17 months after applying for the Fulbright Scholarship, and 11 months after learning that I received one, I am finally heading to Brazil! This time has been filled with so much excitement, anticipation, and lots of preparation, but now as the day to leave is nearing (tomorrow!) I have been feeling quite a bit nervous and anxious.
I spent a semester studying abroad in Italy when I was a sophomore in college, back in 2007, in which my self-confidence, independence and self-reliance grew in leaps and bounds. But during that experience, my housing was already set up for me and I was studying at a school specifically for Americans studying abroad (which didn't grant degrees) and being there made the transition to the culture very smooth. However, in Brazil, after a few days of orientation in Sao Paulo with the Fulbright Commission, I will be mostly on my own, having to find my own living arrangements, lead my own research project, and find my way through a country using a language that I have studied but have barely conversed with others in.
In particular with the language, I have been studying Portuguese on my own for a couple years now, and I feel very confident in reading the language, and that I can communicate and say pretty much anything I need to, but my biggest worry is in understanding and identifying the words that native speakers will say to me, as it seems there is a lot of eliding of words and different pronunciations from different dialects, etc. I'm not worried so much about understanding the words someone says, but in identifying the words they are saying. It's just something I think I'll get better at with more time and listening and after a few weeks I'll be fine and comfortable with.
There is also the anxiety that comes from going to a city that has had such problems of poverty and crime as Rio de Janeiro. If you have ever seen the Brazilian movie Cidade de Deus ('City of God' in English), you will understand my trepidation, especially as my work with the El Sistema-inspired programs in Brazil might take me into some favelas (slums) in Rio because these programs work directly with the poor youth who live there.
But after all my worrying, I remind myself that this is going to be an amazing experience. There are surely going to be highs and lows, beautiful experiences and challenging ones which are unavoidable. But this is the next step in growing my self-reliance and confidence, and I've just been itching to go off on an adventure for a while now. Plus, I am so excited for my project and working with the El Sistema-inspired programs of Brazil. I'm expecting to learn so much and be really inspired by the work that is being done, the music that is being played, and the lives that are being changed. I also know that, once I get over my worries about it, I will love communicating in a different language in a foreign country. I've had the opportunity to do this twice before (Italian in Italy and Spanish in Nicaragua) and it really is an exhilarating experience for me to communicate in another language. I'm also very much looking forward to living a more simple life, with all my possessions in just a couple bags, for 9 months, as I've really been thinking a lot about how much stuff and possessions clog up and bog down my life. I'm itching to fill more of my time with meaningful experiences interacting with other people instead of a large part of my time having less meaningful experiences interacting with inanimate objects, which I've found myself doing more of lately. And of course, diving more into Brazilian music! It is going to be amazing!
The Fulbright Program would like me to mention that this blog is not an official U.S. Department of State website, and the views and information presented here are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.
Até logo, os Estados Unidos, e bom dia, Brasil! (See you later, US, and hello Brazil!)