This summer I participated in TU’s “Descobrindo a Terra” faculty-led program. Even months after the trip ended, the deep blues of the ocean in Brazil flash in my mind like a neon sign. As amazing as the views were, the most lasting detail about the trip was just how nice the people we stayed with were. They were always giving us more food than we could eat and accommodating us at every availability. Previously, I had thought it was corny that my friends who had studied abroad before I did said that they were different people after getting to see the world and experiencing a change in scenery from their own routine. It’s true though, the change happened to me too. If it wasn’t for the people I met, I would be a duller person than I am now. The perspective gained is unbelievable, and for that reason, I encourage everyone who thinks that study abroad isn’t for them should seriously reconsider.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was really apprehensive about the whole trip. After all, the closest Whataburger to where I was staying in Brazil was over 16 hours away by plane flight (as a resident of the southern United States for pretty much all my life, this seemed like an impossible change). However, I soon discovered that Brazil was able to exceed all my expectations in the best ways, and even the new foods I tried were excellent. Orange juice and all manner of fruits were incredibly fresh. American orange juice tastes like water with pulp in it to me, as the flavor was so much more vibrant there. Views of sunsets along the beach were veritable feasts for the eyes. Especially with sweet coconut juice to refresh oneself at every opportunity from street vendors selling their goods.
As I said earlier, the people we met there were a huge contributing factor to my enjoyment and acclimation to the new experience. For example, Tiago and Francisco were two students studying at the same Brazilian university as us. They ended up showing us literally every great place to explore and eat food at in the city we stayed in. When we needed help ordering food or translating Portuguese into English, they were there for us. Tiago even drove us around so we could save money on a cab fare. Tiago talked to me and told me about Brazilian culture on a three hour plane flight in perfect English, all because he had studied abroad in Canada, and he wanted to repay the generosity of those English-speaking people he had met there when he was in my position: namely, a student studying abroad who was outside of his own comfort zone.
Another perfect example of Brazilian generosity was when we were in Rio de Janiero for the last four days of the trip. A tour guide there asked me if I wanted to know where to purchase any final souvenirs before returning to the USA. I simply told her I was hoping to purchase a jersey for road biking. Amazingly enough, she talked to me the next day and told me she had called every shop in the city until she found a place that sold what I was looking for. It was moments like that which left me in shock at just how kind the Brazilian people are. They love to help people, and for that reason, I will always be grateful.
The University of Tulsa’s Center for Global Education is incredible at enabling students to do what they want to do. I was never turned down or told “your major won’t accommodate this trip”, and the faculty there are all about helping you succeed and get outside of your comfort zone. If you are a Geoscience student at TU, you really owe it to yourself to participate in this program. It is the easiest way to study abroad, and the professors who accompany you will allow you to enjoy the country in the best way possible. I got to swim with dolphins on the weekends and take an entertaining Portuguese class during the weekdays. That made for one of the best summers I will ever have.
University of Tulsa ’17
Brazil Summer 2016