One aspect of my study abroad experience that continues to resonate with and influence me today is the cultural lifestyle of the Brazilian people. From my perspective, Brazilians are selfless, social and outgoing. Unlike Americans, Brazilians do not concern themselves with the future. Rather, they indulge in the present moment and prioritize relationships.
Rosa, my Contemporary Brazilian Social debates professor at my host university, once said, “Brazilians are a happy people. Brazilians are social, friendly and anything but shy. If you sit by a Brazilian on the bus, you will know all about his or her life by the time you reach your bus stop.” It’s true. The Brazilians that I met were chatty, friendly, welcoming, open and very outgoing. I was able to be myself around Brazilians without the fear being judged. As a result, I developed a strong sense of belonging within the Brazilian community.
An example that illustrates the Brazilian character is their approach to life’s circumstances. Even amidst high levels of poverty, (in Brazil’s slums (favelas)) Brazilians were happy and content. Rather than dwell in self-pity, Brazilians found happiness in the small joys of life. Brazilians turned their negative situation into a positive one. They built a strong sense of community around them; cared for their neighbors and devoted their lives to improving the lives of others. Even when they had very little for themselves, they gave more than one can think possible.
A perfect example of this occurred when I volunteered as an English teacher at a local Non-Profit Organization, in a Brazilian favela. During my time as a volunteer, I met the coordinator of the NGO (Andreia) and discovered that Andreia too, was a resident of the favela. Rather than seeing herself as a victim, Andreia chose to improve her community by running her own nonprofit for local children.
Because this perspective has influenced me in many ways, I no longer take anything for granted; family, friends or material possessions.I am thankful for everything I have and I indulge in life just a little bit more than before I studied abroad. I am no longer a self-centered individual. I am more confident, more secure and more self-aware. I care more about relationships and I have chosen to devote my life to improving the lives of those around me.
In order to share my experiences with students who are considering applying to the Gilman scholarship, I will give public presentations to community colleges, informing students about studying abroad, the Gilman scholarship and my experience studying abroad in general. The goal of these presentations will not only be to encourage students to apply for the Gilman scholarship but to increase the likeliness of working with students directly, in order to encourage them further to study abroad and apply for the Gilman scholarship. Upon working directly with students, I will further share my experience studying abroad and give students specific resources to help them do so, such as helping them through the Gilman scholarship application process and providing external resources for extra help.