Living and Studying in Brazil

My expatriate year was filled with fear, elation, sadness, pride and most of all Brazilian “carinho”. I remember the emergence of fear the moment I stepped onto the plane. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was making the right decision or the wrong one. Yet, the feeling of elation as countless hours spent doing paperwork had paid off and I would finally be landing in Brazil. I was excited to be able to do my own thing. I experienced a major shift in personality and growth outside of my comfort zone.

Before Brazil, I was comfortable with life.

I operated under a routine, a list of places that I visited regularly, and a group of friends that I spent the majority of my time with. I was satisfied with the ordinary, and I was frightened by change. My life living in Brazil was a time of risk taking. Whether it’s as small as ordering something new in Portuguese or as big as taking a trip to a nearby town alone.

These choices led me to new places, friends, and memories that will never be forgotten.

Even though being cliché, I have realized that living in your comfort zone is just another way of operating under fear. Removing myself from my comfort zone allowed me to experience a shift in perspective from a first person to a bird’s eye point of view. Completing an expatriate year exposed me to a different culture, worldviews, and diversity. I attribute it to those often described in the literature.

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When you live at home, you live in the first-person point of view. When you go abroad, you can take a bird’s-eye view of the world and let me understand how I, my home country, and everyone else fit into the global puzzle.

On top of all of the fear and elation, there were moments of emotional challenges and sadness. There were moments of homesickness. Despite surrounded by an abundance of new and interesting people, there were often moments of losing for others who were similar to me in cultural and language. Often made worse by the use of social media I experienced the fear of missing out. On one hand, I was traveling by myself and getting to experience exciting things in a brand-new country. But, while I was there, it was sometimes a shock to realize that things back home was continuing on without me and that I was missing out.

Despite the rare moments of sadness, I began to experience a new feeling as I approached the end of the second semester. It was a sense of pride as I realized I had managed to conqueror studying abroad all by my lonesome. After all I had experienced and overcame situations that have taken me out of your comfort zone, seen and done things I’ve been wanting to do for years, learnt how to be more independent, self-motivated, adaptable and skilled, and came to the realization that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it.

The past year has affected me in many ways and I see significant changes from when I first began INTB 3202 and before I departed on my assignment up until now, Although I’ve only been back a month I’ve seen the biggest change in my confidence and anxiety, and after completing my return I feel like I tend to exude more confidence. Even the most seemingly confident individuals have self-doubts.

Living and learning in Brazil helped to reduce my insecurities by revealing strengths. Having anxiety often resulted in me questioning myself and having a lot of self-doubts. Regularly I would question small things like whether or not I studied enough for an exam or my word choice during a conversation or second-guess my weekend plans. While in Brazil, the questions multiplied and the stakes felt even higher. I preferred the atmosphere of small get-togethers but wondered if I was missing out on São Paulo nightclubs. I was truly interested in spending time exploring the city of São Paulo, yet I would worry that I hadn’t made enough travel plans.

My classes excited and intrigued me, but sometimes I was in dismay that I was overly invested in academics. Thereafter, I was questioning all of my decisions abroad. Rather than appreciating the present moment, I was only focused on the future. I was considering whether or not I would regret or revel at that moment years from now. The feeling of uncertainty was worsened by social media.

I found myself comparing other BSIB student experiences to my own. I saw photos of other BSIB students attending large parties, my small get together seemed lackluster. I observed some friends who would travel to different countries every weekend while I simply explored a new neighborhood of São Paulo. They certainly didn’t post as many photos of coffee shops or museums as I did. While contemplating the experiences of others and making comparisons against my own, I began to question as someone who had been anticipating studying in Brazil for some time, this was a significant thought that I didn’t want to continue to have for the remainder of my stay. After that realization, I pushed myself to really reflect on the reason why I decided to study abroad and specifically in Brazil. I remembered my obsession with Brazilian Funk and desire to watch a soccer match in the heart of São Paulo.

I recalled my longing to live in such a vibrant city and to conquer it like a true “Paulista”. These were just some of the many goals I had for my experience abroad. This made me realize that I had clear aspirations for my expatriate year and that my peers probably did too and that these aspirations weren’t necessarily the same. But, most importantly, I understood that this was normal. The uniqueness of the one’s own experience is one of the major attractions for pursuing an expatriate year. It’s meant to be an experience that does not compare to any other that either you or somebody else has had before.

