The Last Month & Coming Home

I disappeared for a while, but I’m back now! For the final time. What a weird sensation.

The last month of my exchange was filled with lots of “last times.” And lots of denial.

District Conference

From May 17-20, we had our district conference. For non-Rotarians, this is when all Rotarians (members of Rotary) within our district (usually a few cities conjoined) get together and discuss upcoming goals, ideas, and share successes from the past year. It’s a huge event that attracts hundreds of Rotarians. For us, it was our turn to “give back” to the Rotarians who have received and guided us for the last year. Italian exchange student Camilla delivered a speech to the Rotarians and all the exchange students sung Brazilian hit “Dona Maria.” It was also the last time all of the exchange students would be together, since some of us live in different cities.

The weekend was packed, filled with trips to a (fake) Christ the Redeemer Statue, learning “passinhos” (a Brazilian dance to funk music), and serious ridiculousness. The last night there was a big party for the exchange students where we all danced the night away. It was a really great memory I’ll hold close to my heart (especially the collective disgust of when our party got crashed by a bunch of 30 year olds). After the dance, we gathered in a hotel room to sign flags and write letters to each other. There was a lot of crying and heartfelt words exchanged.

As I mentioned before, denial was definitely there. Camilla and I were the only two exchange students who didn’t cry. We couldn’t actually process that we were leaving. We laughed at what ugly criers our fellow exchange students are instead.


There were a lot of things I took for granted during my year that I had to slowly say goodbye to (although, again, I was in denial that I was ACTUALLY leaving.)

These things range from everything, to acai dates to museum visits, from the Sunday market to overlooks and soccer games and my favorite restaurants. I spent the last few weeks buying local delicacies and enjoying every moment possible with my friends.

At my internship, my coworkers planned a goodbye party for me. At this time, there was a lot of chaos in my life, trying to get things arranged so I could leave on time and say goodbye to everyone. I was so stressed that I didn’t see this coming at all. So much that when they all appeared with their “surprises,” I literally cried. I am so grateful to have worked with such wonderful people.


My coworkers

In an English class at the beginning of my exchange, the teacher taught of a Brazilian author/poet named Carlos Drummond de Andrade. I remember not understanding much, but I remember something about him struck me. I took notes on him, intended to further research, but got sidetracked by how interesting Brazil’s history is (cough, Getulio Vargas, you wild man, you). My friend took me to Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s memorial and I got to hear his story and read some of his works. There was one line that particularly awed me – “I have merely two hands and the feeling of the world.” From there, I bought a collection of poetry and fell in love. I guess up until my final days, there were plenty of “firsts” as well.

The Hardest Goodbye

I have to say, one of the hardest moments of my life was saying goodbye to my now best friend Brooklyn. I met Brooklyn in December because we were two exchange students within the same host family. At first, we sat there in silence and I thought she hated me, but as time passed, we sat there in silence and I knew she liked me. After I met her, I spent practically every day of my exchange with her. Although she certainly pissed me off sometimes (and I know I did the same to her), we became family. Sisters. I have never known someone so intimately in my life. I can tell you her habits, what she’s probably going to wear, what drink she takes, how much she hates speaking in front of crowds, a million things I probably don’t know that I know. She’s the most caring person, someone who brings you medicine and face masks and coke when you’re sick. She’s the most loyal person, the most hilarious person, the most kind person, one of the best people I’ve ever met. I didn’t know it at the time, but all the popcorn and movie dates, the unnecessary shopping we did, all the parties we went to together were some of the best moments of my life.

Brooklyn was scheduled to leave exactly one week before me but she missed her flight, which led to a bunch of chaos and about six exchange students and three Brazilians sitting on the floor of an airport, trying to figure out how to get this (crying, emotional) girl back to Canada. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I was kind of glad she missed her flight because it meant I got one more day with my best friend. (Although that last day turned out to be full of evil and everything bad in the world). Brooklyn, I love you forever. Thank you for being my best friend and making my exchange so wonderful.

Back to Reality

There were a lot of exchange students who were really excited to go home – they loved their year, but they missed their life at home. I was not one of those people. I could’ve continued living my Brazilian life forever. My grasp on the language was good – I understood everything, my responses were getting better. I loved the food. I loved the way of life. I had friends, I was really happy.

Exactly two weeks ago, I returned to the United States. It has been the weirdest two weeks of my life. Everything feels like a dream – I can’t believe I’m actually with my family, I’m in my own bed, I’m back in this city that I was in before. Part of me thinks I’ll be back in a couple of days, I’m just on a little vacation before returning to my “real” life in Brazil. Part of me is still in denial.


