Bianca, Outbound to Brazil

Oi! I can’t believe I’ve almost been in Brasil for 2 months. The time flies so quickly, but it also feels like I have lived here forever. Over the past month and a half, I have gotten to do things beyond my wildest dreams and it still feels incredibly surreal. After one of the hardest years of my life, I finally arrived in Brasil on October 5th, 2019. Leaving Florida and my mom wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. I wasn’t scared or anxious…All I felt was excitement. 3 flights later, I landed in Curitiba, Brasil. Getting to meet my host family for the first time is something that I’ll truly never forget. Not only was my first host family at the airport to meet me, so was my second host family, a Rotarian, as well as family friends. It was incredible. That day feels like a lifetime ago. 3 days after arriving in Brasil, I had my first day of school. I go to a private institution in Curitiba called “Sesi Internacional Colegio”. In all honesty, I was very nervous about my first day of school. I knew virtually no Portuguese and I wasn’t sure how things were going to work. Dozens of questions and thoughts were running through my mind and before I knew it, I was on my way to my group. The way school works at Sesi is like this: You are put into a group (aka a classroom) and inside of that group, you have a team. The teams are a circle of desks that consist of 5-6 people. You stay in your group all day and the teachers rotate out; every day you have different classes. I was walked to meet my group and my team for the first time, and I was greeted with the warmest welcome you can possibly imagine. I knew instantly that my anxiety was all for nothing. My team and group are made up of some truly amazing people who I have become very good friends with over the past month. Most of my team speaks English almost fluently which makes it easier to communicate with them. My Brazilian friends are some of the best people I know. It’s only been a little over a month, but I’ve already made some lifelong friendships. I have a few exchange friends as well, but I try not to spend all my time with them. Here in Curitiba, the exchange students tend to spend most, if not all, of their time with other exchange students. I think it isn’t the best way for me to learn Portuguese because they only speak English together. When I spend time with my Brazilian friends, I can listen to Portuguese conversations and learn new words. It’s a great learning method that I’ve found works well for me. My first week in Brasil, I had my first Rotary meeting with my host club. At this meeting, I was presenting both Rotary flags I brought as a thank you to the club. One from my Florida district and the other from my sponsor club. In return, I received a flag from my host club to bring back for my sponsor club. I was very nervous because I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to speak with my non-existent language skills, but it ended up just being a rather quick exchange in front of everyone with minimal words exchanged. I did get to say a big thank you to the entire club for taking me in and being so welcoming, especially so late in the game. Even though I couldn’t speak or understand Portuguese, seeing as it was my 4th day in Brasil, I made a point to go around the club and introduce myself to everyone during dinner and give them a pin. I truly think I made a wonderful first impression on my host club, I heard a lot of good things said about it over the next few days. My second week in Brasil, I started my mandatory Portuguese classes. Because I was almost 2 months late in arriving, we decided it was best for me to attend group classes 4 days a week. Group Portuguese class was extremely confusing for me in the first month. Because they were already 2 months in, the class was being taught in Portuguese which made it almost impossible to learn anything. After a few weeks of not understanding or learning, my host parents were gracious enough to sign me up for private Portuguese classes to aid my learning. I now attend private classes every Monday and Wednesday, and group classes every Tuesday and Thursday. I do want to mention how amazing my host family is. My family consists of my mom, Jerusa, my dad, Andre, my host brother, Joao, and our dog, Doki. From day one, I’ve felt comfortable and accepted by them. They’ve truly made me feel as if I’m apart of their family. I’ve gotten to bond with each one of them, as well as get to know them much better. I don’t consider them as my “host” family, I consider them my family and I know the feeling is mutual. They’ve already told me that they fully plan on flying to the USA for my college graduation, whenever and wherever that might take place. I love them so much. My Brazilian friends and family have made this transition unbelievably easy and fun for me.

Over the past month, I’ve gotten to go to many different places in my city as well as my state in Brasil. I am absolutely in love with Curitiba, it’s such an amazing city. Not only is it extremely beautiful, it’s eco-friendly. My city is all about recycling and green energy. Even the straws here are made from recycled material which I really love. A few weeks ago, I got to visit Santa Catarina, Brazil with my second host family for three days, it was so beautiful. Santa Catarina is another state in Brazil that is right below my state, Parana. I really like my second host family and I found out that I am switching families on January 16th. As excited as I am to spend more time with them, I am so sad to leave my current family.

I also had the opportunity to visit Foz do Iguacu for 4 days a couple week ago. Foz do Iguacu is located on the opposite side of Parana and it is incredible. It’s on the border of 3 different countries: Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. We went to the falls in Foz do Iguacu and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in really life, it was amazing. I was so lucky because while we were there, my family took me to Argentina!! It’s crazy that I got to visit another country on my exchange. Argentina was so beautiful, and I really enjoyed my time there.

Today is November 28, Thanksgiving Day. I had my 17th birthday two days ago and I can’t put into words how amazing it was. Currently I can understand a good amount of Portuguese when people speak to me, but it’s mostly picking out words here and there. Today is my last day of group Portuguese class and next week is my last week of private lessons. In my opinion, as well as my family’s, I’m doing well for less than two months of being here. My speaking skills are nowhere where I want them to be, but I’m getting better every day. I have completely fallen in love with Brasil, the culture, and the people. I cannot wait to see what the next 8 months have in store for me:)

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