My name is Alicia Cassell and I am a Communications major. During the summer of 2017 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Brazil. The program took place in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janiero and Campo Grande. I remember hearing people tell me that studying abroad can be somewhat of a challenging experience and that keeping an open mind is essential to the learning process while abroad. This tip helped me through the entire procedure of choosing a program. When I started looking into studying abroad I had no idea that I would end up in South America but I am so glad that I kept an open mind when thinking about where I wanted to spend time abroad. I kept the same mentality while in Brazil; everyday there was something that challenged me and taught me something new about myself. I learned to laugh at myself a lot while in Brazil. It was really hard to communicate and I ended up feeling like an idiot most of the time I tried to pronounce something in Portuguese and failed. However, I kept an open mind and tried my best because I realized that part of the fun was in failing and learning to laugh at myself.
One of the things I love about Brazil is how friendly the people are. We went to this place called Paraisopolis, the largest slum in Sao Paulo. This place was almost magical because the people had established their own sense of community despite the government’s inability to recognize them as one. The people within Paraisopolis came together and created their own banking system to support their small city. It was absolutely incredible to see people fight for rights that I take for granted. While we were visiting, we had the privilege of touring an artist’s home that had been built entirely out of recycled goods, wire and cement. Many of the students in the class (including me) loved his work and wanted to buy something he made, unfortunately our professors advised us not to bring a lot of money because it was a low income area. The artist let us take home pieces we liked and said that we could transfer money into his bank account the next day. He operated on the honor system which is something I had never experienced in the U.S. This artist, who didn’t have a lot and lived in a low income area, was willing to trust us walking away with his personal artwork without any form of payment. This moment really resonated with me because of his immense kindness. He taught me that trusting people is an important aspect to being able to experience relationships and opportunities in life. I have a little piece of that moment forever hanging in my room because of the trust the artist had for us.