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Example of a Typical Weekend Abroad

Danni Askew
June 2, 2014

Before I studied abroad, it was difficult to imagine what daily life would look like while living in a different country. Since this past weekend was one of my favorite weekends yet, I wanted to share an example of what a weekend could look like if you study abroad in Brazil!

 

ON FRIDAY…

Our study abroad advisors took us on a field trip to one of the “favelas” in Rio. We met two women who live there, they told us about the history of the community, and their opinions on advantages and struggles of living there. Since all students in our program live in the wealthier neighborhoods of Rio, it was refreshing to have our eyes opened to the reality of what life looks like for the majority of residents here.

For those of you who don’t know about the social tensions in Rio, in the last few years, there has been mandated police intervention in the favelas. This has caused much tension between local residents in favelas and those police officers, which has resulted in varying issues and violent outbursts. After walking through this particular favela, we had an opportunity to meet with the police officers assigned to this neighborhood and hear their side of the story. Speaking with the actual people who are being talked about in the news was extremely helpful in understanding the issue and getting a fair perspective by hearing both sides of the tension.

After this day of touring and learning about life, I had to run to get my yellow fever shot before we left for the Amazon. Free vaccinations are offered at various health offices around the city, so we brought our passports and waited in line at the free clinics. It was an easy process for what we wanted to do, but it was also a peek into what free public health care looks like, which I thought was interesting.

From here, I walked with one of my advisors downtown, where we got food, walked around a street book fair, and saw a huge musical gathering in one of the outdoor plazas. There were about 30 people dressed in elaborate costumes, dancing around with a band playing. There were hundreds of people gathered around them watching and dancing along. It was a simple example of what I was hoping to be immersed with when I chose to study abroad in Brazil.

Afterwards, a few other students met up because we were invited to attend a ceremony of the Umbanda religion. I had never heard of this religion until this day, but I jumped on the opportunity to learn first-hand about something new. It was amazing; my eyes were open to an entirely new way of practicing religion. Since I couldn’t understand the lyrics of the music or the announcements of the leader, or the words in my individual spirit consultation, I was mostly soaking in how people were interacting and reacting to different parts of the ceremony. I was so happy we were able to be a part of that gathering, and my interest was sparked to go home and learn about this and other religions around the world.

This day was so long and I was so overwhelmed with tons of new information and new perspectives and thoughts, that I went home and couldn’t go out anywhere else the rest of the night. I journaled for hours and skyped with a couple friends and family to discuss all of those experiences.

 

ON SATURDAY…

The weather was beautiful, so I decided to go on one of the many recommended hikes around Rio. Two of my best friends here, one of our local Brazilian friends, and I found our way to the mountain and wandered our way up the trail for a couple hours, and relaxed at the top with breathtaking the wonderful view of our city. It was so fun to be able to be familiar with all of the different neighborhoods in the city and reminisce about all of the memories we’ve had in various locations thus far. It was the perfect way to get exercise (which is rare with our busy school days), bond with friends, and we had a lot of fun going on that adventure. I’m so happy to have met these people that make experiences like this special and memorable.

We wanted to get back down the mountain before the sun set, and then we ran back home to shower and take a quick nap. Later, we went to one of our favorite restaurants in our neighborhood (less than a mile walk from our house). We spent the night eating delicious and relatively cheap Mexican food, laughing, and hanging out with more great friends (other students from our program). Again, I’m so happy taveo h these people with whom to share these memories.

 

ON SUNDAY…

I happened to have woken up early, and my host mom invited me out to breakfast. We biked a few miles to one of her favorite breakfast places, but they were closed! I wasn’t too disappointed, though, because it was a beautiful bike around the lake, and she had a few other suggestions for restaurants nearby. We biked another couple miles to a small hotel in Ipanema that overlooks the beach and ocean. We had a hilarious time interacting with the staff, and as usual we had many funny “lost in translation” moments with each other. My host mom speaks English, so that was a wonderful crutch at the beginning of the semester since I had never spoken a word of Portuguese. But by this time, we usually speak only Portuguese to each other.

On our way home, we stopped by one of the many fruit markets on the street. I haven’t yet taken my camera with me to take pictures of these fruit markets, but I plan to before I leave! There were beautiful colors everywhere, and every type of fruit you can imagine, both Brazilian and imported. The staple item my host mom always buys is fresh Brazilian oranges. She buys them from her “friend” who she’s been buying oranges from for 34 years, since before any of her children were born. It was so fun to talk with him again, and for the first time, hear her reasoning behind why she always goes to his stand first. She said that he is the most generous vender and always goes out of his way to help people walking by, not only customers. Over the years he’s sold fruit at different market locations around the city, and she’s supported him everywhere, no matter which types of fruits he’s sold. And he gives her deals since she buys so much and is a loyal customer. It was so refreshing to see their exchange, which was so authentically caring and supportive of each other.

The rest of the day I spent doing homework and relaxing around the house. This weekend was packed with a slightly higher quantity and quality events than most weekends, but they were all pretty common options for activities to do on weekends. I try not to take these opportunities for granted, but it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to realize how special and valuable each of these is. These are the daily moments that have made me fall in love with studying abroad and living in another country. I’m building relationships and constantly learning about what other people’s lives consist of around the world.

 

For the millionth time… I highly recommend studying abroad :)

Danni Askew

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior studying sociology, public health, mathematics, and leadership at the University of Minnesota. I&#39;m passionate about music and express that passion through an all-female a cappella choir on campus. In my free time, I enjoy playing classical guitar, percussion, piano, and writing music. During every summer, I work at a summer camp in northern North Dakota; I love outdoor adventures and working with kids.</span></p>

Term:
2014 Spring
Home university:
University of Minnesota
Major:
Sociology
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