To read about my life at Brazilian university, click here. 

As my school days end so early, I’ve acquired two awesome internships for the rest of my time in Brazil.

Internship number one is at UniBH working in, well, whatever they want! I’m split between two “bosses”: Leticia and Janaina. I work with Leticia on Mondays and Wednesdays. I usually get to work from home since most of the work for her is online making presentations on topics from my life in the United States to my opinions on Brazil. We meet to discuss what I’ve been doing and so I can receive feedback. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work in an office with a lovely group of people.


A welcome sign that was waiting on my desk on my first day. It included a layout of the desks with the names of everyone sitting around me. I was also left a t-shirt, chocolates, a pencil case, a cup, so much merchandise! It was really kind!

So far, I’ve been doing really random work. I’ve mostly been working on activities for students. They’re having a party for the World Cup and I was responsible for planning activities for each country playing. I chose things like crash courses for K-Pop for Korea and rock bands for England. I have no idea if Brazilian college students are into these kind of things, but I know my ladies at Salem Academy would be going nuts.

Last Tuesday, I was asked to give an interview to the school tv station. I’m sure a looked like a complete fool – the moment the camera turned on, my Portuguese stopped working. But it’s okay! It was a hilarious experience for me and everyone was really nice anyway.


Yeah. It was pretty official. I’m still so embarrassed.

At first, I wasn’t super pumped about this internship because it’s not exactly the area I want to work in, but it’s actually turned out to be one of my favorite parts of my experience at UniBH! Especially the days in the office. I have my own desk and computer, which makes it feel serious. The ladies I work with are a ton of fun. Every day at about 4pm, the girl who sits across from me, Rafa, brings in pao de queijo, which always makes me smile. Everyone is always offering to make me coffee or tea or get me water. This just goes back to the hospitality of Brazilians.

Last Saturday, one of my coworkers had a birthday party. I went and it was really great to get to know them in a non-work setting. I can assure you, it will not be the last time I go out with them.


Suelen (AKA Suka) who I sit next to at work. It was her birthday!

For me, this is really exciting because it shows just how good my Portuguese has gotten. I can understand just about everything except for some “giria” (slang), which they have no problem clarifying for me. Most of the people I work with don’t speak English and I love this.

My second “internship” is less of an internship and more like sporadic volunteer work. I wrote before about Rita Rico, an American diplomat living in Belo Horizonte, and how I met with her to discuss her work. She put me in touch with a man named Leandro. Leandro works as an “educational consultant” at a company called Education USA.

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Leandro and I after a presentation I gave

Basically, Education USA is an institution that aims at promoting American culture and the English language. They have events at middle and high schools to talk about life in America. They have english classes. They also help Brazilian students navigate exchange years and the college application process in the United States.

Because part of the State Department’s goal is to promote and share American culture, Education USA has a partnership with the State Department. That’s the reason Rita is involved with them.

My work there mostly involves American culture. So far, I’ve gone into english classes and tried to engage students in conversation. Because I’m a native speaker, this is really valuable for them. Most of the students have never met an American or heard one speaking in real life. It warms my heart to see how excited they get when they can effectively communicate with me.

I also have been asked to give presentations on aspects of American culture. Leandro says I’m a gift from God because the week I reached out to him, he was told to speak about American high school, a topic he knows nothing about. I prepared and gave an hour long presentation about my high school in America, which is a topic I’m always eager to talk about. After I finished, I had three girls come up to me and ask about how to apply to school in the United States. It was a great feeling to see how excited my presentation had made them.

If you knew me four years ago, you know how much I hated presentations. In fact, I would take F’s on presentations because I would stand up and talk for 30 seconds (when we were supposed to reach five minutes). I was embarrassed. I would sweat. I would turn bright red. Now, presentations are much easier for me (in English, at least). I guess after learning another language and making a fool out of yourself so many times, you just stop caring!

