Meghan Spr 08

In the beginning of this adventure, I asked myself many questions that challenged my choice of studying abroad such as: Is it really possible to learn a foreign language in six months?, Will I be able to live in a city almost as large as New York City?, Can I be away from home for six months?, and this questions go on forever. All of these questions were answered by the end of my trip. I did learn a foreign language in six months, I survived the city life and learned to enjoy its advantages while overlooking the negative factors. Brazil was my home for six months and I wish I could have stayed longer but because of the visa restrictions I had to return soon after my classes ended.

I loved my abroad experience. I met amazing and inspiring people whole showed by the diverse culture of Brazil. My expectations of the study abroad program were surpassed and it offered a variety of opportunities that challenged my previous views of Brazil. This country has more similarities with the U.S. than I had predicted and the similarities and differences are commonly discussed in the Brazilian’s universities classrooms. During this experience I was constantly challenged to defend and/or justify my country actions and reputations. The energy from these conversations has shifted my lifetime goals of preserving the character of the United States of America and improving International Relations around the world.

During these past 5 months, I made some adventures to Sao Roque, Campos do Jordao, Foz do Iguacu, and Salvador. Each of these places were amazing in there own way.

In Sao Roque, I went to Ski Mountian and there I went horseback riding, paintballing and skiing.  Yes I know whoever thought skiing in Brazil was possible but it is.  After arriving in the city by bus you could see the park located on the top of the mountain and the view from the top of the mountain was even more beautiful as it over-looked the entire city.  The best part of the entire experience was skiing on plastic.  It was different than skiing on snow because sometimes the skis would become caught in the plastic pieces. Fortunately I only fell once.  I certainly stuck out on the slopes as I was one of the only ones who knew how to ski.  Many visitors were Brazilian and the sport of skiing is pretty rare to many of them.

My next adventure was to Campos do Jordao a beautiful European town located in the mountains of the interior of Brazil.  Here people love to drink hot chocolate and eat fondu because it is rather cold here.  I had the opportunity to view the city from many different mountain tops and the water falls here are beautiful as well.  This is a great place to go when trying to escape the city life style.

For the next holiday break, I decided to travel to Foz do Iguacu located on the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.  I stayed on the Argentinean side where every night I hate delicious Argentinean steak and drank Argentinean wine.  The first day I took a boat trip around the waterfalls and got soaken wet.  The walk to the boat took awhile but the experience was worth it.  The second day I ventured to Paraguay where there was long rows of cheap fake products.  Many Brazilians and Argentineans travel to this country to buy there cheap electronics.  Outside the stores there is much poverty.  I ate lunch for about $1.50 and that included 1 coke and 3 empanadas.  I was very thankful I did not but anything while in Paraguay or else I would have needed to wait in terrible long lines to pass through customs. On the third day, I had spent all day at the Itaipu Dam.  This dam is shared by Brazil and Paraguay is one of the largest damns in the world. This whole trip was worthwhile and I could not pick a moment that was better than the rest.

My finally excursion while in Brazil was to Salvador.  Since I took this trip during the winter time it was great to escape the cold weather in Sao Paulo and return to the warm weather.  Although the weather was warm, I could not escape the rain. Everyday it rained and I only had the chance to spend two days on the beaches.  I also had a caught a cold while on vacation here, probably because of the change in weather.

All these experiences demonstrated how diverse Brazil is and its surrounding countries.  I am very proud and fortunate to have these experiences because during my time in Brazil the U.S. economy has been very poor and the exchange rate has held many of my friends from traveling.

The afternoon trip was comprised of two public schools located in the west of Sao Paulo that left two completely different impressions.  From the actions of the students to how the tour guides presented themselves was different between the schools.

The schools have many different variables that contributed to the differences.  The first school we had visited was located next to a favela and many of the students lived there.  We were greeted by a woman who looked like she had a long day. The poor public school had a soccer court with a roof, a three floor school which contained several classrooms, a computer room and a cafeteria.  This building occupied two thousand students and staff.  The visit was frequently disturbed with curious students wanting to hear English words.  Many students that attended this school do not have the privilege to take English classes or interact with foreigners.  The second school reminded me of schools from the western part of the United States. The women who gave the tour looked very professionally and walked with pride about where she worked. This school had beautiful large buildings, a theater, a gym and a pool.  It even had more than the average American school.  It also had a skate park, a pond with beautiful surroundings, and multiple soccer courts.  I guess these extra features take the place of the American football fields.  Students at this school did find Americans to be such strangers and were not as curious about foreigners.  Either they are more exposed to other cultures and people or they must have lots of frequent visits to their school with foreigners.

Previously, I have only ever visited schools in poor areas in Latin America and after this experience I realize that there are schools that have good quality facilities.  I felt some relief to see people around the world having access to the same things that I have access too.

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