How I feel about my status as an ex-gringa

The other part of me knows this is real, it’s time to get serious and adapt back to American life. This has not been as easy as it sounds. The other day, I went to order a sandwich and instead of asking for lettuce and onion, I asked for “alface e cebola, por favor.” Instead of saying thank you to my leader at college orientation, I said “obrigada.” Today, when I was telling my brother where to turn, I said “aqui” instead of “here.” Sometimes, I start to think in Portuguese and I forget to switch back to English!

Interactions have definitely been the hardest part. Every sentence that leaves my mouth starts or ends with “In Brazil” and I know people must be so sick of hearing it! I can’t help it and I’m sorry, I want it to pass just as much as you do. It’s also been hard to get used to American cold-ness. I’m so used to hugs and kisses with each greeting. It took everything in me not to walk up to my advisor, who I’ve never met before, and give her a huge hug.

I’m sure that with time, it will get easier.

In about a month, I’ll be starting university at the University of Lynchburg (a small college in Virginia, about three hours away from Washington DC). I’ll be double majoring in Spanish and International Relations and minoring in Political Science. While I’m having severe Brazil withdrawals, I’m excited to enter this new chapter of my life, and get back to South America as soon as possible!

A lot of people (mostly Brazilians) don’t understand why I would ever go to Brazil for a year. Brazil is an incredible place and while it certainly has its issues, I think it has a lot of its values right. The US could stand to learn a lot.

Thank you all for following this journey. It’s been a blast documenting it!


The most beautiful city


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

My Third Host Family

About a month ago, I moved in with my third and final host family.

Meet the Assis family:

First, there’s Euler, my father. He is an “engineer” who spends most of his time traveling for work, much like my father in the United States. Well, truth be told, he’s not exactly an “engineer” but that’s the title that they gave me. He works on buildings for businesses like grocery stores. He showed me his most recent project the other day: a grocery store and its parking lot in another city. That project already ended, but he’s already onto the next. When he’s not working, he enjoys a good glass of wine and watching soccer games of one of the local teams, Galo.

Next, there’s my mother, Cristina. She is one of the most hilarious, most kind people I’ve ever met. In the past, she worked for an international business that partially dealt with exchange. A few years ago, she realized she wanted to become a lawyer, so she is now a full time student in her fifth semester of law. In addition to studying, she takes my brothers to and from school, soccer practices, tennis practices, and any other activities they participate in. When she gets time, she likes to go to the family’s sitio and ride her horses. She also is the “mother” of two of the other girls who live in our building. She frequently takes us down the street to get acai or eat espentinhos (meat on sticks). Sometimes, if we’re lucky, she does our make up. She is an incredible cook and I eagerly await the dishes she makes for dinner each night. She is a wonderful person, and I’m so happy I get to spend the last couple months of my exchange with her as my mother.


Me and my third mae!

I also have two brothers: Rafael, 16, and Gustavo, 8.

Rafael is one of the best kids I have ever met. He has great manners and is very kind. He offers me acai every time he orders it and has even made me a hamburger! He goes to school in the mornings and goes immediately to soccer practice, so he doesn’t get home until pretty late most nights, about 9 or 10. I don’t see him too much, but every time I do, he greets me with a smile. We’ve mostly bonded over music because we like the same bands and singers.

Gustavo, or “Gu,” was my roommate the first few days I moved into the house. There was some confusion about whether it would be me, an American, who would go into their house or whether it would be a girl from Thailand. Gu was confused at first, and spend the first couple of days asking me about Thai cuisine and telling me I was “lying” every time I tried to explain I’m actually an American, that his mom had told him a girl from Thailand would move in BUT the plan changed. He has now accepted my origins and remains one of the cutest children I’ve ever met. He loves soccer and plays every day. He also takes guitar lessons on Mondays and goes to tennis lessons twice a week. He’s started collecting trading cards for the World Cup and spends his time after lunch organizing them.


With my mae and my brothers, Rafael (right) and Gu (middle).

Honestly, having two younger brothers is really fun. I have a younger brother in the US, but he’s only about a year younger than me, so there’s not much difference between how we act. These brothers are younger, so to see how they behave, what they like to do, how their life is, it’s fun.


I can’t even tell you what they were doing. The younger one willingly put his head there.

