Oi! Tudo bem?
I’m Saffron and I study Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Southampton and I’m currently spending my third year abroad at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, in Florianópolis, Brazil. I’ll be updating this blog regularly as way of recording my time here and also give future year-abroaders an idea of what my experience was like.
Just like pretty much everyone warned me, the transition from the end of second year to actually embarking on my year abroad happened in the blink of an eye. One minute I was in that “oh it’s fine I have ages” mentality (still a uni student at the end of the day), then I moved out of my Southampton house back to home home and suddenly I had barely any time at all. Maybe it was me being in denial of actually spending an entire year in Brazil, or the fact that most of my friends would be starting their European placements in September, but I never quite digested the fact I would be setting off in mid-July until my flight ticket, booked three weeks before, was staring at me in the face.
From there, I was slowly trying to lessen the headache from my endless pile of pre-departure admin tasks: sorting out a visa, getting travel jabs, arranging an international debit card and arguing with my optician about a year’s supply of contact lenses. None of these things turned out to be simple, or cheap, but I would soon get used to it, Brazil feels like the polar opposite of the British way of life I am so accustomed to.
Nevertheless, before I knew it I was stood at Heathrow airport waving goodbye to my family boarding the first plane of my three-leg journey to Florianópolis, Brazil. Slight hiccup, as the delayed flight meant we missed our connection to São Paulo, but apart from arriving in Brazil 36 hours later than planned, I counted the impromptu Lisbon visit a chance to practise my Portuguese and do some sightseeing – even if I was stuck without a toothbrush for two days!
The university here, known to all as UFSC had assigned us each a ‘student buddy’ – though mine was travelling through Bolivia at the time so not the most useful person when it came to answering my questions. Luckily, my friend from Southampton who was also doing the same placement as I was assigned a buddy who was more than willing to pick us up from the airport once we eventually arrived in Floripa. I had booked a week’s stay in an AirBnB whilst I looked for a place to stay (though in hindsight I would recommend a hostel, as it’s a much easier way to make friends and find other people who are in the same boat as you) before I started talking to some other exchange students in a casual bar on a night out who were looking for another housemate. The next day I went to view it, and the following day the four of us, myself, a Colombian and two Portuguese guys (best of both worlds for my languages!) signed the contract.
Before I came here, I was expecting a fair amount of culture shock, but I can’t say I was actually prepared to see a lady carrying her cat around the supermarket, or not being able to flush toilet paper – it has to go in the bin! Over the first couple of weeks though, things slowly became a bit easier as I started to settle in, make friends and establish a bit more of a routine. I got used to having to pass through turnstiles on moving buses, uni classes that run from 7:30 in the morning through until 10pm at night and trekking round the greengrocers, bakery and then the delicatessen to do my food shop.
Having been here for seven weeks now (time really does fly!), I’m really grateful to have been given such a picturesque place to spend my year abroad. Floripa is known as the ‘Ilha da Magia’ (Magical Island) and it really isn’t difficult to see why! I’ve visited some stunning beaches and gone on a few scenic hikes and I’ve already compiled a list of a load of things I’d like to see and do here before my twelve months are up!
I have had one setback though. As I dance and do gymnastics at home and in Southampton, I wanted to keep these hobbies up once I had a chance to settle in. I managed to find a gymnastics training centre not too far from my accommodation and about five weeks into my year abroad I was really excited to have arranged some sessions there. Unfortunately I managed to break my foot on my first one (genius, I know), so I had to be taken to Brazilian A&E where they gave me crutches and put me in a cast boot for six weeks – not exactly ideal when everyone around you is going out partying or to the beach and you can’t join them. I’m currently two weeks down and four to go, trying to stay as positive as possible, but it is also so frustrating to be entirely dependent on other people and having to get taxis to uni every day. Still, I can’t wait to be fully recovered so I can get on with exploring, but I’ll keep you all posted!