By Manuela Pelaez (Cohort 3): “Brilho nos olhos, apaixonado pelo que você faz”.
So it’s been a solid 10 days in São João del Rei and I have nothing but happy things to say about this charming little town that I will call home until about July. “Brilho nos olhos, apaixonado pelo que você faz” can be best translated into “having a twinkle in your eyes, being passionate with what you do” and it is the biggest thing I took away from orientation last week. Although our entire group started making jokes about how many times we’ve heard “sejam bem-vindos” (Welcome!!) since we arrived, I can wholeheartedly say I have never felt more welcome in a new place in my entire life.
It’s hard to describe it but Brazilians in general are some of the most genuine people I’ve ever encountered. The UFSJ staff has welcomed us with their arms wide open and you can tell in the way the talk to us that they truly are excited to have us here, to share this charming little city with us, and to make sure that we feel at home. Not only that, but it’s also easy to pick up on the fact that they really do love what they do. Mostly everyone seems to have a twinkle in their eyes, a twinkle that reassures me that everything happens for a reason and that São João del Rei is exactly where I need to be right here right now.
I’m excited to leave the hotel tomorrow and get settled into my new home, maybe then it will all become real that I’m actually in Brazil for the rest of the year. Mineiros (people from the state of Minas Gerais) are already starting to have a very special place in my heart. I think Brazil is giving me that “brilho nos olhos” that I’ve been looking for and I am so happy with what I am doing right here right now. Beijos!!!
By Tamar Schmidt (Cohort 2):
My experience in the Flagship Portuguese Program proved immensely enriching culturally and linguistically and I am sure that all of the students who travel with this program would say similar. What I was not prepared to say until my return to the University of Georgia is that by virtue of these aspects I have gained compassion unknown to me before this year abroad. Compassion for students my age who grow up in different spheres, but end up working in conjunction towards a common goal. Compassion for all of the young people invested in their nation and in their own perseverance. I am now constantly questioning how I can serve my world, thinking of it as an extension of my community instead of an unknown.
By Daniela Roldan (Cohort 2):
My takeaway from spending almost a year abroad with the Portuguese Flagship program was a journey of self-exploration. Upon a return to the States, many do not comprehend a nugget of the innumerable life lessons faced and conquered, but with Flagship you get to examine the world afar. Cultural differences, like taking a two-hour lunch break, strangers giving their best directions and being dizzily lost, or adopting rice and beans in every meal. There was a hazy uncertainty in every conversation, but a stark clarity in your thoughts, opinions, and direction in life. As a Portuguese Flagship alumni, I echo the desire of all alumni to go back to Brazil to recapture our time abroad. We came back with “uma bagagem cheia”. Our luggage wasn’t filled with just touristy souvenirs, but with lifetime friends, a new direction in life, a fresh start, and some self-actualization moments.