Veronika, Outbound to Brazil

The school year has come to an end… that means it’s time for SUMMER BREAK! This month was filled with so many end of the year festivities, parties, and of course… graduation! Although throughout the entirety of this school year I did almost nothing (besides doodle and use class time to write down all of my experiences in my notebook instead of taking notes) I did get to make some friends from school who helped me navigate through my first four months here and accept me for who I am. Some of them read my blogs, so shout out to you guys for being there for me when I felt like I had no one. Graduations here are definitely different from the ones at home, speaking from personal experience being a high school graduate student before arriving here, because the after party (“Prom”) here is a family event. The school provides dinner at a beautiful venue after graduation and gathers together all of the graduating students and their families for a long night of dancing and partying.

So soon after that, in the month of December, right after our second inbound orientation that took place in the historic city of Ouro Preto, I switched my host families. I would describe this as one of the most exciting yet bittersweet moments you will get to experience. It hurt to leave my first host family because they were the ones who helped me get on my feet since the day I landed in Brasilia, yet I was thrilled to move into one of my school friend’s house who just got back from her exchange in Alaska. It didn’t feel weird transitioning from one house to the other because I knew that I will still get to see my other host family since we live in the same city.

My second host family, the “Pois é” family, has already brought me so much joy into my life, we even have our own inside jokes already. I don’t pass a day here upset or homesick because they always make sure to include me in anything it is that they’re doing. With them, we have already been through everything from lighthearted conversations to tears and more serious topics like the politics and the environment. They were kind enough to invite me on a trip to Salvador, the capital of Brazil’s state of Bahia known for its “Portuguese colonial architecture, Afro-Brazilian culture and a tropical coastline”. This trip has really helped bring us closer together in the first two weeks and everyone felt more accustomed to each other and their habits. During this nine-day trip, we have traveled to different parts of Bahia, one of them being Praia do Forte where not only did we get to enjoy actual paradise, but also learn from Projeto TAMAR, a nonprofit organization to protect sea turtles from extinction in the Brazilian coastlines. Bahia receives 4/5 species of turtles that nest on the Brazilian coasts: leatherback, green, olive ridley, loggerhead, and hawksbill, and the project helps the turtles reproduce, as well as, inform the citizens about the importance of preserving our oceans and the marine life (LIKE NOT USING PLASTIC STRAWS, pelo amor de Deus, please stop). The whole point of this trip was to pass Christmas on the beach which is their family’s tradition. Truly an unforgettable experience! I personally didn’t feel too homesick celebrating holidays away from home mainly because my family always occupied me with things to do, or I FOUND things to do myself. However, it wasn’t until New Year’s came around when I started missing both my family in the United States and Russia simply because it is one of the most important holidays for me and my family, a day filled with traditions and the feeling of wholesomeness. Although it hurt to call back home to see everyone happily celebrating without you, I went to the best New Year’s party of my life and got to make the best memories with my best friend here, Alexa, the other exchange student in my city from Mexico. I quickly forgot about my homesickness because I was surrounded by love from my Brazilian friends who taught me new traditions from their country which I will gladly take back home with me, like wearing all white on New Year’s!

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