Ten Days Until Takeoff!

I don’t know about you, but this summer seems to be flying by! I cannot believe that July is over already, but my July was packed full of classes, events and even a trip to the Grand Canyon, that it seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Because of this, I have had very little time to plan for my upcoming study abroad program to Brazil. Nevertheless, I have tried to fit some things in.

Photo of UWT student Jessy Wolf
A picture of me at the Grand Canyon at sunrise, so majestic!

One of the first things I did to prepare for this program was get re-acquainted with an app called Duolingo. Duolingo is an easy way to learn other languages, and its also free (hello, student budget here)! The way the lessons are designed they get progressively more difficult, but when you start, basic words are taught through imagery. As a predominately visual learner, I appreciate this detail immensely.

Currently, what I am doing to prepare for this program is getting educated on the history of how Brazil came to be, starting with Portuguese contact by Vasco De Gama, in the year 1500. Though South America was already populated by an estimated 2-6 million people, Portugal and Spain proceeded to lay claim to the land (aka colonization). Brazil received its name due to a valuable tree that flourished there- Pau-Brasil, or Brazilwood.

Brazil wood tree
A Brazilwood tree, courtesy of www.streetsmartbrazil.com

Like the United States, South America and Brazil were heavily colonized, and with a focus on agriculture, both imported slaves from Africa. Approximately 4.8 million slaves were brought to Brazil, until the abolition of slavery in 1888 – almost 400 years later. You might be surprised to know that slaves in Brazil were treated even worse than in the U.S., due to their location being closer to Africa. This created an attitude that slaves were more easily replaceable, and so they didn’t need to be treated well. Unfortunately, many died, and the scars of slavery still linger in Brazil to this day.

Currently, Brazil claims to be a racism-free paradise, although it is fairly clear that people of color are still separated by economic means. The powerful elite are predominately White, and the poor are mostly of African heritage. However, there is still some hope for the future, as the government has implemented a quota system. The quota system is something like Affirmative Action here in the states. With Brazil’s quota system, colleges are required to enroll 20% of students that are of African descent. This is a step in the right direction, I believe because it creates opportunities to move up the socioeconomic ladder in a way that was previously unavailable- through education and the chance for a better, higher paying job.

My next steps for preparation are to complete my vaccinations- I’ve already gotten my Hepatitis A shot, but still need to get my Typhoid and Yellow Fever preventions. Next, I will be putting together a detailed packing list and purchasing anything I still need. I have my study abroadinsurance and passport and all of those basic essentials for international travel. What I still don’t have is a full grasp on the nuances of Brazil in terms of place and what to expect, nor have I become fully fluent in the Portuguese language. My guess is that I won’t have either of these until I arrive there and begin to experience the place and culture firsthand.

My next post will be coming to you from Brazil, so until then, até logo (see you later)!

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