Oi oi gente! I’m Polly and I’m studying French and Portuguese at the University of Southampton. I’ve now been in Brazil for about 5 weeks and am going to start this blog to sum up each month I’m here, giving tips and my own experiences not only for those going to Brazil, but on exchange trips in general.
The first few days of my year abroad did not go exactly as planned as
I was held up in Lisbon for 36 hours after missing the connection because of the delayed flight from Heathrow. Good opportunity to explore Lisbon, something I would have enjoyed more if I hadn’t been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours. When we eventually got to Florianopolis after changing at São Paulo, (tip 1- remember to re-check in your luggage when you get to the airport) my ‘madrinha’ or ‘study buddy’ met us at the airport and drove us to Lagoa, the exchange student city, you won’t find many Brazilians here. To begin with I thought it would be a disadvantage but it hasn’t proved to be yet because I mix with many Brazilians in my classes. (jk I’ve only spoken to two) There are many Portuguese exchange students here so finding natives to speak to isn’t hard (except to do this you actually need to be able to speak fluent Portuguese, something I can’t yet do, maybe next semester?), although loads of them will only want to practise speaking English.
I had previously arranged my accommodation, and I live with my madrinha’s friend who is an exchange student from Italy, my GCSE Italian course doesn’t seem to be helping me much. I also live with a French girl, which has really helped because when I don’t understand the Portuguese I can revert to French as my ‘lingua franca’. My third housemate is a guy from Porto who has such a strong accent its like living with someone from Newcastle, practically incomprehensible. Although I’m happy with my living situation I would suggest (although it may seem daunting) not arranging your accommodation until you get here, stay in a hostel, because it’s a great way to make friends with the other exchange students. Just a warning; there is a danger of becoming that weird Foreign exchange student you lived with in first year who only comes out of their room to eat from the rice cooker. Don’t be that person. Try to say yes to everything. When I arrived in Floripa there was nothing more I wanted than to go to sleep after a horrendously long journey, but I made myself go out to ‘amerelinho’ (if possible imagine an even worse version of Jesters) to make friends with my Italian housemate.
This first month of discovering the island has been incredible. Floripa is full of nature; I’ve been on a monkey trek, surfed alongside penguins and turtles and hiked over the Joaquina dunes. You do eventually adjust to the surroundings, the food and the way of life. I know which buses to take; I understand how the washing machine works and I know you get your fruit from João at the sacolão (greengrocer) and not from the supermarket. Although going on a year abroad is such a culture shock, you can adapt quicker than you think.
Something I’ve realised since being here is that the majority of exchange students you meet will already be able to speak two languages fluently, and be very proficient in a third, on top of this they’ll be studying law or engineering. For other European exchange students it seems bizarre that people in England are doing a language degree in order to learn another language. Don’t be too disheartened when you realise that something that seems impressive in England (speaking more than one language) isn’t that impressive here.
I spent the last weekend of the month in Curitiba, my first excursion out of the city. Curitiba is the capital of the state of Paraná, five hours from Florianopolis. I went with 5 other friends by bus, the bus system is really good here, as they don’t really have trains. I loved the city itself, much bigger than I was expecting and really green, it translates to pinecone land, which makes sense.
Until next month pessoal