For almost 7 months, ever since I decided to spend my fall studying abroad in Florianopolis Brazil, I’ve been counting down the days until my program starts. But now, with only 2 days remaining before I arrive on an island in a different hemisphere where I don’t speak the language or know anyone, it seems incredibly surreal that this is all really happening. I’ve done my research, bought my power converters, and have a summer of learning Portuguese on Duolingo under my belt. I’ve finished the extremely difficult and expensive process of obtaining my student visa. I’ve got a gift for my host family and packed more clothes than I need. But even though I’ve prepared in every way I can think of, I still feel a little apprehension when I picture stepping off that plane. And I’m okay with that. I think it’s completely natural to feel trepidation when facing the prospect of living with a family in a foreign country while taking college courses for 4 months. But more than any other emotion, I feel excited to begin this incredible adventure that I have the privilege of undertaking. I’m tired of reading on the internet about Floripa’s beaches, its colonial architecture, its rich history. I’m ready to be there and drink it all in firsthand.
I’ve put a good deal of thought into personal goals for my study abroad experience. Number 1, I want to come back in December with a good grasp of conversational Portuguese and the resources to maintain and further develop my skills while back at Western. Learning languages is something that I’ve found that I truly enjoy and have a natural aptitude for, as well as being a huge asset for future careers. Between my background of middle school and high school Spanish, which is quite similar, and my Portuguese I’ve picked up this summer, I’m confident immersion as well as classes will have me holding basic conversations before too long. Number 2, I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible while in Brazil. I want to return home with no regrets about trips I didn’t take or places I didn’t see. Number 3, I want to engage deeply with the learning content of my classes, rather than just treating them as a distraction from my Brazilian adventure. As a Political Science major interested in international affairs, I want to know as much as I can about as many countries as possible, and I’m looking forward immensely to my Latin American Political History class. I think it will be fascinating to study the world through a non-US perspective, which is the only one I’ve ever known academically. And finally, I want to engage with Brazilian society and culture as much as I can, and thereby gain a deep understanding of the country’s past, present, and future. Brazil is a rising power in the world, being one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) major emergent national economies. It is currently in the midst of a very turbulent period of domestic and regional politics, as represented by President Jair Bolsonaro, the still unfolding Operation Car Wash and related Odebrecht scandal, and the ongoing Venezuelan crisis. And it is a country that I think many people, myself included, may not know that much about. Learning more about the politics of Brazil, especially from a local perspective rather than offsite research, will be another valuable asset for future careers.
Maybe I’m overconfident, but I honestly have very few fears about going abroad. I’m sure problems will come up. There will be things I haven’t prepared for. It may be tough adjusting to such a new environment. But I feel certain that whatever challenges my fall (Brazilian spring) in Floripa throws at me, I will be able to take them in stride. I am an adaptable, adventurous person. I traveled fairly extensively as a child with my family, and although I haven’t been abroad in several years (except to Canada), I know that I have travelling and its associated skills ingrained in my personality from those formative experiences. I plan to travel more in the future, and maybe even go to grad school abroad, and 4 months in Floripa is the perfect way to get those juices flowing once again. The only real fear I have is missing out on any of the incredible opportunities and experiences that I will soon be surrounded by. I want to step off the plane home on December 20th with no regrets about things I should have seen or done.
For now, that’s all that is on my mind. I look forward to continuing to write, reflect, and post updates on my study abroad experience.