Last summer, I participated in a six week AIESEC internship at Colégio O Bom Pastor in São Luís, Brazil. During my internship, I had the opportunity to work with fellow interns from India, Hungary, and Poland. We came together to prepare and deliver lectures on globalization to local students. With such a broad topic, the task was certainly not easy. After spending some time exchanging ideas and thoughts amongst ourselves, we learned that we all think very differently because of our unique backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, we decided to share our own views on different topics and encouraged students to embrace diversity by listening to others’ perspectives. We wanted students in Brazil to experience diversity as well, and we were glad to learn that the students were very open-minded and curious about many things. Moreover, the school was very supportive and gave us an opportunity to stimulate their interests!
So I could surely say that my internship was a great learning experience, being a very rare opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture for an extended period of time as well. But what was my stay in Brazil actually like?
One of the first things I learned after arriving in Brazil was how the concept of time is different from what we are used to in North America. My understanding is that their “time” is merely a sequence of events rather than what the clock says. For example, when a local person says, “Class starts at 2PM”, we should translate it as, “The class should start around 2PM because that is about when most people usually wake up from their after-lunch naps”. This is how it was done at the private middle school I was at—not only the students, but the teachers as well! I would have liked it a lot if I were a student there.
Not only did I learn about the different standards and culture of Brazil, but I also had the opportunity to visit many places during my six week stay. Since my internship consisted of two 12-hour work days a week, we had plenty of time to travel. Most of us had less than two months in Brazil, so we made every effort to go and explore other cities in Brazil and countries in South America as much as possible. We went to Lençóis Maranhenses (beautiful lagoons in Maranhão), the Amazon, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. Both tourists and locals agree that Rio de Janeiro, the City of God, is a must-go city in Brazil because of its amazing scenery and beautiful people!
I wish I had brought some food, clothes, and music that represent my home country to help the locals understand my culture better. I strongly believe that seeing it once is worth more than hearing about it one hundred times—especially when it comes to cultural experience, which was the reason why I decided to go to Brazil. Not just the students, but everyone I met in Brazil was very curious to learn about different cultures. Everyone was eager to meet me and treated me very well. Since they were so nice to me, I wanted to do as much as I could to share my culture and I really wished I had something to show.
Lastly, I really want to say “Obrigado” (“Thank you” in Portuguese, for males) for this amazing experience. People in Brazil were all very nice and always there to help out. I made many new friends whom I will cherish for a very long time. So, regardless of the destination you decide to go to, I am sure that you will meet many wonderful people during your trip also and it will be a truly life-changing experience—just like it was for me!