I’m in the Right Place

Danni Askew
April 24, 2014

I remember first searching for program options to study abroad. My university has a huge database to find different countries, with options to filter by academic major or language requirements. I remember spending hours filtering through different options and practically drooling at all of the wonderful places that I could potentially be.

I wanted to study abroad in a country whose culture was different from ours, whose country I knew very little about, and a country where none of my friends had studied abroad (which ruled out many of the European countries). My personal passion for music made me interested in many of the Latin-American countries or some in Africa. But there were still hundreds of programs that fit these preferences…

I further filtered my options based on the fact that I was not fluent in any other languages and needed to take courses in English. Also, since I wanted to take classes in Sociology that could supplement my major, I was looking for programs that offered classes which could transfer to this area. After these two filters were applied, my options became much more limited. The list of about ten options was now much more manageable and becoming more realistic.

Something about Brazil stuck out to me. Memories rushed back of when I was 12 years old and learning my favorite song on classical guitar. To this day, this piece has been my favorite and is always the first song I play when I pick up any guitar. I remember my teacher describing the genre and style of this song as Choro, which is a Brazilian style of music. With these memories and the song getting stuck in my head while thinking about it, something instinctual felt very “right” about me studying abroad there.

Brazil fit all of my preferences and requirements for a place to spend 4 months of my life. I was overwhelmed with excitement after imaging myself learning and traveling there. Even though I was also attracted to other programs and really wanted to study abroad in about four other places, I could not get Brazil off of my mind.

When comparing programs within Brazil, I was torn between Salvador de Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and a few other smaller cities more inland. Since I did not know much about the differences between the cities offered, I decided to compare based on academic features. The first course I saw offered in Rio de Janeiro was “Music and Society.” That was it. I started shaking with happiness as I read the course description. I needed to take that class. It combined my two biggest interests and passions, and no other program could compete with this option because of that one course alone.

Fast-forward a bit through the crazy process of applying and preparing to study abroad…

I have now been enrolled in that class for two months, and have enjoyed every second of it. Our readings and videos and discussions all revolve around how Brazilian music has evolved and how it has affected people along the the way. It’s fascinating and is so easily relatable to what we see while walking down streets every day. In this class, we also do multiple Field Studies around the city, to first-hand experience different aspects of the music scenes in Rio.

Last Saturday, we visited a nearby university where music classes are offered on Saturday mornings. The courtyard of this school was filled with hundreds of musicians practicing, either individually or with groups. The hallways were filled with different sounds spilling out of the many classrooms. I was enjoying seeing the practice aspect of the music here, because previously we were mostly exposed to performers, and it’s easy to forget how hard people work to sound as good as they do.

As we were walking through a hallway, I stopped in my tracks. I hear the song that had inspired me to come to Brazil in the first place. I look everywhere to find out where the sound is coming from, and find a class of 20 guitarists all playing the song that I love. My jaw dropped, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t believe my ears!

It was a moment of complete fulfillment and satisfaction. Something about that song hit my core and made me immensely happy. It was a feeling of comfort; I felt at home. Although this may not seem significant to everyone else who did not share this specific inspiration for this specific experience, I feel compelled to share how “right” I feel being here.

Everyone has different reasons for studying abroad. Everyone has different aspects that appeal to them or deter them from certain locations around the world. Everyone has different things that inspire them to learn more about life. All of those things differ greatly, even among the thirty three students in my program who happened to choose studying abroad in Rio.

This is just one small story of how this whole study abroad experience has started to come around full-circle. The filtering process of choosing a program was long, exciting, but also nerve-wracking. But it was absolutely worth it; I found a program and a city and a country that are changing my life and the way I look at life. Halfway through the program, I know I am in the right place for me.

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>

2014 Spring
Home University:
University of Minnesota
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