school has helped me to learn the language as well, although my classmates do try to talk to me in English. They ask me how to say things in English and I ask them right back how to say things in Portuguese. This way it helps both of us out. DO try to speak in Portuguese at school as much as you can! Your classmates are there to help you! USE THEM! I also have a notes section in my phone which I use all the time to write down words I don’t understand and look them up later, or I also use it to write down random, weird encounters I experience here in Brazil as memories to reread later or share with my friends. For example, the fact that people in Brazil brush their teeth after every meal… or how over salted or extremely sweet everything here is. Brazilians have a universal handshake they all know and love, and they also don’t take off their shoes before entering a house… yeah, why would you if you have a maid to clean up after you every day. I totally understand now why Americans are so amazed when they host students from Brazil who tell them they don’t know how to wash or iron their clothes but IT’S TRUE. Here you literally just put your dirty clothes in a bin and they come back the next day perfectly ironed and folded and put away in the closet for you!
Talking about that “luxurious” lifestyle, I go to a private school here but it’s very different from private schools in the United States. Here, no ne brags about what kind of car they have, or if their daddy is a doctor. Here, everyone is treated equally. Boys and girls are not divided, instead, they all learn how to get along with each other. There are no cliques. The classes here stay together from middle school so you’re stuck with the same group of people until graduation. I like it because it helps unite everyone and build friendships for life. They all hang out together, party together, go to concerts together… you get it. For the uniform we all just have to wear the same t-shirt with our school logo on it. The classes here are super hard! I got placed in their “senior” year because of my age and next semester, after everyone graduates, I will be enrolled in a college! Compared to schools back home, here, students are required to take 5 different math classes, 5 different science classes (biology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, and zoology), world history, history of Brazil, geography, philosophy, humanities, Portuguese, and English. Sleeping in class is totally acceptable! The school knows that students have a ton of subjects and they allow the students to sleep during some classes to help them be more awake and alert for other classes. My school day starts at 7:30 am and ends at 1 pm; however, schools in Brazil have mandatory afternoon classes as well which start at 2pm and can last until 5:30 pm depending on the amount of classes. I personally don’t like to stay for the afternoon classes so I usually go home and get ready for CrossFit. Joining a sport helps me not only to stay in shape (because of all the cheesy bread I’m consuming here) BUT it also helps to keep me busy and not think of home as much. I haven’t felt homesick since I’ve arrived here and it’s all thanks to my family here and sports. It also helps going on exchange after you graduate because you know all of your friends are leaving off to go to college so you won’t see them either way when you come back. I also get away from missing my family by calling them once every week. They are very supportive of my decision of coming to Brazil and are always curious to see new pictures and hear stories from me. Once I told my Rotary Club here in Brazil that we aren’t allowed to talk to our family and friends for a whole month, their faces turned pale. They told me “It is NOT the Brazilian way! Here family stands above any law and it’s ridiculous that you can’t call them”. It was super embarrassing for my club coordinator here to pull me aside at a Rotary meeting and lecture me on how it’s fine for me to call my family if I want to talk to them. She told me that as a mom, she can’t imagine not being able to talk to her child abroad to ask what life there is like. The first month is definitely the most thrilling one and you will want to share everything with everyone! Feeling homesick is totally fine and crying over the fact that you’re not understanding the language is also totally fine! But don’t forget that you came here for a reason. We all come here to make new friends from around the world (at orientations especially), build connections with your families which will feel like home away from home, and be fluent in a completely different language! Everything you’ve worked so hard for will definitely pay off in the end!
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