So much to experience... in only a year!

I have been in Brazil just over a month now, and I’m already having the time of my life!
This experience has proved to be much more than just a year away from Canada. In what
seems like the short time that I have
been here, I’ve learned a lot about the culture of Brazil,
and myself. I learned to be not only
more outgoing, but also independent. Dealing with
situations in another language is benefi
cial on multiple levels.

So far I am loving the culture of Brazil. The people here are so friendly and warm so it’s really
easy to fit in.
The weekdays are very relaxed, but there is always something to do on the weekends.
After getting off an
11-hour plane ride from Toronto, I received a warm welcome from my host
family. Since
 then I have had the pleasure of eating many delicious foods, meeting amazing people,
seeing things I wouldn’t have dreamed of. Here, I live in the “small” city of Marilia, home to
almost 300,000 people! The temperature here is usually around 25-30°C, and right now it’s winter!

As soon as I arrived, I noticed a lot of differences between here and St. Marys — good and bad.
Unfortunately, as with most of Brazil,
many of the houses are gated and have high security — due
to violence. Also, Brazilian
traffic is a lot more crazy than Canada’s, generally speaking. However,
there is a
lot more to do here. For example, there are three universities, three colleges, an airport,
and much more. Aside from me, there are also eight other Rotary Exchange students here, which
definitely makes life better. I am really
close with all of them, and it’s really interesting talking
to people from all around the
world (literally).

So far, school has been... well, school. I am at a private school that has around 2,000 students, from
Kindergarten to Grade 11. On
most days it starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. While waking up at
6:30 has been hard for
me, the bigger challenge has been trying to pay attention during classes.
My Portuguese
is not yet at a level where I can understand the topics teachers talk about.
However, I have
met a lot of my Brazilian friends here and there is an English class. Once my
P​ortuguese improves, I will teach
English to some of the younger people at my school, and talk
to them about Canada. Over
a month into my exchange, I have noticed a lot of improvement in
my understanding and
speaking of the language. I guess it’s because I am constantly listening
to it and practicing. I
am currently taking lessons twice a week, for two hours each time,
which also helps.

Since I arrived, my cycle of emotions have changed drastically. My first week here, I was
extremely tired and never hungry. This meant that I couldn’t experience a lot of fun things
in full effect. During that time, I went to a huge soccer stadium — home to one of the
most famous teams in Brazil. I also met some Brazilian Silver Medalists from the Pan Am
Games in Toronto, and tried many traditional Brazilian foods (rice and beans). The next
two weeks I was really busy trying to take in the cultural differences, and immerse myself.
At that time it still felt as if I was on a vacation. Since then, I have made myself at home,
and really tried to leave my mark on Brazil— by learning the language and being myself.
I am the only exchange student in my Rotary Club here (Marilia de Dirceu). So far, I´ve
been to two meetings, and they are organized very similar to meetings in Canada. I was
in a fundraiser where I helped prepare and serve French fries and, afterwards,
I made
it in the newspaper.

My district here offers four trips; Amazon/Northeast/Brasilia (the big trip), Rio de Janeiro,
Peru, and Foz do Iguaçu. I am looking forward to going on at least two of them, but
it will be hard to choose as they all seem really interesting! To be honest, I am looking
forward to everything here!

I finally settled down and am ready for whatever is next. Even though I’ve only been
on this journey for a month, I would recommend this program to anyone in a heartbeat!
Why wouldn’t you want to live abroad for a year, meet new people, and learn not only
more about the world, but also yourself? If you have any doubts about entering the
program, or want to see some pictures of my journey so far, I have Facebook.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who is supporting me on this amazing adventure
(most notably:
my friends, family, and the Rotary Club of St. Marys). I am blessed
to have this opportunity
of a lifetime!

Brett Dill


All the Rotary Youth Exchange students being hosted in Rotary International’s District

4510 in Brazil, including Brett Dill of St. Marys, at a conference held in late August.