In addition to my “family,” we have a maid who feels like a big part of this house. Her name is Eliana, and she works almost the entire day Monday-Friday cleaning the house, doing laundry, and cooking. Her food is so good. I can’t wait to eat lunch every day because of it. She’s also hilarious and I adore talking to her about anything, from friends to politics to her life. She has taught me how to make popcorn on the stove since it’s my favorite snack and we don’t have a microwave.

I think my favorite thing about my third family is there is no English, just Portuguese, which is really satisfying. My Portuguese has finally reached a point where I understand almost everything without the need for repetition and I can usually respond without problems, which is exciting!

I love this family and I look forward to the remaining two months with them. (Two months, can you believe that?)

Rita Rico and the Path to Diplomacy

My junior year of high school, my roommate asked me to be her partner on a Model United Nations trip. We were assigned the country of Egypt in the Women’s Rights Council.

My first thought: how could we, teenage kids, propose logical solutions to issues like refugees and war when generations before have failed and continue to fail?

My roommate: “Hannah, relax. It’s MODEL United Nations. It’s a game. Now get to work.”

At first, I was weary. Looking at the documents, the formal “motion to set the speakers’ time” and “point of inquiry” freaked me out. What does that even mean? Then, the research. Don’t get me started. The history of your country and how they stand on complex issues, prior legislation, how they’ve voted in past UN councils. A lot of content to memorize in a few days.

I walked in with sweaty hands and about 150 pieces of paper, hoping they would prove helpful over the next few sessions.

Once I got the hang of things, I loved it. We wrote resolution papers with solutions that could be applied to the real world. THIS is what I wanted to do with my life. And thus began my journey to become a diplomat.

I value diplomacy because I believe it’s the path to creating a more peaceful, better functioning world. I strongly believe that with an open mind and dialogue, a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached. I look up to diplomats and the sacrifice they make as they strive to make changes across the world.

A few weeks ago, an American diplomat moved into the apartment building where I was living. It was fate. The first time I met her, I was so shocked, I just kind of stood there like a smiling idiot.

I decided to reach out and express my interest in following her path. I asked if she would sit down with me and talk with me about what she does, how her life works, and which steps she took to get to where she is now. Kindly, she replied and invited me to come into her office yesterday to talk.

Her name is Rita Rico and she is AWESOME. After graduating with a Ph.D. in Political Theory and working as an advisor in the Senate, she started her career with the State Department. She worked as a deputy cultural attaché in Santiago, Chile; a consular officer in Nairobi, Kenya; a political officer in Caracas, Venezuela; and she is now serving as the American Presence Officer and Public Affairs Officer in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.


Rita Rico, American Presence Officer and Public Affairs Officer in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Our discussion was invigorating. First of all, she just got back from a trip with the US Ambassador to Brazil throughout the state of Minas Gerais. How awesome is that???

She went through and described what it’s like working as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department. She described the tedious application process (which takes about a year to complete and is composed of a written test, an essay, and an oral exam). She described the various positions offered and what exactly her position is. I got to ask about how policy works (especially with the recent departure of the Secretary of State) and how it affects diplomats all over the world. I got to ask about language learning and comprehension.

In my opinion, her most interesting job was in Venezuela. As a political officer, she essentially spent her years there doing research on the Venezuela political system: talking to presidents of parties, learning about interest groups, learning about hot topics. She would report her findings back to Washington. I would LOVE to do something like this.


Rita’s card and a water bottle she gave me.

To me, the most exhilarating part is that the job is never the same. First of all, you move every 2-4 years, so you’re never in one place for very long. You are constantly faced with new objectives and people and “missions” to tackle. Every position you take as a diplomat will be learning on the job and using your own judgment to further US foreign policy. There is a lot of power in that. Everything Rita does is a big deal: building relationships with Brazilians, encouraging travel to the US, promoting US culture, promoting economic interests, so many things for one person to be in charge of. It’s crazy. Everything she does affects the relationship between Brazil and the US.

We talked a bit about the upcoming election in Brazil, and she mentioned that the diplomats all have the opportunity to meet with the candidates and ask any questions they might have. I think that’s incredible and I am so jealous.

This weekend, I will go with Rita to a college fair for American Universities in Brazil. She also put me in contact with a man who helps Brazilian students prepare their resumes and applications for American universities. She said it would be nice if I could talk about my college application process, what I looked for in schools, and how college works there.

After meeting with her, I’m much more certain in the path I want to take moving forward. I’m nervous, because it is such a competitive field, but I’m eager to continue striving for this huge dream I have. I know it will take a lot of work and dedication, but the journey has already begun. I strongly believe the education I have already received, the people I’ve already met, the experiences I’ve already had have more than prepared me for the insane journey that lays ahead of me.

