This past month I learned some exciting things in another country. I ate new food, interacted with a new culture, and shared these experiences with nine other students in my group. Of course, nothing is without its faults. This trip had its ups and downs, but overall I enjoyed living in Brazil and learning about the Black experience there. I won't sugarcoat anything in this overview, but I also will not bash the program or the coordinators. They did their best in the context that they were in. First, I will talk about aspects of the program that I enjoyed. Second, I will talk about things that bothered me during the trip. Finally, I will discuss things that could be improved on.
What I Enjoyed
Environment: So the weather was very humid and warm. I'm all for some humidity, but this was a little too much. Only a few times was it actually cold. I could wear whatever I wanted, though most of the time I still wore pants. Coming from the airport and settling in our apartment in Copacabana, I realized Rio reminded me of a city inside a jungle. There were luscious green trees planted along the sidewalks, swaying above us with the buildings. I also liked how there shops lined down the streets close to where we lived. The supermarket and the metro were a short walk away.
Fast food/ Tapioca: Okay, let me tell you something. The fast food in Rio was a hundred times better than here in the U.S. (my opinion). Over there, places like McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC, are a lot more pricey, but the quality of food is great. A McChicken from McDonald's in the U.S. is flat and sad looking. In Rio? It's fresh, and ready to be eaten. Now, I am someone that doesn't eat fast food often, but I allowed myself to divulge in Brazil because 1) It tasted better 2) I won't have this luxury back home so I might as well enjoy. So, Tapioca is a bit difficult to explain. It's like a folded sandwich with various things you can have inside like chicken, ham, cheese, butter, coconut, chocolate, banana, etc. The first one I got was chicken and coconut, but I didn't like it too much because it was dry. The second time I got butter and chicken. That was delicious.
Little trips: We went to Sugarloaf Mountain, The botanical garden, flea markets, restaurants, an eight-story mall, walked fifteen minutes to Starbucks, and played at the park across the street! Our free time turned into fun adventures.
My group members: I don't know if any other group would have made this trip better, because the students I went with were super cool. They each had a unique personality and we got along so well. In the beginning I thought there would be cliques within our small ten person group, but we all connected with each other. We had such great moments and I felt comfortable with them, which was a surprise.
Class: The most thought provoking part of the trip! We learned so much in five weeks and I will elaborate on some of the topics in the Review and Reflect part of my blog every Wednesday.
Things that Bothered Me
Too many people on the sidewalk!: Wow... I could barely enjoy walking down the street due to the amount of pedestrians coming towards me. The sidewalks are wide, but clearly not wide enough for the people walking and street vendors situated.
Translation during class/vibes: Many of the Brazilian students did not speak English or understand it very well, including the speakers we had. Before we arrived in Brazil, we were told they had to know English to be enrolled so we came with that expectation, but that's not what happened. Sometimes students were so deep in discussion with the speakers it didn't give time for translations. That made it hard to follow along or jump in because it went from one topic to another. Sometimes someone would speak passionately for a long time in Portuguese then their translation would be super short and you could tell what they translated did not include all they said. Now with vibes. The class felt divided. We couldn't relate/connect with the Brazilian students, many of them were not as open as we thought they would be. There were a handful of welcoming students, don't get me wrong, but every class felt like an us vs. them battle.
Using matches: The stove and oven in the hotel was gas-based and we had to use matches to turn them on. I was kinda scared, but then again it wasn't that big of a deal after like a week.
Disorganization throughout the program: We didn't receive a syllabus until the second week of the program, they sent us the readings a night before the second class, and our discussion sections/language class didn't have a set date/time. They wanted this program to be flexible, but it didn't come off that way. It seemed like things were not organized which it hard for me to have a student mindset when the structure is unstable. A lot of information given to us were not clarified until almost the middle of the program.
Things to Improve On
Realistic expectations for American and Brazilian students
Transportation costs to and from class and when we meet with the activists
List of cool things to do/go
Organized class/section schedules
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