For those of you have haven’t read my previous blog posts, I studied abroad in Brazil for the past month with Ohio State. I’ve only been back for a week now, and I’m glad to be home, but I miss Brazil and my group like crazy.
I had originally planned on posting an update after each of the four weeks that I was there but the last two weeks were jam packed so I will just have to jam pack them into this one post.
My last two weeks in Brazil were spent with a host family in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Salvador is a gorgeous, colonial city on the east coast of Brazil. We took two weekend trips during this time which were some of my favorite parts of the trip. Our first trip was to Lencois, a beautiful and remote town (the whole town’s wifi was down most of the time we were there) six hours inland of Salvador. Lencois is in the mountains and is surrounded by national parks filled with forests, mountains, rivers, and caves. In Lencois we hiked, climbed a mountain, swam under waterfalls, went caving, and jumped off of 30-foot ledges into pools. It was one of the most incredible and natural places that I’ve ever been. I almost felt like I was in one of those panoramic scenes of the Brazilian wilderness from the show Survivor (I’m a fan). The last day that we were in Lencois, the Olympic torch passed through. We missed it that day but we saw it being run into Salvador the next day!
Our next trip was to Morro de Sao Paulo. In order to get there we had to take two van rides, a ferry, and a smaller boat. But it was worth it. Morro (as Brazilians call it) is a town on an island off the coast of Bahia. There are no cars, the ambulance is a golf cart and the taxis are wheelbarrows. Everyday in Morro was an adventure. The first day, we went ziplining off a cliff that was about a football field high into the ocean. The next day we went swimming in natural pools on the beach and then took a tour of the island on horseback. Our final full day there was one of my favorites of the entire trip. We got on our own personal boat (we called it the Party Boat because it blasted popular music) and just relaxed, jumped off the boat to swim in the ocean with pool noodles, and saw a family of dolphins. We eventually took the boat to a village on the other side of the island called Gamboa where we covered ourselves head to toe in natural clay, swam out in a beautiful sandbar, and ate great seafood.
We also learned so much about the culture in Salvador. We took historical tours of the town and learned the stories behind their many churches and squares. We also learned a lot about the African religion of Candomble, which was brought to Brazil by slaves and is still celebrated by many there today. During our stay we got to see Olodum (famous percussion band from Brazil) perform as well as traditional dancers sing and perform. Living with our host families, we got to taste all of the traditional Bahian food and learn some Portuguese because most of our host mothers didn’t speak English. My host family consisted of my host mom, Sania; my host sister, Lorena; and my host cousin, Alexandro. They were so nice and welcoming and although it was sometimes hard to communicate, we all got along and had fun together, I miss them already! Living with them definitely forced me to step out of my comfort zone and try to understand and speak a language that I knew nothing about just a few weeks earlier.
My trip was such a wonderful experience! It was so well planned, we were learning new things and seeing new places everyday. There wasn’t a dull moment. I am so much more globally aware now and empathetic towards other countries issues, especially Brazil’s. After going to Brazil, I feel much more confident in myself and my ability to adapt because honestly, just a few days before I left, I didn’t actually think that I could mentally do the trip because I was so nervous. But looking back now, it was one of the best months of my life! I would highly recommend studying abroad with Ohio State sometime during your college experience! It does seem like a lot of money but OSU has scholarships and you can get grants through programs like STEP ($2000 of my trip was covered by STEP). While you can travel after college, you won’t get the full cultural experience and the bonding with your peers that a study abroad offers anywhere but in school.