Sitting in her office, I could picture myself in Rita’s shoes. That is who I will be in 15 years. Mark my words.

Treatment of Women in Brazil

This post strays a little from my normal story-like posts and life updates, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last seven months.

This is definitely going to be a more controversial post due to the more taboo nature of this topic, as well as perception of concepts like feminism in Brazil. This is purely my opinion and I mean no offense. If you feel differently, I’m open to discussion.

I also think it’s important to mention that I live in one of the biggest cities in Brazil so that drastically changes how these topics are approached.

That being said, here we go:

Treatment of Women Under Law:

Much like the United States, women appear to be treated the same. Around the same time women in the US gained the right to vote, so did women in Brazil. In the 1930s, women were granted equal opportunity to hold government office and earn equal pay for equal work. The 1988 constitution declared women and men as equal. Brazil has had a female president (although she was impeached, many think unjustly).

Of course, a female president for Brazil is like a black president for the US: just because a minority holds the highest political office doesn’t mean minorities aren’t still wrongly treated. It doesn’t mean true equality exists. (I know women aren’t necessarily minorities, but I can’t think of the right word to substitute it.)


Dilma Rousseff, former President of Brazil (taken from Wikipedia page)

One of the major controversies in Brazil is abortion. Personally, I support women’s choice in the case of abortion for a certain period of the pregnancy. Of course, in Brazil, a primarily Catholic country, this is VERY controversial. It is perceived as taking a life and is illegal under law (except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened). I have really only discussed this with a handful of people, but each time I have been strongly, strongly opposed. With presidential elections coming this year for Brazil, I’m sure this is going to be a topic of discussion.

One of the candidates (Bolsonaro) has been compared to Donald Trump for his treatment of women. He’s been called sexist many, many times. He’s made comments towards female colleagues that he would not have made towards men. I’m not going to get into this too much, because that’s a whole other post I would have to write, but that leads me to the next point.

Treatment of Women by Men:

Let me start by saying this is not me saying all men are the spawn of Satan and pure evil. It’s quite the opposite. I think you can be a good person but unintentionally treat women poorly. This is just a reminder to think before you act.

This is something I frequently finding myself laughing at (although it’s not much of a laughing matter, but sometimes it can be quite funny). Let me start by telling a few stories.

  • Once, Brooklyn and I were walking from her house to the mall. A car of FOUR GROWN MEN shouted out to us “ahhhh beautiful, marvelous, give me a kiss.” We ignored them and continued walking. They continued driving. They TURNED AROUND to continue shouting things at us. We continued walking. They continued driving. They TURNED AROUND AGAIN and continued shouting at us. When we paid them no attention for a third time, we were called whores and they continued on their way.
  • As a foreigner who looks like a foreigner, more attention is always drawn to me. Walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant, shopping in the mall, wherever I go, there are eyes on me. One of the strangest things that happens repeatedly is how men of all ages (disgusting) approach me. “America, I love you” “Oh America, America, come here” “Americaaaaa” followed by kissing noises. Usually, I laugh at this, purely because who taught you to flirt like this? Brazilian men, how would you like it if I walked up to you and went BRAZILLLLLLLL (kissing noises). It’s pathetic. Second of all, I should be able to go about my life in peace. A single compliment is fine, but if you perceive you’re making someone uncomfortable or they’re CLEARLY not interested, walk away. Move on. Do better.
  • Once, I went to a party with my friends. Some boys, some girls. We were dancing. A man grabbed me and proceeded to talk to me. “You’re beautiful, wonderful, great eyes, great smile, perfect. Give me a kiss.” “No thanks, I don’t want to” “Why?” Let’s take a pause here: “no” should be more than enough. “I have a boyfriend” “Is he here?” “No” “Then it’s fine.” No, that’s not how it works. Luckily, my boy friends rock, and they let me present them as my boyfriend to get boys away. Brazilian boys, once again, do better.

Something that really pisses (most) Brazilian boys off is when women say they’re a feminist. Here, feminism is perceived as an “anti-boy” organization where women shave their heads, make ridiculous claims, and conspire about how to make boys’ lives miserable. I think this is hilarious because something that’s about improving the quality of life for women automatically becomes about men. Anyway, let me continue.


“Brazilian women before and after feminism” is a joke I’ve heard at least four different times. It’s really ridiculous that instead of trying to UNDERSTAND feminism, women are criticized based on their physical appearance.

