So here I am. After months of planning and preparation, I’m an hour into a five hour layover before I set foot oon a 747 bound for Sao Paulo, Brazil. My decision to embark on this adventure has been the culmination of chance, a great history class, and a desire to simply explore the world beyond my very small Alabama bubble.
I always knew that studying abroad was part of the education experience I wanted during my time at UA. However, without any particularly relevant cultural ties outside of the US, and coming from a perpetually USA-bound family, I had no idea where I wanted to go. Through a bit of research and some sound advice from an economics professor, Brazil appeared on my radar as a possible destination late in last year’s spring semester. Brazil boasts the world’s 5th largest economy, one that continues to grow rapidly, and a plethora of diverse historical and cultural experience. To my surprise, despite the nation’s significance from a global perspective, I knew very little about Brazil beyond football (soccer) and rainforests. I decided to fill that particularly glaring gap in my knowledge. After struggling through two challenging but phenomenal Portuguese classes at UA, and soaking in every minute of Dr. Teresa Crebilli’s History of Brazil course, I was sure that Brazil was where I wanted to have my first international experience.
Now, after months of a complex visa application process and a good deal of nervous anticipation, I am less than twelve hours away from walking into the nation I’ve spent the last year studying. I’ve tried to keep my mind clear from any particular expectations. I know that there will be culture shock, but I know that this will be a great experience. I know that there may be challenging and embarrassing moments flexing my very weak Portuguese language muscle for the first time, but I know that I will cherish every moment I have in Brazil, at the very least after the fact. To be honest, even my schedule for these next five weeks in Sao Paulo is ambiguous. I know very little of how my time will be spent beyond the bare bones schedule I’ve been given by the UA affiliate program through which I have booked my study abroad experience. I know I will spend several hours a day in Portuguese classes, and a few more in an additional culture class, but beyond that and a few tentative dates for field trips, my schedule maintains a huge question mark throughout I’m learning to be ok with that. In this moment I’m being hit with emotions of anxiety, weariness, and surety that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ll try to cling to the latter.