Laura, outbound to Brazil

Opa! Where have I left off? Almost 2 months ago is the last time I wrote and my life have changed immensely since then. On the surface, I look almost the same. Sure, a hair color change, some new clothes, 300 new Instagram followers (Instagram is big in Brazil, guys)... but more than the superficial things, the stuff visible from the surface, I myself have changed deeply in the core.

They say a person always has the same core, the same soul, with the same principle ‘self’ always there.... I beg to differ. I could not be more different under the skin from when I first arrived. Instead of listing everything that’s changed, one stanza of a poem has really summed up my exchange and how I’m feeling about life in general now:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

It’s so important now to me to fight against the end, the death as Dylan Thomas was describing in his famous poem. I struggle everyday to make my exchange count, to do something new and scary and exciting, to have a memorable day with great people, to appreciate every second I was granted here in Brazil. Each day comes closer to the dying of my day, my exchange, and I refuse to accept it and go lightly.

My days have become ‘normal’ around this time. No more field trips to the grocery store, now I go alone sometimes. I have my own bus pass which I use a lot to get around my city, instead of being clueless on which way is which. Some stores and restaurants recognize me now, knowing my order even before I ask. I’ve become somewhat of a local. School was great, but thanks to being south of the equator I’m on summer break now and I have lots of free time to go to the beach, travel, and see my friends.

I talk about it every journal, but my language was the main reason why I wanted to go on exchange, and now to comfortably say that I am bilingual is something I never thought possible... I have a LONG way to go before I can have the large vocabulary I want, with the Northeastern accent that I want, etc. The little things make me so excited, when I open my text messages and have conversations in TWO languages.. or when people ask me if I’m from Portugal or from the South, because my Portuguese is good, but the accent is unrecognizable (the gringa still hasn’t worn completely off). The most exciting thing is thinking something in Portuguese before I do in English, and knowing there isn’t quite the perfect translation I want...

I’ll finish off my journal with some tips for future exchange students:

Bring a journal. Mine on the website may seem a little bland, but when you don’t have pressure to write them, or when you need to pass time during the boring classes in school, it’s a great tool to remember your exchange and your feelings. My number one most important item I have on my exchange is my diary.
Bring two of the important stuff. Two pairs of headphones, two retainers, two pairs of sunglasses. It’s nice when your exchange friends steal one pair or you lose them, because you will lose them... and bring four times as many pins as you think you need. I just brought around 50 and of course I’m over here buying supplies to make more. Some kids really have kick ass pins here, be warned....
Leave your english books at home. If you’re really dedicated at learning your host language, you’ll never want to look at them and if you’re not that motivated it will only tempt you to use English instead of learning.
Try to meet every new person you can, whether they’re from Rotary, your friend’s friends, your extended family, whomever. People love the exchange students, and if you put yourself out there, people love to do things for the exchange students ex. (free windsurfing, free food, free concert tickets, free trips to big cities, etc.)

That’s all I’ve got for now. Laura Henschel signing out from Brazil.