“As we go on, we remember, … all the times we had together. And as our lives change, come whatever, we will still be friends forever.” 3 weeks, 21 days, 504 hours, 30,240 minutes: I still cannot believe that this program is coming to an end. I remember when taking a course in Brazil was just a thought. With the hard work and dedication of the faculty at Hampton University and the counter parts of 100k Strong, 8 Hampton University students embarked on such a beautiful journey. As we stepped off the plane, our emotions were running wild: “Will they like us,” “OMG, we do not speak any Portuguese,” “How will we communicate,” “I’m going to miss my family,” “Maybe this was a bad decision.” We all depended on each other for happiness and comfort. Rebecca was ‘big momma’ making sure everyone was at ease; Shalanda kept everyone cracking up with laughter with her random outbursts; Brandi has everyone doing a new dance (I’m still trying to keep up); Ashantii is “muito tranquilo,” passing nothing more than positive vibes; Crystal instantly became “Curious George,” intrigued and eager to learn all about the Brazilian lifestyle and culture; Carena was fascinated with the everyday activities because this is more than a course for her, it’s her career; Nikki is the soldier of the bunch, loving every bit of the physical activity involved in hiking and tree climbing; and me .. I am a bit of everything, noticing and jotting down all the thoughts that rambunctiously run through my mind.
“I cannot give just of one particular moment and conclude it as my favorite because every single time one of us gave up trying to communicate in Portuguese and hoped that the Brazilians would understand our English and their response was “WHAT?!” I laughed. Every time one the Brazilian students reached out a helping hand while falling off a mountain side, I felt safe and thankful that they were near. Every time they offered new information about an insect we’ve never seen or a fruit that we’ve never tried, I was grateful. I appreciate the new knowledge and will share it with all of my family and friends in the United States. These warm gestures were not only from Brazilian friends but also from every single stranger… now that was my “favorite part of the trip …,” says Ashantii Bernateau, a junior, biology major from Hampton University.
“My favorite part of this trip was the bio-construction activity and exploring parts of the Iracambi because it allowed me to learn the techniques of brick making. The bio-construction experience showed me how to use natural resources to build a house and to work with the environment. Exploring Iracambi was a peaceful and an eye-opening experience. I was able to witness conservation and reforestation at work and I was also able to learn the benefits of the two. I also enjoyed the people I met in Brazil, who treated me with kindness and respect,” says Shalanda Grier, a senior, biology major from Hampton University. Leandro, one of the professor’s at Iracambi, taught students the importance/benefits of having an environmentally constructed home. Everyone will now think of the environment while showering or even using certain resources in their everyday lifestyles.
Brandi Adams, a sophomore, biology major from Hampton University said “Throughout the past few weeks in Brasil, I have learned a lot about the environment, being resourceful, and being myself! My favorite part of this study abroad experience was the lesson about the Açai fruit with husband and wife, Lele and Kiki. They both taught us the importance of the fruit and all of its benefits. We then proceeded to learn more about the history of açai, how to prepare the berry, and how to separate the seed. But the highlight of the day came when students were offered the opportunity to climb the tree with the goal of reaching the top to gather the acai berry. I was able to do something I thought I could never do.”
Although 8 Hampton University women came to Brazil with ambivalent feelings, our final thoughts concluded as “This was the best experience of my life thus far!” I can speak for all of my gals when I say that this course was more than an experience of a lifetime but more so an opportunity to grow personally. I now understand the meaning of the phrase “… it could all be so simple.” Life is not as merely as complicated as we make it out to be and if we find what makes us happy, it could truly be so simple. I have learned so much and have embraced a colorful culture that will shape my futuristic decisions.
To conclude, I would like to thank 100k Strong, the US State Department, the Brazilian government, IFET, Uncle Wag, Gui, Lele, Kiki, Elz, Robin, Binka, Carminha, Cloves, our great Brazilian friends, all of the professors that have taught us useful information, the friendly neighbors that welcomed us, oh and let’s not forget Tuffy <3 This is not a goodbye; I could never say good bye to such an embarking moment! Until next time Brasil .. peace, health, and blessings xoxox