Laura, outbound to Brazil

I never imagined being able to express myself in a completely new way, the Portuguese way.

 Just like my last entry, I sat at my computer for about an hour trying to think about a way to start this, how to talk about my thoughts, my new life- how to put it all on paper. I can’t. I can’t discredit my experiences by summing them up into a few concise sentences.

My life here in Joao Pessoa is NOTHING as I expected it to be. Before I arrived I anticipated a raw place, full of uncertainty. I’m glad I did, because now the reality is that much sweeter. It’s a dream I couldn’t have even thought of myself.

I live in the Northeast of Brazil, considered the poorest and least populated part of Brazil along side the Amazon region. However my city is the perfect fit for me. It’s a little less than 1 million people, so it’s comparably small to the giants down south. It makes up for that in the unique gastronomy, rich culture, extraordinary people, and jaw-dropping landscapes.


On a daily basis with my family, we have pretty cultural non-specific food like many other Brazilians: Rice and beans (every day), chicken, steak, salad (always), bread, vegetables, etc. However restaurants here have amazing menus full of very traditional foods, and when having a party or churrasco, the food is very particular to Brazil and the Northeast. I encourage you to look up the following delicacies that you can’t find in the US, and for a good reason! There the best when made by Brazilians: Feijoada, cartola, cuscuz com leite e ovos, coração da galinha, carne do sol, brigadeiro, tapioca, coxinha, queijo coalho, açai, and salgados.

Another awesome thing here is the great bakeries. There are tons with so many different types of breads and desserts that are all DELICIOUS.

You’d think these foods would be attacking my waistline, but I actually lost weight being here because I eat so healthy and walk a lot.


Portuguese is such a beautiful and intriguing language that I have had the privilege to learn in the best environment possible.

I did a considerable amount of worrying about learning Portuguese before I arrived, and to be honest it was all in vain. When I arrived knowing close to nothing, my family helped me incredibly with learning. However, I did have initiative. I wanted to learn, I asked thousands of questions, and firmly begged everyone to talk to me in Portuguese. Without drive, it wouldn’t have happened. But it did happen for me! Not that I am fluent by any means, but I can communicate anything I want to and understand every conversation already, which is the coolest feeling in the world. I can do everything in another language, which I didn’t have the ability to do before exchange.

It has brought tears to my eyes to be able to share moments with my family and friends here that I otherwise couldn’t without the language being there. I never imagined being able to express myself in a completely new way, the Portuguese way. I find it cool that in Portuguese I have a different personality than in English!

Just a few cool things different in Brazil compared to Florida:

. People here use the ‘thumbs up’ gesture for EVERYTHING- saying thank you, being sarcastic, saying hello, crossing the street, approving of food, making purchases, literally everything. I use it like 50 times a day.

. I’ve had a hard time adjusting to ‘Brazilian time’ and the Brazilian way of making plans, which usually consists of not making any plans at all/ arriving to a destination 3 hours late. I don’t exactly like being late on purpose, so it’s been a huge transition.

. People have different accents from city to city, not region to region, so its super easy for people to know where you’re from. I love hearing someone from Sao Paulo for example, because their accent is hilarious to people from the Nordeste!

. Nightlife here as far as festivals and parties and shows are usually all ages, which is strange compared to everything in the US being 21+. Here, even in the coolest concerts or parties you’ll find teens as well as adults.

. Busses here are abundant, but not as abundant as the people who need to ride them. Whenever I use a bus, there is usually 40 people crammed next to me.

. There are jobs here for very peculiar things. Some malls or buildings hire people to sit in the elevator and push the buttons for you. Busses have a man who sits there to give you change instead of using a card/automated. People pump gas into your car for you. Some stores hire a person to sit in the front and tally customers asking simply “Did you enjoy your experience?”. There are hundreds of city cleaners who mostly just sweep up leaves, on sidewalks. Homeless people/gang members ‘watch’ your car as you park it in a destination and you have to pay them before you leave. At stop lights, people will offer to wash your windows while you wait, or will sell things like random fruit or candy. When it rains, people will walk you to your destination using their umbrella for money in return. Men by the beach make flowers out of palm leaves and sell them to random people. Some people are walking stores and will try to sell their sunglasses/CDs/desserts inside other stores, bars, restaurants, etc.

In short, my time here has been life-changing. I can’t believe it’s already been 3 months. I feel like I belong here in Brazil. I tried to keep this brief because 1) I could go on forever 2) writing in English has been getting hard for me so I will stop while I’m ahead, with minimal mistakes 3) I’m too busy living the life over here!

Until next time,