For my STEP Signature Project I travelled through various parts of Brazil for 27 days. A group of 22 OSU students and 2 OSU professors were with me and we travelled and learned about the culture and people of Brazil together. I got the opportunity to use my Portuguese language skills and to learn about a culture and country vastly different from my own.
Throughout my trip I collected experiences that now allow me to look at the world in a different, more open-minded way. I realized that differences are not bad or good; they are simply different. Living in foreign cities with host families taught me that every person lives differently and that being accepting of new things is the best way to get everything the experience has to offer. I also learned that as a global citizen I need to be more open-minded to change and to how that change may help people other than myself and my country.
One of the largest things I realized while traveling through Brazil is how grateful I am for the opportunities I have been afforded at this university and in my day-to-day life. After spending time with poor children and seeing the lengths they go to for an education or some type of job training I realized that I am going through an experience that not everyone is afforded and that I should take it for all it’s worth. Taking things for granted is something I think everyone does to some extent but spending time in a foreign place made me thankful for what I have at home.
Several key aspects led to my transformation throughout this program. The time we spent with young children and the things I learned from them, the opportunity to live with a Brazilian family, and the time I got to spend with my fellow OSU peers were all things that added value to this experience. In every city we went to we had the opportunity to visit children in various after school programs and at their schools to experience what school was like for them. Walking in to these schools I felt overwhelmed by questions about what my life was like back home, if I went to school, how old I was, and surprisingly enough, if I knew the Kardashians. All these questions were being thrown at me in Portuguese no less. After taking the time to slowly answer all their questions with my limited Portuguese skills I realized that all the children were exactly like I was when I was their age. They were worried about the same things I was but in different ways. All the children I met were more than excited to learn about my life and they had looks of a certain level of disappointment to find out that my life was very average. I did get several funny statements about how I was getting a little old to still be single; I am 20. But after spending time with all the kids I realized that kids are the same everywhere and that just because their surroundings are different than mine were doesn’t mean that we were vastly different from each other.
Living with a Brazilian family was an experience that I will never forget. Learning the different aspects of a household and how it was run was interesting because it was very different than an average American household. My family had a maid that cooked and cleaned and did laundry. This was strange to me because at home my mom and dad took care of most of the house related things and my siblings and I took care of the rest with our chores. Another difference that added to my transformation was how a Brazilian day looked. They got up early and ate a light breakfast and lunch and then didn’t eat dinner until 9:30 or 10 o’clock and were out until the early morning hours. I was not well adjusted to this even after living there for 27 days and partaking in as much as I could. I also learned the loyalty Brazilian’s place on family. It is very much like it is in the United States; family is the most important thing you have. I appreciate the relationship I got to have with my mae, Portuguese for mother. She was an interesting woman that taught me how to make passionfruit juice and how to say countless words in Portuguese. This experience was a large part of the learning that took place while I was abroad.
Being away from home for 27 days with a group of strangers and then being surrounded by strangers can sounds intimidating. Except the people you think are going to be strangers become best friends and family very quickly. The group of my peers that I travelled with became my friends and support system while I was in Brazil and many of them still are today. The opportunity to get to know such a diverse group of students and two professors was invaluable. I have increased my network at Ohio State by 24 people and I am thankful for that everyday. I learned about what they saw as the most different and I taught them what I noticed and thought. I also had the opportunity of helping many of them learn basic Portuguese and I helped them communicate with shop owners and waiters at restaurants. It was exciting to know that we were all having the same experience but that this experience was going to mean something so much different to each and every one of us.
This transformation is valuable in my life because I now know to accept difference instead of writing them off as bad or negative things. I am now able to learn about a different culture with an open mind and I’m not afraid to ask questions if I have them. I know that the best way to learn about a people is to talk to them and experience what they experience in their lives. This trip and the experiences I had in the cities and with the people has opened my world view and created a desire to travel and learn about the differences that exist across the world.