As I mentioned in the “Treatment of Women Under Law” section, legally, women have achieved a lot. As far as I perceived, women have pretty good opportunities. There’s a lot of women in STEM fields. The girls in my classes felt comfortable speaking and arguing with their male classmates in the appropriate setting. I definitely think women here are raised to be more opinionated and feel more comfortable actually expressing their opinion. I’m lucky in the aspect that I went to an all-girls’ high school where I learned that I don’t really care how boys perceive me and I will speak and be heard when I need to. I think most girls here already have that part down. (This is a part where it’s important to acknowledge I’m in a big city. I’m sure in small towns in the North-east this is very different).

From what I can see, Brazilian feminism is primarily about changing male perception of women. It’s about making it so the three bullet points above happen to very few women, which unfortunately isn’t the case. Many women share similar experiences to me, if not worse ones.

Treatment of Women in Pop Culture:

Here, there’s a genre of music that is very, very popular. It’s called Funk. It’s mostly common among young people and played at parties, clubs, during Carnaval, in restaurants, on the radio, just about everywhere. In my opinion, it is MUCH more explicit than music played on American radio. (I could be wrong, I don’t really listen to the radio in the US).


MC Don Juan’s picture for music video of “Amar, Amei.”

Less subtle than the lyrics themselves, you can see the difference between expectations for men and women in the way they dance to the music. Men do essentially a line dance and just walk back and forth over and over again. Occasionally, they grab their crotch. It’s funny to watch. Women are expected to violently shake their butts for hours on end. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, just an observation that highlights the differences.

Back to the music itself: the majority of the lyrics are about women’s bodies (particularly the butt, “bum bum”), sex, drinking, all that stuff that parents hate.

I’m not going to lie: I listen to the music. I like some of it. I think some of the lyrics are so absurd that it’s hilarious and I listen to it in an almost ironic way. It’s also impossible to avoid it, seeing as it’s played EVERYWHERE and part of the Brazilian culture.

As a woman listening to it, sometimes I’m disgusted. One of the most popular songs right now has the following lyrics: “meu deus, me fala quem colocou essa coisa no mundo” (My god, tell me who put this THING in the world). The rest of the song discusses, basically, shaking your butt about fifty different ways. The meaning of this is obvious: women are literally perceived as objects by these singers and valued for their body.

Other songs discuss break ups, ways to hurt your ex, how good it is to be single, and most of all: shaking your butt.

In some ways, this is empowering. It’s a way for women to really own their bodies. To move their bodies as they like. Although they are significantly fewer and less popular, there are female funk singers who sing songs as well. Some are about boys, with the same sexual tone. Others are just silly songs, talking about dancing and all of that stuff.

Some women, who find these songs extremely offensive, retaliate by making “responses” to same beat. These are a popular sensation on youtube, racking up thousands of views.

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A woman responding to a popular funk song, essentially saying she wants respect and that the original song is perpetuating harmful messages towards women

Of course, this is just music, but I think it has major implications for women in society. When men truly become brainwashed by this music, that’s when the problems set in. Plenty of people listen to this without taking the lyrics seriously. After all, the beats are catchy.


I think feminism in Brazil is easily dismissed as an invalid, unnecessary moment. While progress has been made, there’s definitely room for growth.

As someone living under a President who uses sexist rhetoric: Brazilians, be careful with your choice for President this year. It is quite embarrassing to go abroad and be expected to explain the ignorant, senseless things your president says. A president is not some stupid artist you can turn off when you like. A president severely impacts society. S/he should be the model citizen. Don’t choose someone that perpetuates sexist rhetoric, sexist mentalities, sexist ideas.

We should always be moving foward. We should be moving towards a more equal society, towards a society that focuses on economic policies and foreign policies and solutions to poverty and world hunger.

We shouldn’t be a society forced to waste time interpreting, explaining, and condemning sexist rhetoric and actions.


I remember sitting in my AP Spanish class last year learning about Carnaval. I remember Señora Bencini turning to me as we watched Carnaval videos from all over South America and saying, “Next year, that’ll be you!” At that point, I didn’t even know my city in Brazil yet. Carnaval seemed so foreign and unreal, so culturally different, so FUN, but it didn’t quite seem like I’d ACTUALLY be there, so it faded to the back of my mind. Until I arrived in Brazil.


My Spanish III Honors class my junior year. (We don’t have a picture of AP Spanish and this was the best class ever.) ((I also don’t regret my shoe choice at all))

For those of you who don’t know, Carnaval is a period of celebration and indulgence before religious folks enter the period of lent, where they give up something for 40 days. It usually involves a parade, costumes, GLITTER, music, friends, and when you’re not a Rotary exchange student, drinking. In Carnaval, people take their costumes pretty seriously. There were more people dressed up for Carnaval than there were on Halloween.

