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September 19, 2013

Local Voices From Around The Globe: Settling in and having a smooth transition

By Aisling McGoldrick
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Oi! I’m spending my junior year as a Rotary Exchange student in Brazil. 

Currently I am living in the small city of Ituverava, in the southeast state of Sao Paulo. This is my third week in Brazil and I’m feeling great so far. My first weeks have been filled with school, Rotary meetings and Churrascos. Already, I have started to get accustomed to everyday life here. School starts early here, at 7 a.m., and generally ends around noon. I return home for a big lunch and have the rest of the day to relax, sleep, go to my Rotary meetings on Wednesday, play handball or go to the gym with brother and sister.

I knew that the food in Brazil would be fresh, but I didn’t know how much I was going to love it all! Beans and rice everyday, with fresh fruit, fresh juice, meat, cheese, bread, pamonha, acai with condensed milk and my favorite dessert, brigadeiro.

I was surprised by how welcomed I felt in my little city. There’s a lot of interest in the “new American girl.” It’s not been too difficult to make friends, and everyone is very eager to extend an invitation to pizza or churrasco. I love Brazilian people, with their love of life, laid-back style and their dramatic tendencies. I’m happy I learned some Portuguese before I left, because I think people really appreciate it when I make an effort to speak in their native tongue. To many, it’s a pleasant surprise that I’m able to say “hello, how are you?” in Portuguese.

Language is about the only thing I’m struggling with right now. I practiced my Portuguese before I left, which was very helpful when I got here, but I still have a long way to go. Sometimes, it’s hard to not have any idea what others around me are talking and laughing about, but I’ve gotten used to not comprehending everything. I am able to converse, and have a simple conversation. Luckily, I am surrounded by very patient people who are willing to listen and correct me when I painfully try to tell a story in my error filled Portuguese! Still, I’m learning with great speed, and know that it will come in time.

I am very content with my location in Brazil. By being in this small, central city, I am experiencing true Brazilian culture, with the food, people and language. In Ituverava there are not too many things that have been completely “Americanized,” as you would find in a larger city, which is exactly what I wanted. My area in Brazil has a lot of agriculture, with coffee and sugar cane. It is known for the rodeos and sertanejo (similar to American country). My time feels like it’s flying right now, and I can’t believe it’s almost been a month! I do my best to enjoy every second. Ate mais!