I think these “internships” are really great ways to spend my time. It’s a really good way to get to know people I’d never know otherwise. It’s also a really good way to give back. At first, I was worried that this would mean I never get to see my friends, but it just means my days are a little more rich (and a little more busy). I usually go to school, come home for lunch, go back for work, and then go straight from work to seeing my friends. It’s definitely a “correria” (rush) as Brazilians would say, but it’s pretty fun!

I have to say, Rotary was right. I am nine months into my exchange and only have 47 days until I’m back. I’m dreading it. I finally spend my time productively, have a good grasp on the language, have good friends (both Brazilian and other exchange students). I finally have a life I really love, where I would change nothing. I’m really content. I’m really happy. And as soon as I get used to this, I have to go back. It is not a good feeling. Regardless, I am blessed to have had such a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to making the most of the next 47 days. It’s certainly flying by.


Me, Karen, and Brooklyn at a Rotary meeting.

Brazilian University

When I first arrived to Brazil, I was automatically placed in “ensino medio” (high school) because Rotary Youth Exchange is intended for high school students. I was the equivalent of a junior and studied there for about five months. (If you missed these posts, you can read about the experience here and here)

I really liked this time because it gave me a chance to catch onto Portuguese (taking notes in class and listening to lectures helped so much!) and to learn some basic things I needed to know, like important presidents and events from history.

When the school told me they didn’t have room for me the following year, I saw this as an opportunity to try something new. Rather than switch to another high school, I asked if I could go to university. Luckily, things worked out, and I have now been studying at a university for a few weeks (although it feels much shorter. My teachers were on strike, just like the teachers in the US, so I didn’t have school last week. But that’s a whole other story!)


Part of the campus

My school is called UniBH and it is private. Something I’ve found interesting is that here, public universities are like ivy-league schools: only the “best and brightest” get in and attend because they have entirely free tuition. It’s kind of paradoxical in the sense that in order to get in, you need to invest thousands of reais (dollars) into a private middle and high school education. The people that can afford to do that usually don’t need to worry about paying for college. Here, you have to pay for private universities, although the amount is significantly less than that of the United States. (But when looking at Brazilian salaries, it’s absurd).

My school has three different units in Belo Horizonte. I study at the largest unit. In all, the school has about 22,000 students currently enrolled, although you wouldn’t know it by taking a course. My “sala” (class) has about 33 students (based on the group chat) but on any given day, I’d say there’s significantly less, about 25 or so (unless there’s a test).

I am enrolled in the “relações internacionais” (international relations) course (equivalent to a major) here. The classes I’m taking include: Social sciences and anthropology; communication, diversity, and critical thinking; negotiation and bargaining; the modern history of international relations; and languages and international relations. Yes, they are all taught entirely in Portuguese. It’s awesome.


My course!

To be honest, I’ve been pretty confused so far. I started the semester about two months late, so I’ve missed a lot of material. I also entered halfway through most of the chapters so I missed the vast majority of the instruction for each of my classes. The students are currently taking tests, so I figure that once the next portion of material begins I’ll be able to catch on. Some of the professors have been really nice about this. They’ve sent me emails with prior readings enclosed or will take a brief second to recap a concept they’ve already gone over. (I can’t say this is entirely for me, but the fact they look me in the eyes as they do the recap makes me feel it is.)

As is frequently the case with Brazilians, I had no trouble being accepted. Everyone has been really nice, offering to let me join their groups for group work or letting me look over their shoulder as they complete assignments I don’t do. (I don’t have access to the computers or textbooks since I’m not a legitimate, paying student, so everyone has been really helpful with this).

I’ve made one pretty good friend in the class named Italo. He’s honestly hilarious and I live for his stories about times he was robbed and his love for Mary Kay, which he sells to afford tuition. If I’m ever confused about a meeting place or class activity, I go to him.


A post on my school’s instagram page. It translates to “Today Hannah started an exchange here at UniBH. She is from Florida in the United States and will stay with us until July in the International Relations course and doing an internship at Nucleo Academico. She is already all integrated with our team, look! Welcome, Hannah! Stay attentive for other good things going on around here! #Internationalization #ProudtobeUniBH” To read about my internship, go here. 