I was told on numerous occasions all of the fun and joy Carnaval is. But to be honest, I didn’t really believe it. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys TONS of people, so the idea of being in a street with thousands and thousands of people and loud music didn’t really appeal to me. Talk of the overwhelming smell of pee didn’t help much. In fact, the first full day of Carnaval, I went home early because I wasn’t REALLY enjoying it.


The dream team. I had so much fun dancing (and searching for shade, bathrooms, FOOD…) with you all!!)

The second full day I understood what all of the fuss is about.

Exchange students from other cities and districts traveled to Belo Horizonte to spend Carnaval. In total, there were a lot of us. Too many to count. We took to the streets with a few Rotary officials and the thousands of other Brazilians looking to spend Carnaval the right way.


This isn’t all of the exchange students, but this is some of us with the kind Rotary volunteers who kept us safe, fed, and hydrated!! Here we have people from Poland, France, Mexico, US, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden… all over!

It. Was. A. Blast.

Basically, how Carnaval works: schools are closed and so are some businesses. Each day, there’s tons of “blocos” with parades and music buses or even just DJs. Online each of the blocos are listed with the type of bloco/theme, the time, and the location. Some of them have really funny names like “fui pobre mas nem lembro” (I was poor but I don’t even remember) and “funk you” (funk is a popular type of music here. I’m sure you get the insinuation). Others are more simple or straightforward, like “Então, Brilha” (then, shine) and “Garotas Solteiras” (single ladies). While there are a million options, I don’t think you could make a wrong choice. As long as you’re with the right people, everywhere you go is fun.

Carnaval this year was from February 9 to February 13/14, so I had plenty of time to experience different things. I went to more traditional blocks, with actual parades, drums, and singers. I went to electronic blocks (where my friends and I danced like never before). I went to funk blocks and samba blocks and classic Brazilian music blocks. Each day we woke up around 9/10 (which is actually late for Carnaval. Some of the blocks started at 5 or 6 am). We’d get ready, eat something, and then head out to the streets until 8 or 9 (again, this is really early. Most people stay out until AT LEAST 1 or 2 am, but it gets dangerous and I got tired after walking around all day in the hot Brazilian sun).

My favorite part of Carnaval was (of course) talking to Brazilians!! Brazilians are very friendly, very open people, so when a bunch of gringas walk through the crowd, usually a few people approach us and talk to us. They were really funny and really nice. We actually exchanged contact information with a few of them and we’re planning to hang out in the next couple of weeks.


Some of the Brazilians we talked to. We were with them for about an hour talking about our countries, Brazil, music, and Carnaval!

While I had the best time of my life, I also saw a different side of Brazilian culture that made me really sad. First of all, there’s a really high level of disrespect for the city itself. It’s been a few days since Carnaval ended, and the streets were covered with trash: food containers and beer cans and water bottles flooded the streets. The streets also smelled like pee. Very strong pee. I watched shop owners have to scrub the sidewalk outside of their shop to try to wash the stench away. I also saw blunt theft: one of the exchange students got his phone stolen, which is not at all uncommon during Carnaval. I saw people stealing drinks from venders and running away. I saw fights break out over petty stuff, like bumping into one another, which is inevitable in a street with so many people. I also (for the first time) felt really uncomfortable walking home alone. Most of what I saw is a part of life wherever you go, but it was (mostly) the first time I’ve seen this side of Brazil.

Despite this, Carnaval overall was one of the best weeks of my exchange. I’ve very grateful to be living in such a huge city with such abundant activities! Carnaval, I hope I see you again, but until then, estarei com saudades (I will miss you).


Bom Carnaval pra todos!!!

The end of Carnaval marks the official end of summer and beginning of the school year. I still don’t know where I’ll be going to school this semester but I should find out within the next week.


In December, I stood up at a Rotary meeting and said (in Portuguese): “Hi, my name is Hannah. I’m from Florida. I arrived to Brazil in August, so I’ve been here about two months…”

It was only after I sat down and replayed everything in my head (looking for flaws in my Portuguese to beat myself up over) that I realized my Portuguese was okay – my math was a bit off. I’d just repeated what I’d been telling every uber driver, every salesperson, every random Brazilian who asked how long I’d been here. I’d already been in Brazil for four whole months.

