When I stepped out of the airplane in Miami, my first time back in the states after five weeks almost 5 thousand miles away from Alabama, the wave of humidity in the familiar Southern air greeted me—even though it was only 5am. I was home. Now, I’ve been back in the states for almost as much time as I was gone, and my time in South America’s largest city, São Paulo, Brazil, is beginning to be more and more an abstract memory. There have been days these past few weeks where I’ve looked at a map and wondered “was I really there?” The answer is, of course, yes, and I have the photos, the stories, and the souvenirs to prove it. But in the strange way that time works, Brazil, with all of its charm, uniqueness, and familiarity is fading into my past. It is no longer part of my present as it was, often overwhelmingly so, just a few weeks ago.
My days since coming back home have been a blur of returning to college, reconnecting with old friends, and shouldering new responsibilities, and that time has been very good, but I haven’t yet really been able to process Brazil. I think that will be something that occurs slowly over the next several weeks, and I’m ok with that. What I do know is this: I loved Brazil, but I’m happy to be back. I don’t regret going, but there are some things I would do differently the next time around. My life wasn’t earth shatteringly changed, but I am returning with new perspectives and some new knowledge about myself. For all of those reasons and more, I can easily say that my whirlwind mini-semester in Brazil was completely worth it, and one of the best things that I’ve ever done.
I’d advise anyone looking to study in another country to make sure that they won’t be in class eight hours a days as I was. Your time abroad is just too scarce to spend so much of it in a classroom or recovering from a long day of school. Cherish the time that you have, whether it’s spent doing the most stereotypical touristy things you can come up with or simply sitting, looking, and listening—realizing that you’re in another place and that place is well worth your attempts at understanding. Be okay if some things never make sense though
I hope I get to return to Brazil one day. There are a thousand and one things still left on my to do list, and I need all of the Portuguese practice I can get. I know that for the rest of my life I’ll be able to look back with a smile and a ready story about my time in Brazil, and that brings me a great deal of joy.
One of my favorite things about my first time abroad is that I have begun to realize the sheer magnitude of life that goes on outside of my own little bubble. That life often looks a bit different than what I’m familiar with, is often communicated in a different language than the one I speak, and is lived out in places that are just as unique as the one that I so lovingly call home, but at the same time, as Harper Lee so succinctly puts it, “there’s only one kind of folks, folks.”