By: Mary Siekman
On January 4th myself and fourteen of my peers stood with bags packed in the Port Columbus International Airport as we waited to depart for what was to be the biggest adventure of my life – a six week study abroad experience in São Paulo, Brazil.
This six-week experience is a trip students look forward to every January. Each year a new class of students is inducted into Alpha Zeta Partners, an honorary fraternity in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Traveling to Brazil is one of four seminars the newly elected class of AZP members participate in together. The other three focus on personal leadership development, understanding diversity and a seminar in Washington D.C. highlighting organizational change.
While my class was abroad in Brazil we were enrolled in classes at the ESALQ campus of the Universidad De São Paulo focusing on economics, agriculture and the history of Brazil. Not only did we learn about Brazilian agriculture in the classroom, but we also experienced it first hand during the two weeks our class spent touring different farms and agricultural companies around the south eastern part of Brazil.
As part of our final grade each of us was expected to keep a daily journal to record our thoughts and experiences in throughout our trip. Below is a journal entry I wrote during a layover in the airport as we traveled home:
Obrigada – “Thank you.”
Thank you for welcoming us. One of the first things I noticed way back in January when we stepped off our plane in the São Paulo airport was how immediately I felt welcomed. Throughout the entire six weeks we lived in Brazil I rarely met someone who did not go the extra mile to make me feel welcome and comfortable. The Brazilians we met and tried to communicate with (even with the English/Portuguese language barrier) often tried their hardest to listen, understand and communicate with us. Instead of ignoring us or laughing behind our backs (although we did look funny on many occasions!!) they made an effort to include us, learn about us and teach us about their culture…especially in some of the restaurants we visited often. We were welcomed in and treated like family when we went out to eat dinner, which made saying goodbye difficult to do.
Thank you for immersing us in your culture and opening our eyes to the world around us. Traveling to Brazil was the first time I had ever been abroad and completely submerged in a culture different than my own. Not being able to read the street signs, understand the waiter at dinner or know how to act in different social situations challenged me to focus in and think in a different way. During our time abroad my classmates and I challenged each other to embrace this new culture every chance we could and as a result were able to begin to understand the differences between our cultures and learn so much more about the country we were living in.
Thank you for friends and family we will have forever. Before we departed from the Columbus airport more than six weeks ago we were just a group of classmates who hadn’t spent much time together and didn’t know much about each other. However, through the spontaneous adventures we went on, the intentional conversations we had and through all of the experiences we shared we learned to appreciate each other and became closer. The group of classmates that had left the United States together six weeks ago were not the same students that came back home. But instead, the students that landed in the Columbus airport on Friday are a group of great friends, teammates and family. We all have Brazil to thank for bringing us together and tying us closer.
– Not only did we return home knowing we have new friendships in the United States, but also knowing we will always have great friendships and families in Brazil. During our time abroad we met and grew close with many individuals and families and will hold onto the relationships until next time we return back to Brazil.
Obrigada por tudo, Brasil – “Thank you for everything, Brazil.”
Until next time,
For more of Mary’s experiences visit: http://marysiekman.wordpress.com
This post was originally shared on the CFAES Student Blog.