I was warned before exchange about the rollercoaster of emotions I’d experience. I was told about how I’d get homesick around the holidays and how I’d get bored as things become increasingly normal here. I thought this was something Rotarians tell exchange students to scare us. I can now assure you this is very real.
Homesick isn’t necessarily the right word for me. Lately, I’m just blue.
Exchange is hard, and there are some days I wake up in a panic because people have stressed so many times that this is only one year of my life, I will never get another opportunity like this, enjoy every second. When I’m down, thinking about this only further paralyzes me.
Lately things have happened, some big and some small, that have brought me down a bit or just irritated me.
The stupidest thing? (I’m laughing as I write this) Getting around! Listen, a “commute” might be a normal part of life, but coming from a school where I rolled out of bed at 7:55 and walked down the hall to my 8 am class, I’m such an amateur. I suck at it! I am late at least once a week to school, usually twice, which isn’t a big deal but it really frustrates me. I want to be in the classroom, even if nothing is happening. No matter how early I leave, traffic is unpredictable. To go to my classes in the afternoon, it takes about an hour, an hour and a half to get there. To get back? An hour and a half to two hours, depending on traffic. This time feels so incredibly wasted that it makes me extremely anxious, as I mentioned before, because I only have a year. I don’t want to spend it sitting in traffic.
Another thing that really has me down lately is the language. When I first got here, I was really motivated. In my free time I studied a lot, wrote down words or phrases I didn’t know, listened only to Portuguese music and avoided Netflix. It paid off – my comprehension is pretty good, when I actually pay attention – but I still cannot speak well, especially in groups of people. I’m more embarrassed now than when I first arrived. It’s been about three months and I still fail to communicate basic things. The worst part? I usually know what I’m going to say, I can hear how it’s supposed to sound in my head, but my mouth literally cannot say the word. Other times I get so anxious in certain situations (like when I’m on the bus) that I can’t relax enough to just LISTEN to what is being said. I’m trying to be proactive about this, though. I told my host brother we’re going to start working on pronunciation. He smiled and said sure.
Some things are a little more serious.
Brazil is the land of extremes. Extreme rich. Extreme poor. Extreme violence. Extreme problems. All of this weighs heavy on my heart.
I used to be immune to the homeless people here, who have LITERALLY constructed shelters out of cardboard boxes and rags and dig through the trash just to eat. But the more I see them, the more it’s starting to get to me. It’s really sad. It makes me feel helpless. I want to use my life to help other people, to better society, but I can’t help these people. There are too many. I can’t fix this problem. I don’t even know where to begin. As I enter “real life,” I’m going to have to confront the fact there are some things that can simply not be fixed (although I can guarantee I will die trying) but it is still really hard for me to wrap my head around.
Basically, I’ve been down. Although things have been a little rough for me, but I can still say I wouldn’t change this experience for the world. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve experienced, you wouldn’t begin to believe. The other day I was walking home while the sun was setting and it was a sobering reminder just how lucky I am to be here.
Because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’d like to end this on a brighter note and focus on the things I’m grateful for here in Brazil: My family is the best. The food is awesome. I’m going on vacation in three days. It’s not as hot as I thought it would be. The city is beautiful, and I’m reminded of this every time I go outside. I have great friends shower me with love. My history classes from this semester continue to inspire me, giving me new content to read. Misunderstandings because of language are hilarious, especially when it’s someone else. My friend is coming from a different city in Brazil to stay with me tomorrow. Brazilians can make a good time out of every situation.
I know I’ll snap out of this mentality soon. Don’t think I’m not still having a blast! Some days are better than others, even when you’re living the dream halfway across the globe.