What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big
My biggest fears were not getting along with my homestay family and not being able to make friends. My homestay was great, she gave me lots of tips on staying safe and getting around the city. It would not have been the same without her. Making friends also did not turn out to be as hard as I thought it would be. In fact it was very easy to make friends in my program because we were all being thrown into this new situation together, so we bonded very quickly. Making friends with Brazilians was not hard either, in fact most of them were extremely friendly, and happy to help me practice Portuguese.
What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?
I wish I would have saved a little more money, so that I could have gone on more trips to other part of Brazil and Latin America. I also wish that I would have opened up a bank account with the bank that reimburses you for all the fees you are charged when you swipe your card outside of the U.S.
What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?
My favorite class that I took while abroad was the Sociology of Brazil. The class was taught in English but they were in the process of attempting to integrate it with both international and PUC students. I really enjoyed it, because while I was having loads of fun and seeing all of these beautiful sights in Rio, this class allowed me to learn about many of the sociological issues in the country. It allowed me to look at Brazil differently, and not just on a tourist level. The class itself was much smaller than UCSB classes and much more intimate as far as conversing with the professor. We were also expected to speak and interact a lot.
What is one of your best memories from abroad?
One of my best memories was when we visited a quilombo on one of our UCEAP trips. A quilombo is a settlement founded by runaway slaves in Brazil, they are all over the country. Today people still reside in them, many of them descendants of the slaves, they are ran like small towns. When we visited the Quilombo we got to try traditional Afro-Brazilian dishes and they showed us dances and how to use their drums, then we got a tour. I really enjoyed this experience because I felt as though it was a very important history lesson, and overall a great experience. Also, I ate some of the best food during my time abroad while there.
What was your biggest challenge abroad?
My biggest challenge was speaking Portuguese. I went to Brazil with some knowledge of the language, fluent in Spanish, and took Portuguese classes the whole time I was there. What was difficult was forcing myself to speak it to my English speaking friends, and also speaking it in fast interactions, like on the street. By the last months of my program I had gotten it down but initially I struggled a bit.
What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
The people. Many of the people that I met while abroad were very vibrant and welcoming, this had a huge impact on my experience, and helped me to feel at home. I doubt my experience would have been the same if it had not been for the friendly Brazilian people that I met.
Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us
about your experience.
I volunteered at the Education USA office that was situated on PUC’s campus. Education USA is a program that helps foreign students go abroad to pretty much any of the schools they are interested in the U.S. We talked to different students, helped them look up schools they were interested in, and looked at personal statements. It was very much like the UCSB EAP’s office, I really enjoyed my time volunteering with them.
What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
I definitely miss pao de queijo, which is the equivalent of cheesy bread, but way better. I also miss açaí, which is 100 times better in Brazil, and drinking coconut water out of coconuts while on the beach.
How have you changed since your time abroad?
I think that I have come out of my shell. I have always been friendly, but at the same time very shy. My time abroad sort of forced me to put myself out there, and I could not be happier about it. I am definitely more comfortable speaking in front of people, asking questions and just putting myself out there in general. You truly learn so much about yourself when you travel to a foreign country not knowing anyone.
What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
Do not be scared to try something different! You might be scared to learn a new language, have to make new friends, eat new food, or live in a different country for several months. All of that is understandable, but my advice is to just go for it. Studying abroad was hands down the best decision I’ve made while at UCSB. I encourage everyone to do it if they can. A lot of things in life will be scary, but studying abroad is probably one of the most exciting, worthwhile, and fun “scary” experiences that you can have. If anything, I truly believe you will regret not doing it, way more than you will ever regret actually doing it.