University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tudo Joya

PHEW. Four weeks later, and I’m still in Brasil, still alive, and finally realizing that I have made the right choice. You would think it wouldn’t take four weeks, but I think culture shock had to do with that because my mind is so overwhelmed with language barriers, cultural differences, and such, so that it was difficult to see what I was actually seeing.

For those of you are interested in studying abroad in general, “OLHO” (WARNING), it’s difficult in the beginning. Of course, I had a sense it would be: I was going to a foreign country, experience a foreign culture, e speak in a foreign language. Mix that all together and you get loads of discomfort. Before coming to Belo Horizonte, I always pictured myself surrounded by Brazilian friends having the time of our lives, joking around, and just loving life…OBVIOUSLY that takes time. It’s rather funny because, seriously, I completely forgot about the challenges I was going to face in the beginning.

I don’t mean to put these challenges in a bad light. Nope. It’s actually really beautiful. It turns out, a little bare skin will do you some good! Since I have mentioned many Brazilian quirks, I might as well mention one of mine. This includes how I describe my vulnerability. The metaphor I use is clothing. The less clothing I have, the more vulnerable I feel. For example, before going to college I explained to my mom that I was going to feel naked the first two weeks of freshman year.

If you think freshman year is being naked, wait till you go abroad. I mean everyone is looking at you because they know you’re a foreigner-especially the second you open your mouth. Not to mention, housing can be a bit of challenge, so you may be without a long term place to stay. On top of that, you have classes. I swear, finding classes has never been so complicated.

Now, I could take these challenges and my indecent exposure as an opportunity to whine and complain, but as I already stated, I intend to spin it around and turn it into an opportunity for greatness. Yes, I am here in Brasil finally surrounded by Portuguese, a beautiful language. And this indecent exposure actually works on my behalf. Seriously, Brasileiros are so open and friendly and love America.

And now that I have found a place to live and have my class schedule, everything is falling into place. For the first time in a long time, I got a pair of shorts on and a t-shirt. And I gotta say, it feels “muito legal” (really nice).

What’s even more awesome about being uncomfortable is that it makes the world a very small place. When I was waiting in line at a Xerox store, I asked a Brasileira how to scan some papers and she asked me where I was from. It turns out, she will be going to UW Madison next semester, so please UW Madison Badgers welcome her and all other foreign exchange students!

There’s another brasileira whom I’ve met that has been so welcoming and hospitable as well. For instance, She waited with me for two hours before I met up with a friend even though it may take her four hours to return home by bus. I barely know her, and she has done nothing but be very kind. I think all of this hospitality has encouraged me to do the same when I return to UW Madison. I really want to extend a hand to an exchange student and welcome them not just to UW Madison, but to my country as well.

As everyday goes by, it becomes clearer and clearer that I have made the right decision to study abroad in Brasil. Not only that, but I decided to stay a year. Sure, it seems like a long time, but I have more time to travel and my time spent naked is one twelfth of my experience as opposed to a third or a fourth. You have to have the “jeito” (drive) to push through and look at this discomfort in a positive light.

So, ultimately, I am “Tudo Joya” which is a way of saying really wonderful. I really love this phrase because there’s so much more to it than Tudo Bem. I mean I’m not just bem, but all joya. Even more so, it literally translates to jewelry, so I guess I’m actually all jewelry…

Another reason why I’m tudo joya is because it just so happens Belo Horizonte has a federal holiday this Thursday, which means Thursday and Friday are off. Which also means, I’m heading back to the Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro! Então ciao ciao for now and stay tuned for another list of Brazilian quirks that do a better job at explaining why I love Brasil so much.