April 11, 2014, by Guest blog

Connections are what make your year abroad a success

Post written by Hannah Sheeham.

Planning my year abroad in Brazil was a challenge due to a lack of connections in South America. After sending out numerous CV’s and applying for numerous internships I had no luck but nonetheless was very fortunate to fall upon the last study placement available in Santa Maria along with 3 other students from Nottingham.

Prior to my placement, I organised my accommodation through the university as part of a host family system and was very lucky to be matched to a Paraguayan girl who speaks fluent Portuguese, Spanish, English and German, everyone’s dream! However not all of my friends from Nottingham here in Santa Maria had this luck. One friend even had to stay with me for a week. She eventually found somewhere but this was only through my housemate who happened to have a place with a spare room. Another friend was housed for a week in free international halls with several Latin Americans which meant we all had the chance to practice our Spanish and meet people from all over Latin America.

With regards to improving the Portuguese language, I have successfully surprised myself. On arrival I was extremely nervous and could barely speak a word, after not having any Portuguese contact for 8/9 months, which in turn knocked my confidence a lot. Nonetheless my housemate has helped me a lot and having classes in Portuguese at university is improving my listening skills without me even realising. I am now 1 month down the line of my stay in Brazil and I believe I have improved so much. I now understand the majority of what Brazilians say, except those that speak ridiculously fast and can hold a conversation without getting nervous.

Last week I went on a camping trip (‘um encontro da arquitectura’) with architects from all over Brazil. All week I was speaking in Portuguese, meeting new Brazilian people that live all over Brazil which in turn meant that I was learning so much about the culture and people as well as improving my language skills. It was the best experience and would really recommend people going on as many trips like these to be able to make connections with people all across the world.

In terms of Brazilians, they are extremely different to the English. English people are most of the time considered to be quite cold, reserved and difficult people to get to know (not all of them obviously..this is just a stereotype) nonetheless Brazilians/Latin Americans are the complete opposite. They are so friendly and such open people. They are very fun, easy-going people to talk to and they love meeting international people. Meeting English people for them is a complete novelty and not very common at all being one of the only three English people in Santa Maria city. A very funny moment for me was meeting a Brazilian guy who was in so much shock that we were English that he asked to take a ‘selfie’ with us to be able to treasure the moment forever.

I believe it is so important and invaluable to make connections with people in a country as big as Brazil. I have now met people from different states in Brazil who have said I can come and visit anytime which for me is a great thing and an opportunity I can’t turn down. I understand the importance of meeting new people and not being embarrassed to ask questions to overcome that line and make new friends. Connections are what make your year abroad a success and so I sure won’t take them for granted.


Posted in Making connections