February 8th makes six months in Brazil. It is shocking to say that.

Tonight, Julia (exchange student from Minnesota) and I went to see Call Me By Your Name. In the movie, an American goes to Italy for the summer to work on a research project. He stays with a family. Becomes apart of the family. Makes friends. Even falls in love. By the end of the movie, I was a sobbing baby. I was triggered.

I truly identified with this movie. I’ve fallen so deeply in love with Brazil and my life here that sometimes I forget I have to pick up in five months and go back to my “real world.” I have to go to college and work hard and pursue my dream: impacting US foreign policy and working in the State Department (or the UN. We’re still a little undecided). I have to leave behind this life I’ve built, my family, my friends, for who knows how long. Even if I see them again, it will never be the same as it is now.

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Sarah, one of my Brazilian friends. She went on exchange to California, but not through Rotary. I feel like everyone in Brazil has some connection to exchange!!

This was a really sobering reminder for me to live my exchange to the fullest. Take advantage of every day, every invitation, every opportunity.

On January 11, most exchange students left Belo Horizonte to go on the Dream Trip: a one month long journey around the Northeast of Brazil.

“But Hannah- Why didn’t you go?????”

One word, honey: MONEY.

Instead, I’ve stayed in Belo with a bunch of Brazilians (and Julia)! At first, I was really upset. I thought I’d be bored and alone, but it’s actually been some of the best few weeks of my exchange. Every day a Brazilian invites me to get food or see a movie or watch a soccer game or go to a party. It has been so much fun hanging out with mostly Brazilians, I can’t even begin to explain.


My cousin Matheus and I after a Cruzeiro game, where they won 2-0. (This was after the game. During the game, the stadium was PACKED)

I’ve learned how to play pool. I’ve been getting ready for Carnaval (aka searching for bizarre costumes). I went to my first soccer game in Brazil (which was amazing) and have set the goal to watch every Cruzeiro game until I go home. I’ve been singing the lyrics to Brazilian songs in the back seat of an uber with a friend of a friend I met ten minutes ago. On days I have nothing to do, I go to the “country club” that my parents are members of located two streets over from my house and read books, tan, and swim.


The view from the top of the “country club,” called Minas Tênis Clube. It’s pretty insane. There’s a bunch of pools, a water slide, restaurants, gyms, sports teams to join, so much more. I’m so lucky my family offered to get me a card!! (Taken from

Honestly, it’s been so much fun.

I’ve said it a million times, but I’ll say it again: Brazilians know how to live life. Tonight, as I was walking home in a melancholic state after this movie ripped my heart out and stomped all over it, a party bus drove by. There were people of all ages (literally about 5-50) dancing to funk music. One of the dancers jumped off the party bus, started dancing with me, and we blew kisses to the bus as the crowd went wild. And then the dancer went away, and bus moved along, and the music faded into the distance.

The importance of work has been instilled so far into my head that I don’t think I ever knew anything different. Work hard. Work a lot, or else you’ll fall behind. Throughout high school, I spent most of my time doing homework or working ahead. It paid off. I graduated with straight A’s (well, almost. Thanks Algebra II!!!). But I think I would’ve had so many more friends and great experiences had I allowed myself to expand my horizons, enjoy life a little, and develop an actual social life.

Brazilians work hard, but they play hard too. They embody the “live every moment like it’s your last” philosophy.

Once, my father told me the story of someone he knew. He said that the man worked his entire life. He was a lawyer, a good lawyer, who worked constantly to make as much money as he could for retirement. When the man was on the brink of retirement, he got cancer and died. He worked his whole life and never got to reap the benefits of it. He never got to relish in the money he made or sit back and enjoy his family, good food, good music, pretty landscapes, everything that the world has to offer. I imagine he spent most of his time at the office, reading over case files. I wonder if he sat on his deathbed with a head full of regrets.

As I start to piece my life together, I hope to adopt this Brazilian mentality and carry it with me. I hope if you’re reading this, you do too. I hope whether we die in a week or in eighty years, we die knowing we lived our life to the fullest.

(This post was much more cliché and depressing than I intended. Sorry!!)

New Year, New Host Family

One of the things that makes Rotary Youth Exchange unique is the fact that students move host families. Usually a student has three families, but in some cases it can be as many as seven or as few as just one. It purely depends on the person, the country, and just the general circumstances.

For me, like many of my friends on exchange, I moved the first or second week of December to my lovely second host family.


At a Rotary Christmas Party. (From left to right): Karen (Japan), me, my host grandpa’s “mulher,” my host grandpa, Brooklyn (Canada), and my host mom Andrea.