University here is incredibly different to that of the United States. Here’s a few huge differences for me:

  • Everyone in the same major takes the exact same classes. Based on your major, the classes are already chosen for you. You are assigned a “sala” (classroom) kind of like elementary school. Sometimes the students move collectively to another classroom or other times the teachers switch to the room to join the students. It just depends on the class.
  • Here, you can only miss a certain number of classes per semester and if you miss more, you have to repeat the year. (Maybe this is the same in the US, but it feels much more lenient there). Because of this, some people show up to the class, sign in, and leave after/go hang out in the halls. It blows my mind.
  • University classes are so short!!! In the US, because you only meet two or three times a week, your classes are two to three hours. Here, you have the same class for two blocks and in total, it’s about an hour and a half. Personally, I think it’s a really short period for the teacher to accomplish everything they need to. Some classes you only have once a week and others you have twice.
  • For me, university starts at 7:40 and ends at 11:40. There’s also the option to study in the afternoon (something like 2 to 6) or in the night (7 to 10:30/11). Teachers frequently teach two sessions. Some even teach all three. (This means they literally only go home to sleep. Isn’t that crazy?)
  • In American high school, you spend a lot of time doing projects/assignments in class and working in groups. College there seems to be more lecture classes. Here, most of my classes so far have been projects/assignments in class. I’ve only had one lecture thus far. In my high school here, almost every class was lecture based and there were very rarely in-class assignments. (That being said, I haven’t attended many classes yet. Maybe this will change as time goes on).
  • There is SO MUCH EXTRA CREDIT. Teachers say that if you mess up on a test, you can do corrections to get partial points back. This is absurd to me. I didn’t even get this option for some of my high school classes!!!
  • Like high school, it’s acceptable (but still rude) to be obviously on your phone or sleeping in front of the professor. This hasn’t happened as much as it did at my old school for a few reasons, I believe.
    • The ones that don’t care either literally don’t show up or go into the halls
    • Tests, of course
    • Maturity
    • You’re paying for your education and want to get the most of it (A fair amount of students work in the afternoons to pay for their own college)
    • You actually like the course/material you’re studying!

Because I’ve only been in university for a few weeks, that’s all I have to say so far. I still haven’t decided which classes I like and don’t like, how the assignments look, how tests look. I’m sure that once I formulate more opinions, I’ll write about it again.

In addition to my studies, I started an internship at the university and a internship outside of the university. Read about them here.

São Paulo

A few weeks ago, my friend Karen’s host mom, Junia, invited me and Brooklyn to go to São Paulo for a few days for a family event. Within a few days, everything was set. My incredible host family bought my ticket. Our inbound counselor with Rotary, Valeria, agreed to host us in her apartment in the city. On April 12, we were on our way to the biggest city in South America!


On the plane! (From Left to Right) Me, Karen (Japan), Junia, and Brooklyn (Canada)

We left around 10 am and arrived at 12: just in time for lunch. We ate at wonderful self-serve lunch at Junia’s hotel, dropped off our stuff at Valeria’s apartment, and within an hour, we were on our way to sight-see. We spent our first day at the Municipal Market of São Paulo, where they sell incredible fruit from all over Brazil. We got to have a tasting experience, where we tried everything from pineapple and oranges to grapes and dragon fruit. Honestly, it was some of the best fruit of my life.


Municipal Market of São Paulo, trying some pineapple

Because we’d been up since 6 am, we went to rest for a while at Valeria’s apartment before heading out to eat dinner around 8. We went to a restaurant called “Me Gusta,” which was Mexican cuisine. (If you know me, you know my love for Mexican food. I was all about this.) We had some really good tacos at a really beautiful restaurant.

After, we went back to Valeria’s house and went to bed, ready for the next day.

