It’s me again giving you insight into my crazy life I lived in South America…
One of the biggest influencers of the entire study abroad journey was, obviously, where I studied. I am a student, first and foremost, and so my classes not only dictated what I learned, but how and where I learned it. The climate of my home university is not particularly competitive, especially being in the school of agriculture, but my classes are rigorous and I do feel that I have learned a lot not only about topics in my major, but also about broader adult-life subjects.
Going to Brazil, I didn’t necessarily know what I was expecting in terms of classes. I like to think I was open-minded, but realistically it only make sense that I would anticipate a similar experience to what I have known school to be in the US. The first month during our language intensive, my expectations were met and every day I learned a language in a very structured, organized way with professors who utilized class discussions, small activities, and homework. I was actively engaged in learning Portuguese for six hours every day, five days a week for the month of July.
Regular semester classes were very different, but after some reflection, I understand that doesn’t mean it was bad. Classes were laid back, relatively unstructured, and not very in-depth, but being an international student I have heard almost all students tell similar stories. I know from my Brazilian friends that their classes were challenging and engaging at the very same school, with the very same teachers.
I grew to understand that study abroad was about so much more than the actual classes I took. Important for graduation, yes, but for enriching my overall experience? No. I went to Brazil not to learn about it’s history in a classroom, I went to learn about it outside, in context, amidst it’s own people. My school happened every day I lived there and grew to be more complex just as my relationships became more complex. I learned more about culture, structure, decision making, and time management than I ever could have sitting through a simple class. Plus I got to learn about the natural wonders offered in Brazil, it’s language, history, background, and it’s people.
So, for all of those out there who are considering studying abroad, I’m telling you to anticipate a change. It’s not worth spending the whole experience cooped up studying when you could be out exploring, and learning just by doing things. Take your time and enjoy it 🙂
I will say, studying abroad senior year was absolutely to my benefit. The hardest part about study abroad is adjusting to when you go back to normal curriculum, and by going my last year of college I didn’t have to worry about that. It was a slow transition our of regulated classrooms to actually working a 40 hour job, especially since I held an internship in Rio too. I loved going senior year and I wish more people would do it too, just make sure you save Gen Eds, because those classes are the ones far more likely to be approved and transferred over as credit.
My education was rich in Brazil! I learned lessons I didn’t even know I was learning until it was all over and I found myself back in the States. Realistically, going to Brazil made me an entirely better person, when my intension in going there was only to take some classes. My final word about school when you study abroad is that it’s unexpected, but way more practical and useful for life down the road. The most beautiful part about it is the fact that it’s unstructured, unpredictable, and different for every person. Although that’s dramatically different than what American students are used to in everyday life, again that does not make it bad. Take a chance and experience things you never even knew were out there 🙂