One of the biggest things I’ve learned during study abroad is how to balance my comfort zone while pushing myself out of it.
In the past five months, I’ve moved to Lisbon, traveled around Europe and then moved to Rio.In Rio proper, I’ve already moved four times for varying reasons. I used to think I could handle constantly being in a state of flux through travel. Now, I’ve realized having an extended period of stability is very important to me. Constantly laying my head on a new pillow is exhausting, both emotionally and physically. I’ve come to learn my limits and accept them. I also discovered that being able to invite people over to my house is very important to me.
My first two homestays in Rio would not allow me to bring friends over to the apartment and a huge portion of the apartments I was looking into would not allow visits either. In Rio security is a big issue, so they worried I would bring someone that would steal from them. Not being able to bring friends over was stressful because to me, a home is meant to be shared with people that I care about. I realized how essential this was for my mental and emotional wellbeing.
Learning the limits that you can push yourself outside of your comfort zone is very important as well. There’s a difference between pushing yourself so you can grow and compromising who you are as person. While difficult, finding this balance is critical. Not only have I learned more about my own values, I have learned how to adapt to situations outside of my norms.
For instance, taking the majority of my classes in Portuguese was critical for me to get used to hearing formal Portuguese. How I hear people speaking in the street is different from how people speak in the University, and although the first couple of months I spent turning my head like a dog that couldn’t understand what their owner was talking about, I now have trained my ear enough to understand almost everything my professors say.
Despite passing through two months of homesickness, Rio is now starting to feel like home. I’m most looking forward to spending the month of January in an Intensive Portuguese course prior to the start of the regular semester. I’m excited to continue improving my Portuguese, making more Brazilian friends, meeting the new international students and acting as a guide to them while they get to know Rio.
The best part about being an Overseas Ambassador is sharing my unsugarcoated reality with students from diverse backgrounds and showing how much study abroad is worth it. It’s showing the world that Americans are more diverse from what they see on TV. Especially in these times in our country’s current events, it’s bringing back to the US an international perspective that sees beyond borders and empathizes with our fellow human beings around the world.