Imani, Outbound to Brazil

Boa noite! I am writing you from my home for one year- the easternmost Point of the Americas: João Pessoa, Paraiba, Brazil. The weather is warm, the people are vibrant, the food is incredible, and the beaches are extraordinary.

Here, I live on the first floor of an apartment building ten blocks away from the beach with my host mother, Flaviana; my host father, Marcos; my live-in maid, Nadi; and my host dog Simon. My host sister, Maria Theresa is doing her exchange in Canada- in my district, it is mandatory to host an exchange student when your child goes abroad. You couldn’t tell, however, that my host parents were obligated to receive me- they have been so warm and generous to me, even on the day I arrived I felt at home here.

In my city there are four exchange students: Malte from Denmark, Hannah from Germany, Lua from Taiwan and myself. All four of us go to the Federal Institute, which is a government funded trade school for high school aged students. We all carpool together to and from school and we are all familiar with each other’s host families, as they will later be our own when it is time to swap. In school, my area of study is civil engineering. I am learning how to draw buildings digitally and by hand, however the workload is light and the expectations are low because the school recognizes that as exchange students, our language is limited and their concern is more centered on linguistic and cultural familiarity than scholastic progress.

On a typical day I will wake up around 10 or 11am and drink coffee, then I will either study Portugese, go to the pool, or go to the mall with my host mother. Afterwards, I eat lunch with my host mother before heading to school. My schedule varies day to day, but roughly, school is from 1 to 4pm and consists of two different classes. For example on Wednesdays I have Brazilian History from 1:00-1:50 and Technical Drawing from 3:20-4:40. After school, I sometimes see my friends, but I usually go to my friend Hannah’s apartment where they hold dance classes for the residents of the building on Mondays and Tuesdays, or I go to the gym. On Thursdays I visit my Rotary club, where meetings are typically from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. All the cooking and chores are done by Nadi so I live with minimal responsibility concerning maintenance.

A cultural difference I have recognized here is that people are a lot more welcoming. For example, in school, there are no distinct cliques and there is less of an ingroup bias. In class, all the students sit as one big group and socialize as one entity as opposed to the classroom setting I am accustomed to where everyone breaks off into their isolated groups. People are more than willing to invite others to sit with them and to share food, which was very odd initially. Adults here also go to more parties and have a more active social life. My host father, for example, watches soccer with his friends every Wednesday night, and at least once a week my host mother meets up with her friends. Because they go out so often, my host parents encourage me to go out as well and to embrace my exchange, and if I don’t have anywhere to go, they always let me tag along with them.

I was very fortunate to have such a wonderful exchange. I have been so graced to have such a fantastic experience here. Without my family, my friends, and of course Rotary, I would have never been able to live as I am now. I will forever be grateful for what you all have given me. Obrigada!

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