Deciding to study abroad was an experience that I will never forget. My first culture shock was coming off the plane in Campinas, Brazil. I couldn’t speak a lick of Portuguese and because of miscommunication with a flight attendant, I almost left my luggage in the wrong city. I got there a few days earlier and had to get a hotel for a few days. Before I met the program staff, I had been having to work hard to get through the language barrier to figure things out. Thankfully, the program staff could speak English, got things well situated for the students coming from different places and were very helpful. After a very stressful ordeal, the situation became almost stress free. We went through orientation, got our classes situated and made to feel at home. As classes commenced, I started learning Portuguese, capoeira, and surfing. Due to the trouble I had with the language barrier coming to Brazil, I was very motivated to learn the language and began studying as much as I could. As I began learning the language, the capoeira class also taught me about the history of Brazil. I learned about the slave trade in Brazil and how this martial art became a mixture between a dance, acrobatics, and a martial art. I was getting both culture and language with these two classes.
What stood out to me in Brazil the most was the people. While the culture is becoming Americanized, especially in the south of Brazil, the people have a realness about them. They are very friendly and will offer you the clothes off of their backs. I remember being in the north of Brazil, and even though they didn’t have much, they offered me whatever they had to eat and made sure I was comfortable. It was really refreshing from the formal, impersonal, materialistic American culture I was coming from. It reminded me of the time I went to Honduras. Where the poorest of people are often times the happiest people. These poor people are more down to earth and are rich in spirit, and rich in life. Another standout aspect of Brazil was how political everyone was. I know that culture stemmed from the immensely corrupt government Brazil has. Everyone I spoke to was eager to voice their opinion about the current state of affairs. In fact, while I was in Brazil, they had a trucking strike. All of the truck drivers went on strike against the big Brazilian petroleum company. Brazil is selling all of its gas to other countries, which is causing the prices in Brazil to skyrocket. This caused transportation in Brazil to cease for a few days. An agreement was finally made with the truck drivers and things went back to what it was originally.
If you are looking for a wonderful culture shock and have the opportunity to travel, I would suggest Brazil in a heartbeat. The food is great, the traditions are beautiful, the program staff were wonderful, and the culture is so intricate.
Justin Friar is majoring in Exercise Science. He spent Summer, 2018 studying abroad in Florianopolis, Brazil through USAC. Justin had the following to say about his time abroad, “Life is short and nothing is guaranteed. If you are wanting to learn about other languages, cultures, customs, the grandeur of the world around you, in addition to, finding a little piece of what life means? Study Abroad!”
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