In 36 hours, I will be in Brazil, the furthest I have ever been from home.

It’s seven pm central standard time as I write this. In St. Louis, Missouri, it’s already an unbearably warm and humid 95 degrees fahrenheit, and, like a true Puerto-Rican, my mom still has the house at a cozy 75 degrees. A fitting environment, as tomorrow, I embark on my very first international flight, to São Paulo. It’s been a long and sometimes frustrating journey to get to this point, but if these happy-nervous butterflies in my stomach are anything to judge by, it will be worth it.

To give a little background, my name is Zoë. I’m a 19 year old, Puerto-Scottish, Midwestern girl (yes, a crazy combination). I’m majoring in 3 areas; linguistic science, Portuguese, and Spanish. I speak English and Spanish, and enough Portuguese that I know when the English subtitles on Brazilian soap operas are wrong. Though I’ve been to visit my family in Puerto Rico, I’ve never really been far from home, and never on my own.
Tomorrow, that changes.

I’ve never flown more than 4 hours at a time, so I’ll update you guys on what a 15+ hour flight is like when I land (though I am already mentally prepping myself for the boredom, and physically prepping myself for some seriously dehydrated skin–more on that later). I also don’t know if seven months of Portuguese classes will get me through this adventure–or even customs!

Now, to address perhaps the two most important questions: Why Brazil/Study abroad, and how do you prep for 5 months in a foreign country?

The first question is easy. I chose study abroad because I firmly believe that leaving both your native culture and your comfort zone makes you a better person. When you open yourself to experiencing a new culture, a new way of life, you open yourself to literally a whole new world of knowledge and possibility. There is so much to learn that you just can’t see from your hometown, or your university.

Why Brazil? Well, thanks to some friends at UNM, I started learning Portuguese in my first freshman semester. I continued into the second semester, and since I knew I wanted to study abroad anyway, I figured, why not Brazil? I already knew that I would love the tropical environment; spending time In Puerto Rico with my aunts and uncles always felt more like home than anywhere in the U.S of A. Brazil is also a massive country, home to one of the largest and most densely populated cities on the planet. I know I can learn a lot about being independent and self-reliant on this trip, something that is really important to me.

As for how to prep for a semester abroad? Well, that deserves a whole post for itself. For now, let me just say that I’ve spent the last six months preparing for this trip. And to be honest? I don’t know if I’m fully ready. There are a lot of unknowns whenever you leave your home and travel elsewhere. But I’m okay with that. I know that no matter what, I will learn something about the world, and something about myself. And that’s the point of travel; to see new things, and live in a way you’ve never lived before.

Until next time, the happy-nervous butterflies say ‘tchau!’


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