Grace, outbound to Brazil

Always put your family first- your host family that is! Fortunately, I have been blessed with an awesome and caring host family here in Brazil -

One of the reasons I have been so delayed in writing this is that I simply cannot find the words to shortly sum up the past three months of my life. I told myself before I went on exchange that I wasn’t going to be one of those kids that never updates their exchange blog, but look where we are now. Goes to show how much changes when you’re on exchange! So much has happened I don’t know where to start! Oh well, here goes:

Always put your family first- your host family that is! Fortunately, I have been blessed with an awesome and caring host family here in Brazil - I couldn’t have asked for anything better! In my Brazilian host family, I have one older brother, one sister (who is currently on exchange in Portland, Oregon), and a host mom and dad- and we’re not counting the endless number of ‘tias’ and cousins I have! As an exchange coming to a new country knowing no one else. you will spend a lot of time with your host family! Almost every weekend I’m at a family barbeque (churrascaria), at a relative’s house, or going out with my host family! There’s always something to do or someone to visit in my family!

I think in general, Brazilian families spend a lot more time together than families in the US- which makes for a closer family that is always looking out for each other and having a good time together. Although there are a lot of people in my family and it took me a bit to learn everyone’s names, I love each and every one of them! My tip to any future exchange students would to be to spend as much time with your host family as you can- they will be the ones to help you whenever you need and will make you feel at home in your new country.

Minha cidade! My city here in Brazil is considered a small city, but it doesn’t feel like that to me because it’s roughly the same population as Tampa and it’s just 30 min - 1 hour outside of Belo Horizonte (the 6th largest city in Brazil). The Betim (my city)-Contagem-Belo Horizonte metropolitan area is the third largest metropolitan area in Brazil- after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Although I am the only exchange student in my city, I have gotten the hang of taking the bus alone to the next city to visit the other exchange students. You haven’t truly adapted until you’ve successfully gotten from point A to point B via your host city’s public transportation. As for entertainment, I also live right next to a mall (literally right next to it- I could jump out the window and land on the roof of the mall) and near Centro, so there’s always somewhere to go!

Escola! My school here is very small, there are only 15 other people in my whole grade, and we’re all in the same class together for the whole day (Oi meus amigos brasileiros, se vocês estão lendo isso! Amo vocês!). This is a huge difference for me, but I love it. We have a lot more subjects of study here, but the classes are shorter and every day the schedule is different. And school ends at 12:30 every day except Tuesdays when it ends at 5:30. This means there’s plenty of time to go out and do something after school each day!

A língua- português! Every day I learn more and more Portuguese and find it easier and easier to understand! The fact that I am constantly surrounded my Portuguese, and that no one in my family and none of my schools friends speak English with me, has helped me grow immensely. To future exchange students, study your butt off before you arrive in your host country, it makes adapting and creating relationships so much easier! Plus, there is literally no greater feeling for an exchange student than for a teacher to randomly compliment you on your language ability just a few days after you arrive in your host country (and tell you that you’re the best exchange student they’ve ever had, no less!). I still have a lot to learn grammatically in Portuguese, but I’m able to get my point across in my day-to-day life. I love this language and I can’t wait to become fully fluent in it!

Other highlights of my exchange- Orientation with the 36 other exchange students in my district was a blast! It was and 11 day orientation, filled with language lessons, day trips, and bonding! Exchange students truly are the craziest bunch of kids you’ll ever meet, I had so much fun at orientation. (Love you all!) All of us exchange students visited the historic and picturesque city of Ouro Preto, a huge museum at Inhotim (that I got to see via a wheelchair because I also sprained my ankle at orientation learning that I really don’t have that much balance on a skateboard as I might have thought), and a city tour of Belo Horizonte. Another awesome highlight of my exchange so far was my trip to Rio de Janeiro with my host family. It was a surreal experience and an amazing trip!

Overall, these past few months here in Brazil have been the best in my life. I have learned so much, and can tell that I’ve changed(for the better) as well. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. So if you are a someone thinking about going on exchange and you are reading this blog, I encourage you to decide to apply because it’ll be the best decision you ever make! Rotary can take you farther than you ever thought you could grow, and I’m so thankful to Rotary for this new life they have given me. After all, “exchange isn’t a year of your life - it’s a life in a year”.

Tchau for now!