Travel Study - Life Lessons in Brazil

Submitted on October 29, 2009 at 8:34 AM

There's been a lot of interest in travel study programs this year. Applications are still being accepted now for travel next spring. Amber Bond went to Brazil last year as part of a TnCIS program. This is her experience:

This was my first time leaving the United States. Also, it was my first time being on a plane. For me, those two factors combined with studying abroad have changed me significantly. Words cannot utterly describe the transformation I have undergone during my stay in Brazil. Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect. I've never been given the opportunity to travel much only given knowledge of the outside world through books and educational shows. And, having my heart in geography since I was a young child, the globe appeared to spin just as easy as it did across my fingers.

However, when we arrived in Fortaleza I experienced culture shock to the extreme. I felt alone and scared. The world around me I didn't understand. It was new. It was different. Things were "weird". I wanted to know 'why?'

Each day I grew as a person and gained more knowledge than I ever have before. At school I learned about Brazil and why it is the way it is. I owe much of my growth to living with a host family and the length of the trip. I had to learn how to survive for six weeks in a country where I was just beginning to learn the word for 'toilet paper' in Portuguese.

I experienced a substitute for coffee - an early morning wake up with a cold shower. Every morning I took a cold shower. Most Brazilians don't take hot showers because of the climate. The showers grew on me by the end. I learned to take a bus like a real Brazilian despite the fact that I got stuck in the door as it took off one day. I learned that hand gestures we have in the United States do not mean the same as they do in Brazil. I learned that traffic and pedestrians do not mix. Traffic comes first and then the pedestrian. I learned that marshmallows are expensive in Brazil and have yet to uncover as to why.

As time went on Brazil felt like my home. For the six weeks I was there the customs were not so foreign and I felt less foreign. I noticed people staring a lot less even though they were probably staring the same. My skin color became a few shades darker from being so close to the equator. I got to immerse myself into the Brazilian way of life and culture.

Living in Brazil, while studying the people and culture, has shed a new light on my way of being. I am not the same person as I was before I left. My eyes are more open and see things differently now. I appreciate things more and want to lead a simple life. I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity to study abroad. I knew it would change me but not this much. I want to travel more, experience more, and live how other people live. I want to see how other people see. Until people become less ethnocentric the world will not spin as gracefully as it does at the tip of ones finger.

Amber Bond, Volunteer State Community CollegeTnCIS Brazil Summer 2009 Program

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