Exploring a new culture, learning a language, meeting new people - this is just a taste of what you will experience as an exchange student. After spending a year away in Brazil I learned so many things, not only about the world, but also about myself. The time I spent abroad had so many benefits, and what started out as just an idea, turned out to be the best year of my life.

As you would expect, I was both excited and nervous when I walked on the airplane that would take me away from everything I was familiar with, everybody that I knew for so long. After a long flight, the fun began about 10 minutes after stepping off the airplane and setting foot in Brazil. Walking down to the area where I would first see the people that would look after me for the next few months was a crazy moment for me. But, sure enough, I found them and they greeted me with a warm welcome. They even tried to speak a little of their broken english to me! The same people that I was seemingly scared to meet, turned out to be my second family, and a big part of my year away from Canada. One of the challenges of being an exchange student is adapting. This is something that I noticed alot in the first few days. In Brazil, everything from the structure of the roads, to the food is at least a little bit different from North America. 

My first few months in Brazil was a constant cycle of being exhausted, hungry, and excited. The first week in Brazil I spent in one of the biggest cities of the world - São Paulo. My host family took me to many famous landmarks, restaurants, and other places. The first week turned out to be one of the best, as it was just so fascinating to see another country outside of North America. After that I headed back to the city where I would spend the most time in, Marília. Living in a city of about 300,000 people was another different experience for me, coming from St. Mary's. As time progressed, I met with the other 9 exchange students that lived in my city. These teenagers from all around the world ended up being some of my best friends. 

Throughout my exchange, I went on mulitple trips across various regions of Brazil, 3 of them planned by Rotary. In November 2015, I went on a 24 day trip to the Amazons, and the Northeast of Brazil. I traveled across many different regions of Brazil with more than 50 other exchange students that were in my district. This was easily one of the best parts of my exchange. I swam with pink dolphins, walked through the rainforest, drove dune buggies across some of Brazil's largest beaches, and much more. A few months later we flew to Rio de Janeiro for 7 days. Getting to witness so many famous landmarks such as Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf mountain, and Copacabana beach was yet again one of my favourite parts. The last trip that was put together by Rotary was to the Iguazu Falls. On this adventure we drove to parts of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, and witnessed one of nature's finest attractions. Within these Rotary trips I experienced many new foods, animals, and other things that I couldn't have even imagined doing before I left Canada. I also formed many close relationships with people from all around the world, whom I still keep in touch with today.

Before leaving to Brazil, many people warned me about culture shock. However, I didn't ever actually expect to notice it. Much to my surprise, the culture shock began almost immediately after arriving, and never really stopped. There were even times that, after being there for 9 months, I would still notice something different from Canada. Some of the cultural differences were great! For example, in pretty much every Brazilian town/city, you can find these small stores called 'fruteria', that sell delicious tropical fruit juices, smoothies, milkshakes, etc. fresh from Brazil. Many of them I hadn't even heard of before. Sadly, there were also differences that were unfortunate. When I first arrived in my host city of 300,000 I seen tons of dogs and cats walking on the streets, with no owners. I later learned that this was normal. I also noticed differences that were just plain different. In high school, the students don't necessarily have term marks per say, but instead just one big test that literally determines whether or not you can go off to university. After experiencing all of these cultural differences, it really brightened my perspective on the world, and made me realize that life outside of St. Mary's, Canada will have many changes, some good, some bad, and some just different.


In the end, I am so thankful that I made the decision, around 2 years ago, to apply for rotary youth exchange, it truly did change my life for the better. However my role as a rotary youth exchange student is not over yet, and I will continue to be an ambassador for Canada, and for the program that made all of this possible, Rotary.


The first picture is  of me in scuba gear. This was one of the many new experiences I got to try out. The second picture is of me with my host families, which were really influential to my year in Brazil.