This understanding, made my experience in Brazil even more satisfaction. Rather than always worrying whether or not I am making the right choice, I merely make the choice and try to enjoy every moment. My low-key kick packs have resulted in some of the most meaningful conversations and friendships that I have ever experienced. My long hours in the museums made me appreciate the material I was studying all the more, and my love for London only grew with every day I stayed there.

As soon as I stopped questioning every decision, I became more in touch with the present moment and was able to enjoy it to the fullest, making each moment the experience of a lifetime. I recognized the confidence it instilled in me. I gained control over my anxiety and learned that I should remain confident in my decisions, remembering that they are the right ones for me and that I cannot let my anxiety convince me otherwise. Completing an expatriate allowed me to develop a strong passion for learning and a desire to learn about other cultures and languages. I noticed that during my stay and even now I have become interested in Spanish and French culture and have begun French classes.

I think studying abroad had a positive effect on me pursuing things that I am interested in and being more open-minded. Beyond learning more about myself personality I learned more about my career aspirations. Before going to Brazil, I had always known that I wanted to have an international aspect to my career but I never placed a great emphasis on actually traveling. After this experience, I have developed an appreciation for living away from home. I have learned that I have a penchant for traveling and it is at the top of my priorities as I start my job search. Furthermore, it’s important that I am able to use my language ability in my future career.

I now know that I prefer to work for a company that prefers to work for a company that has an international presence and offers opportunities for the possibility of working or living abroad. Not only did this experience change me it taught me many things about the world in general. One of the biggest takeaways was learning to appreciate the unknown. My experience in Brazil taught me to love what I didn’t understand and to appreciate the strange, or at least what was strange to me.

While abroad I learned to love the customs, I didn’t quite get the hangout, the conversations I couldn’t quite follow, anything that made me scratch my head in confusion. The frighteningly complex, but somehow efficient flow of traffic. Originally, my reaction to something I didn’t know was fear and or anger. However, being in Brazil helped me be curious. I also learned to let go of things, specifically the expectation of perfection and of my own high opinion of myself. I was often preoccupied with very nominal things and too afraid to make any type of mistake.

I had to let of desire to be right or to even be understood. Living in Brazil taught me humility and to value impermanence. I learned to hold people and things loosely because the experience itself is impermanent. I knew from the start that the experience would end, and made relationships knowing I would leave. Despite being cliché, it really does teach you to live in the moment. I learned to take risks while completing my expatriate year. Relocating to a new and confusing place, living with people I didn’t know, and functioning in a language I wasn’t fluent in was a huge risk in itself. But within my time abroad, my best memories the ones where I took extra risks.

I attended many language exchange groups, often nervous that the experience would be uncomfortable, but I ended up meeting some of my closest friends. I attended parties with most people I didn’t know and ended up being taught traditional dances like Forró. I pursued a volunteer opportunity on my own leading me to get lost in the middle of the city and ended up at a dinner party for a family I didn’t know and had for the first time. Even these small risks added up to more future personal growth than I would have achieved by remaining inside my bubble.

After completing my experience there are a couple of things that I will do differently as I move forward from this course, and from Northeastern. Looking forward I plan to continue to remain confident in my decision making not only in my personal life but as a businessman. I plan to use my anxiety as a source of strength and not weakness. I plan to continue to learn how to be more present at the moment and not constantly compare my experience to others. It takes an open-minded and adventures person to leave their comfort zone and living in Brazil has made me more culturally sensitive and given me the ability to collaborate with people from other cultures.

Moving forward I will continue to remain culturally sensitive especially with the current state of America. I feel like as a part of my experience my cultural competence has increased and I will strive to work and surround myself with a diverse group. As mentioned above I become more of a risk taker and I plan to continue to approach situations with a more open mind. I’m going to apply this approach to both my business and professional life. I think the ability to take risks is an important skill for global businesspeople because it shows that we can commit to a decision in an insecure situation. I plan to push my boundaries more.

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Living and Studying in Brazil. (2021, Dec 11). Retrieved from

Living and Studying in Brazil
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