My new family is composed of my mom Andrea, my dad Elton, my sister Luana, my brother Lucca, and my dog Pongo.

Andrea, like my first host mom, owns and runs a women’s clothing store for party dresses. She is always well dressed (like most Brazilians) and works on the next street over from where we live.

Elton is a lawyer. He’s from the very south of Brazil but moved to Belo Horizonte some years ago to be with my host mom. He’s the typical “Gaucho” and supports a soccer team from his home state, Grêmio. It’s apparent he’s from the south just in his likes and dislikes. I’ve really enjoyed becoming familiar with this a little bit because I really wanted to do my exchange in south Brazil (although now I can’t imagine my exchange in any place other than Belo Horizonte).

My sister Luana is 14, but you wouldn’t know it if you saw her. She’s pretty mature and has a really good sense of style. She has friends over a lot and they always greet me in English, like a lot of Brazilians, which I always find a little funny.

My host brother Lucca is my age and on exchange in Taiwan. We’ve met only through one Facetime call, but I feel like I know quite a bit about him because of his mom.

My second host family is really, really different from my first. It’s much larger. My first weekend here, they had a party with the entire family. I was shocked by the number of people who came! Aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and partners. There were at least one hundred people who showed up at the party. I can’t even imagine having a family so big (although I guess I do now!).


This isn’t even the entire family because some of them had already left. Look to the right and you’ll see Brooklyn, Andy, and I, who made the family photo.

It’s really nice having such a huge family. It makes it easier to meet people. I’ve become friends with some of the cousins who are my age. They’ve taken me all around: hiking and movies and malls. It was perfect timing to meet more people because we’re on férias (summer break) until February or March, which means we have a lot of free time.

One of the best things about my second host family is that there’s other exchange students in it! There’s Brooklyn (from Canada) and Andy (from Taiwan), who have quickly become my family as well. Brooklyn lived with my current host family before I did. When I moved in, she moved to another relative’s house but we hang out basically every day and she stays over a lot. Brooklyn’s current family hosted Andy before her. Through our family ties, the three of us are “related,” and it couldn’t be better to be together all the time (especially for the holidays).

In addition to the other current exchange students, a lot of the family members went on exchange themselves. One of my cousins went on exchange to New Zealand and another to Poland. Exchange is really important to this family and having people who understand what it’s like to be away from your family and lifelong friends on Christmas made a huge difference.

Christmas here is really different than how I’ve celebrated it my whole life. On Christmas Eve around 9 pm, my host family went to another relative’s house, where the adults talked over glasses of wine and the kids played video games until about 11. At this time, the entire family got together and casually began to exchange gifts. The exchanging of gifts lasted until about 12 or 12:30, and then after some of the adults danced until dinner was served at 1 am. Yeah, that’s right. 1 am. After dinner was over, Brooklyn and I went out with our cousins to a party, where we hung out until the sun came up. The 25th was mostly spent sleeping. Honestly, despite all the presents and everything, it didn’t feel much like Christmas, but it was still really nice.


Brooklyn and I with our host mom on Christmas

One of the best parts of moving families is the location of my new house. (Well, apartment. I live on the 23rd floor!) Before I was living in a neighborhood called Buritis, which was beautiful but kind of far from everything. By bus, it took 45 minutes to an hour and a half (depending on traffic and if the bus was on time) to get to Savassi, which is near the center of the city and where all of the exchange students hang out. For this reason, I didn’t go out that much. I now live in a neighborhood called Lourdes, which is within walking distance from EVERYTHING. I walk maybe 10 minutes to get to the main mall and stores where everyone hangs out. Because of this, I get to go out almost every day.

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Buritis (Bottom left) is where I was previously living. Now, I’m living very close to Funcionarios (towards the top right) in a neighborhood called Lourdes.

At first, moving families was really difficult for me because my first host family became family. My mom was really my mom, my brother was really my brother, my dad was really my dad. But I’m glad Rotary forces us to move families because my life with this family is completely different than my life with my first host family, and I’m sure my third host family (whoever they are) will be equally as different. I’m glad I get this change of perspective because it just drives the point home: the life of every person, of every family is very, very different. I don’t think I ever thought about this that much before.

Each day I come to enjoy this experience even more.

Happy New Year, every one.


I spent New Years first with my host family at Minas Tenis Clube and then we went to my cousin’s house. In addition to just Brooklyn, Andy, and I, two Australian girls joined us. Eva (pictured above) and Brooke.