The following day, we slept in and took our time getting ready. Around 12, we walked to a self-service restaurant and ate (once again) really good food, which included salad, rice and beans, meat, pasta, just about everything you could imagine. We then met Junia and got started with our day.


Brookie and I at the self-service restaurant, which was really cute.

Because we were primarily in town for Junia’s family event, things were kind of chaotic. Junia had to help the family get ready for the party and Valeria had to work (it was a Friday) so we were basically on our own. Junia gave us a ride to a HUGE mall (six or so stories), so we were set for a few hours. Karen, Brooklyn, and I walked around and enjoyed some of the stores we hadn’t seen since we started our exchange, primarily Starbucks. (Fun Fact: it is now nine months into my exchange, and I would rather eat açaí than drink Starbucks).


First Starbucks in nine months!

After a few hours at that mall, we switched to another mall, which happened to be the nicest mall in the city. We looked pathetic walking around Gucci and Versace shops in jean shorts with our Forever 21 bags. At the time, we were quite upset about how ridiculous we looked, but it is something we will never forget. A true bonding experience. We even went to the movie theater just to buy popcorn. It was truly a ridiculous (hilarious) experience. Around 8, we met Valeria and Junia and were on our way out for the night!

I think it’s important to note the traffic in São Paulo. No matter how far we were going (which usually wasn’t too far), we’d spend about thirty minutes to an hour in the car each time. Living in the biggest city in South America definitely has its disadvantages. Luckily, I was with some of the most fun people in the city, so we would just jam out to Bruno Mars, Aretha Franklin, and the Beatles in the car.

We went to a place called Peppino to spend the night. We got really delicious, fancy food. I can’t even tell you what it was. That’s how you know it’s fancy. It was kind of cheese-like fried pasta that you dip in marinara sauce and other finger foods like that.


The group at Peppino! (From left to right) Valeria, Karen, Brooklyn, Junia, me, and Valeria’s friend Bianca. (Fun fact: Valeria and Bianca met many years ago when they were on exchange in California!)

The following day, Valeria took us out. We went walking close to her apartment. We explored some markets and galleries close to her house. After, we went to lunch at a restaurant, where I had the best pasta I’ve had in my life. We also had Reese’s cheesecake, which was a beautiful thing since both Reese’s and cheesecake don’t really exist where we live in Brazil. After lunch, we went home for a quick nap before heading to Junia’s family party: the main reason we’d come to São Paulo.

Saturday afternoon, Junia’s nephew had his third birthday party, which was unlike anything I’d seen before. They had a beautiful display of desserts, which is common at Brazilian parties. They had a photo booth and catered crepes, hamburgers, hot dogs, too many things to name. They had a piñata. They had colorful powder and t-shirt making and so many activities. It was really incredible, beautiful, and fun. I spent most of the party with Karen, Brooklyn, and Junia’s daughter Pauline. A few months ago, Brooklyn and I went to an engagement party for Junia’s brother and we met most of the family, so it was nice to see them again and celebrate another great occasion.

After the party, all of us were covered in colored powder. It was in our hair, our ears, our noses, on our shoes and dresses, engrained in every crack and crevice of our bodies. We all got into an uber, under the impression we’d go home to shower before going out. Wrong. We pull up at a five-star restaurant, with dimmed lighting and candles, exotic wine from all over the world and the number of utensils for royalty (which I don’t even know how to use properly). We helped each other get as clean as possible before walking in and eating incredible steak, potatoes, and spinach. After, we got to dance to everything from Guns N Roses to 1Kilo to Bruno Mars. It was a really great night.

The following day, we were all pretty exhausted. We slept pretty late then ate a quick brunch at home before Valeria dropped us to the airport.

While we didn’t get to do too much of the touristy stuff, I think our trip meant so much more. It was a great experience and I’m really glad I got to know São Paulo!!

Thank you so much to my host family for arranging this trip, to Junia and her family for inviting us, and to Valeria for hosting us. Your actions make a world of difference to us!!

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On the plane back from São Paulo