Brett Dill reflects on his first month in Brazil

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Brett Dill (left) with his host brother on the beach at Praia do Gonzaga in Santos.
I have been in Brazil just over a month now, and I’m already having the time of my life! This experience has proved to be much more than just a year away from Canada. In what seems like the short time that I have been here, I’ve learned a lot about the culture of Brazil, and myself. I learned to be not only more outgoing, but also independent.
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Brett Dill with all the Rotary Youth Exchange students hosted in District 4510 at a conference held in late-August.
Dealing with situations in another language is beneficial on multiple levels. So far I am loving the culture of Brazil. The people here are so friendly and warm, so it’s really easy to fit in. The weekdays are very relaxed, but there is always something to do on the weekends. After getting off an 11-hour plane ride from Toronto, I received a warm welcome from my host family. Since then I have had the pleasure of eating many delicious foods, meeting amazing people, and seeing things I wouldn’t have dreamed of.
Here, I live in the ”small” city of Marilia, home to almost 300,000 people! The temperature here is usually around 25-30 degrees, and right now it’s winter! As soon as I arrived, I noticed a lot of differences between here and St. Marys – good and bad. Unfortunately, as with most of Brazil, many of the houses are gated and have high security – due to violence. Also, Brazilian traffic is a lot more crazy than Canada’s generally speaking. However, there is a lot more to do here. For example, there are 3 universities, 3 colleges, an airport, and much more. Aside from me, there are also 8 other Rotary Exchange students here, which definitely makes life better. I am really close with all of them, and it’s really interesting talking to people from all around the world (literally).
So far, school has been… well, school. I am at a private school that has around 2000 students, from kindergarten to Grade 11. On most days it starts at 7 AM and ends at 1 PM. While waking up at 6:30 has been hard for me, the bigger challenge has been trying to pay attention during classes. My Portuguese is not yet at a level where I can understand the topics teachers talk about. However I have met a lot of my Brazilian friends here and there is an English class. Once my Portuguese improves, I will teach English to some of the younger people at my school, and talk to them about Canada. Over a month into my exchange, I have noticed a lot of improvement in my understanding and speaking of the language. I guess it’s because I am constantly listening to it and practicing. I am currently taking lessons twice a week, for two hours each time, which also helps. Since I arrived, my cycle of emotions have changed drastically. My first week here, I was extremely tired and never hungry. This meant that I couldn’t experience a lot of fun things in full effect. During that time, I went to a huge soccer stadium – home to one of the most famous teams in Brazil. I also met some Brazilian silver medalists from the Pan Am games in Toronto, and tried many traditional Brazilian foods (rice and beans). The next two weeks I was really busy trying to take in the cultural differences, and immerse myself. At that time it still felt as if I was on a vacation. Since then, I have made myself at home, and really tried to leave my mark on Brazil – by learning the language and being myself.
I am the only exchange student in my Rotary Club here (Marilia de Dirceu). So far, I’ve been to 2 meetings, and they are organized very similar to meetings in Canada. I was involved in a fundraiser where I helped prepare and serve french fries, and afterwards I made it in the newspaper. My district here offers 4 trips; Amazon/Northeast/Brasilia (the big trip), Rio de Janeiro, Peru, and Foz do IguaƧu. I am looking forward to going on at least 2 of them, but it will be hard to choose as they all seem really interesting! To be honest, I am looking forward to everything here! I finally settled down and am ready for whatever is next. Even though I’ve only been on this journey for a month, I would recommend this program to anyone in a heartbeat! Why wouldn’t you want to live abroad for a year, meet new people, and learn not only more about the world, but also yourself? If you have any doubts about entering the program, or want to see some pictures of my journey so far, I have Facebook.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who is supporting me on this amazing adventure, (most notably my friends, family, and the Rotary Club of St. Marys) I am blessed to have this oppurtunity of a lifetime!
Brett Dill