Why Brazil?

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Why Brazil? This seems to be the question of the century.

Depending on the day, I might have several different answers for you, but one thing is for sure, I believe that this moment in history belongs to Brazil and am I grateful to be along for the ride.

The Economist In the infamous article, “Brazil Takes Off”, The Economist labels Brazil as an “emerging titan” in the world economy. Emerging titan….what a powerful and daunting title. Many people, Brazilians especially, seem to be skeptical of this new found stability and hope. In the past, Brazil’s economic growth rate has been nothing special and has often been stunted due to “chronic political instability” and relentless bureaucratic battles. However, while the rest of the world was frantically trying to recover from their own economic disaster, Brazil snuck on to the world stage. It is projected that they will remain a key player as they overtake Britain and France to become the world’s fifth-largest economy. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the populated homeless-tent cities propped up all over Sao Paulo–something that will change soon due to the swift arrival of the World Cup and Olympic games–but unemployment is at a historic low and according to The World Leaders, “Brazil’s traditionally high level of income inequality has declined for each of the last 14 years.”

Besides Brazil’s important role in world politics and economics, I also chose Brazil for it’s vibrant culture and unique lifestyle. As Americans, we often view Brazil as this exotic country that has so much to offer in terms of music, dance, culture, eco-tourism and sports (by sports I mean soccer since that’s the only sport that matters here), and I feel like Brazil is the only country in the world that can live up to those assumptions. I cannot wait to be submerged in Brazilian–more importantly Bahian–culture and soak up every little bit of it like a shriveled up sponge.

As I mentioned before, I believe that it is Brazil’s time. It is a country bursting at the seams with cultural richness and diversity, natural resources and potential for impressive economic strides. As the world sits back to enjoy the show, I am choosing to be a part of it.

My Journey-A Fulbright Timeline

fulbright-298My Fulbright Timeline

Fall of 2010-After living in Mexico for a couple years, it was time to move back to the US and actually graduate with a teaching certificate. I wasn’t at all excited about coming back, so I started scouring scholarship and study abroad websites hoping I would find a new adventure, a new escape. The honors office told me about the Fulbright program and instantly I knew that was exactly the kind of program I was looking for. I did a lot of research and wrote out a couple different timelines trying to figure out how Fulbright would work for me and fit into my “life plan”.

Originally I was set on applying to the Dominican Republic. I had just recently visited la isla, and wanted nothing more than to go back, splash in the ocean and munch on chorripan and sip on a coco loco under the sun. Unfortunately, Fulbright currently only picks 1 ETA from around the world to go to the DR, and I didn’t feel like my chances were that great. I mean, I am pretty freaking cool and rock at being a teacher, but I don’t think I’m that awesome yet J

My second choice was Brazil. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of visiting Rio and dancing in Carnaval. I saw myself running through the favelas with a video camera and doing one of those deep documentaries—you know the ones on National Geographic and Vanguard. But for the last 3 or 4 years I had been obsessed with Spanish speaking Latin America and really knew nothing about Brazil. I had read a couple articles about their economy, the World Cup and the Olympics, but other than that, I wasn’t exactly sure why I wanted to choose Brazil.

I was determined to sell Brazil to myself—in all actuality it wasn’t difficult at all. I started to surround myself with Brazilian friends (there is actually a huge group of Brazilians in Lincoln. Who knew!), trying our Brazilian recipes and imagining myself as part of their beautiful culture. I decided I was going to take  Portuguese class and eventually joined forces with the Lincoln based group, Las Americas.

Fall 2011- The Fulbright deadline was quickly approaching, but by this time, I was so dedicated to the application and the idea of taking this huge step in my life that I was no longer nervous, but rather exhilarated! We had to submit one personal statement (who you are, what you studied in college, why you teach/want to teach, why Fulbright, why Brazil, what can you do for the program, why you rock!) and one project proposal (what research will you be doing on the side, how will it benefit your community, how will it benefit the US upon your return, how will you about doing the project, etc). I started writing my rough drafts in July of 2011 and wasn’t satisfied with them until about 2 weeks before the deadline (October 11th). I would say I wrote about 10-15 versions of each one. My honors coordinator was a huge help, too! She revised everything I wrote. She crossed out huge sections (that was devastating, but I knew it was for my own good) and helped me address the “Fulbright audience” in a more professional—I know what I’m doing manner.

October 9th 2011– I turned in my application! At that point I was sick of reading over my essays and freaking myself out, so I decided to turn it in early and not worry about it. I later found out, that the night of the 11th the application system crashed and a couple people were not able to submit their applications. For the first time in my life I had not procrastinated and it really paid off!

The waiting process began…..

January 2012- I get a letter in the mail from the US Fulbright commission stating that I had made it through the first round and was being nominated to the Brazilian Fulbright commission as an ETA. I had just gotten home from a day student teaching and all I remember is jumping around my living room and calling my family. Of all the applicants (around 500) I was one of 30 to be nominated. From those 30, they would pick 15. My chances were now 50-50 and the stakes were even higher.

The waiting continues……….

April 2012- I get an email while I’m teaching my AP Spanish class saying that I have been officially accepted by the Brazilian Fulbright commission. In that moment I became a Fulbright scholar! I cried in front of my class and there were a lot of hugs—they all knew I was waiting for that moment.

They told us that we wouldn’t find out until June, so this information came as a surprise, one that I welcomed with open arms. However, even though they have been very prompt with providing information, Fulbright likes to play the waiting game.

I now knew I was for sure going to Brazil, but I had no idea where in Brazil I was going, which university I would be teaching at, or when I was going to get there.

May 5th 2012– I graduated!

October 2012– Getting medical clearance is a requirement for the Fulbright program and visa process. One of their rules is that you cannot start the medical clearance any earlier than 6 months before your departure date. Since I knew I was leaving sometime around the 1st of March, I couldn’t start until October 1st. There were a lot of forms! I believe I had them filled out and sent in by October 10th. I heard back from the Fulbright office that I had received medical clearance on November 16th.

I also sent in my visa application in October. We were told that if we were mailing in our applications, it would take 4-8 weeks to get anything back. The day after I sent my application in, we received another email saying that there was a “situation” at the Washington embassy and that we shouldn’t send in our passports yet………really?!?

I must have been lucky again because I got mine back on November 22nd. I got to show off my new Brazilian visa at Thanksgiving :D

Still October 2012- Our program coordinator asked us to pick our top 3 cities from a list of 15. My choices were:

  1. Ilheus, Bahia
  2. Maceio
  3. Joao Pessoa

They asked us to explain why we chose that city and why it would be the best fit for us. I practically wrote an essay about why I wanted Ilheus and Maceio. Ever since I became interested in Brazil I knew the North is where I wanted to be. I would love to spend time in Rio, but the culture of the north seems to fit me better. I heard back in November that I was to be placed in Ilheus!

November 2012-

January 17th 2013- It is exactly 1 month until I leave! I already have my dresses and shorts packed. I still have a lot to do, but as each day passes I feel more confident and nervous all at the same time. I have not been practicing my Portuguese as much as I should, and I have not even started reading the pedagogy books they asked us to buy. I have been a super slacker. However, I do have a list of exactly what I need to buy and pack.

Just found out I get 2 free, 70 lbs. bags on Delta! Score!