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Why did you decide to study abroad?
Portuguese is not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most useful languages to learn. Brazil is an emerging market with growing economic and political influence. Learning Portuguese and getting to know such an exotic and interesting culture just seemed very appealing to me.
How did you choose where to go?
I did not know very much about the different cities in Brazil when I decided to go abroad there. Rio de Janeiro was an intuitive decision that was definitely influenced by the simply image I had in my head of what the city has to offer.
Can you briefly describe your program while abroad?
I was studying at a small university in Rio and took normal courses with Brazilian students as well as a Portuguese course with other foreign students. I advise anyone doing this program to also attend the pre-intensive course in January/ July. It helps you to get to know other Exchange students and improves your Portuguese so that you can actually take interesting courses in Portuguese. There are also courses in English offered, but I would suggest trying to take them in Portuguese because Professors at the university are very understanding of language barriers and generally helpful and attentive.
What were some highlights or memorable moments of the experience for you?
I moved around a lot and ended up living in three different places in Rio. This way I got to know the city from three different sides. Especially since income disparities are so visible, I found it interesting to live in economically differing areas. The place I lived in for the last two months of my experience was filled with the most lovable and caring people I have ever met and I really enjoyed living around them and getting to know their ways of living.
What was your greatest challenge?
Seeing hungry children sleeping on the streets never became normal to me. It is very painful to see how some corrupted groups in Brazil have become used to and accepted that some people are extremely helpless and disadvantaged.
How have you and/or your perspective changed after returning from study abroad?
Brazilians have different ways of dealing with a lot of things. While some way of doing things might initially seem illogical and inefficient to me because of how I have grown up, it does not necessarily imply that another way of doing it would not bring advantages. Although this might seem like a very general statement, it really can be applied to so many situations in everyday life as well as economics and politics.
Try to make friends with local people outside of your program. Accept that other cultures have different ways of living and bear in mind that just because you might adopt a lifestyle for a semester it does not mean you will have to live this way all your life. Furthermore I’d advise anyone not to be too eager about traveling all the time. Sometimes it’s good to stay where you are and actually get to know the place you are in and the people that live there. You can be a tourist for the rest of your life.