I have fallen off the blog-wagon. How can I accurately describe my experience in Porto Alegre thus far?
The truth is, I’ve yet to find the right words for all of this. Instead – I offer part of what I’ve learned. (And I will also add that I’ve met pretty great people here.)
This experience is an emotional rollercoaster. An awesome one.
Trying to blend in, and yet at the same time, maintain authentic is a tough gig. Trying to find ways to express yourself in another language, while simultaneously processing everything around you is a constant challenge…There’s so much to soak up – it can be exhilarating, and exhausting.
My experiences have included great moments, less-than-great moments, homesick-ness, doubts, fears, surges of excitement, and everything in between.
And now, more than 2 months later, I am finding my stride. The novelty has faded and returned, and the appreciation is growing. I no longer get headaches after conversations in Portuguese, and there is not so much strain in understanding. This is progress. Here are some more things that I have learned:
- Productivity wavers as a result of emotional and thus, mental and physical, challenges.
Thus is the life of a student (abroad) in today’s day and age. Differences require adjustment. If you are not used to commuting 40 minutes by bus to campus, it can be tiring. Unless you see how you can use it all to your advantage – embrace the frustrations and move forward (for example, by listening to really ridiculous/fun music on said 40 minute bus ride…)
- How to roll solo in a collectivist society…and enjoy it.
The con to a collectivist society? You may be the only person in the lunch hall eating alone. The pro? It’s very easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger and become friends within minutes. Thus is the Brazilian style – meet someone new, have a nice convo, and invite them to join you for lunch (or a beer.)
- How to find a “niche.”
This law is almost universal. Do what you love -> meet who you’d like to meet. Though it seems simple, it’s actually quite a challenge to put into practice in a new place. Personally, I’m discovering that though there are a million and a half people in Porto Alegre, I’m finding familiar faces on campus, in coffee shops, yoga studios, and vegetarian restaurants (not unlike Gainesville…) Although language and culture may differ, sometimes greatly, common interests are a great way to interact with people and make friends.
- Feeling homesick is normal.
This may be one of the hardest lessons I’ve faced here. What’s been important to remember is that most other (exchange) students experience it, too. And everyone deals with it in their own way. At first, this feeling reveals itself as loneliness that’s hard to explain. (see: saudades) You may miss things that you didn’t anticipate – air conditioning, your dog, Pandora, watching Modern Family with your best friend, etc. Later, you realize everyone misses something. It’s something we all have in common. And a weight is lifted off your shoulders if you share and even joke about these things… you can begin to appreciate where you’re at right now. Atleast, I sure did. Thanks, friends!
Welcome to the contradictions of travelling and uprooting your life. You’ll discover many amazing things and many challenges.
In my previous post, I wrote that I had learned to take my time in adjusting to new surroundings. Now I say, don’t wait to try something new, even if it means getting lost in the process, because who knows where you’ll end up?
You can always ask for directions.