Hello, my name is Meredith Mayo from Comfort, Texas, and I spent one year in the beautiful country of Brazil as an exchange student. When I first got here, I was more than lost. Everything was so new to me, with the language customs and being away from home in general. Here I was, a small town girl coming to live with a family I have never met and was expected to adapt and be a part of and immerse myself in customs and traditions that were very different from what I’m used to in everyday life. Although very scary at times, I think the one big thing that helped me was that I kept my head wide open.
Sometimes it would be easier to stick to my “American way,” and tell everyone that what they were doing was wrong, or just “not what we do,” for example, like eating a big lunch instead of dinner, or having maids and cooks to help out around the house. In reality, it’s not wrong, just different. You must be able to let go of some of your old ways of thinking and always be accepting to the new ones that will be presented to you. That way, you will really become a part of the culture, and not just a tourist.
Throughout my exchange, I have met some amazing people that will always be in my life. The relationships that you make are life long and all the lessons that you learn, mold you into a better person. This challenged me in ways I could not have imagined. I saw myself in the core, and learned a lot about who I am. I not only became a lot more independent, but I now speak in another language, (and with that I learned a whole new way of thinking and have friends from all over the world) and that is just the beginning.
One thing I could not stress enough is that you must not be shy. If you are going to a country with a different language than your own, know that you will say funny things and there will probably be a lot of laughing, gaining weight and not being understood, but all of this is well worth it. You will make amazing friends (and family), have an amazing experience, do things you never thought you would do, and probably have the time of your life.
There will be times of heart ache, happiness and everything in between, but you must always keep in mind that this is your one year for this amazing adventure and the time goes by very fast, so go out, try new things, talk to new people and really become one with the culture. Get everything you can out of this once in a lifetime experience. This really has blessed my life in more ways than I can count and I hope it will in any future participant as well.