Exactly 5 years, 1 month and 13 days ago I arrived in NYC to live out a dream of mine and one of the best experiences of my life. And this is what I decided to share today with all of you!
I know many people might have gone through some similar experiences. So I felt inclined to share mine.
When I was 21, for a number of reasons, I decided to take a break from everyone and everything. I wanted a change of scenery and I had always wanted to learn English well enough to get a kick-ass job in public relations.
My family was definitely surprised when I told them I was going away for a year. They didn't believe me...until it was January 27 of 2008, and they waived goodbye to me through an airport window while I boarded an airplane headed for NYC.
I must say when I sat on that chair all alone and heard the flight attendant say in the speakers to fasten the seat belts, it finally hit me. I was traveling alone to a foreign country, could barely speak their language, and was going to live with a family I had never met before. I felt the the blood slowly drain away from my face, I felt a knot squeeze my stomach, and I really wanted to scream "Stop it, I don't wanna go anymore."
When I finally arrived in NYC and came out of the airport, there was snow everywhere. It was so pretty!
It didn't take long to notice how unpractical snow is. It was so cold that I felt the wind hit my bones, my nose and hands felt numb within seconds, and I almost fell a thousand times before I got on the bus. Right there, my first thought was "What the hell am I doing in Iceland?" I had just left Brazil, mid-summer, after a 20-day vacation at the beach. This seemed like a poor choice.
As I came to the US through the Au Pair exchange program, I had to take a few classes made to qualify Au Pairs girls to take care of kids before they go to a host family's house.
I was terrified the night before going to their house. What if they were crazy lunatics and I was going to go back home in a plastic bag? I know that sounds morbid but I couldn't stop my mind from wandering. Luckily for me, they turned out to be the nicest people in the world and I couldn't have asked for a better family to live with!
My first conversations in English were quite the monologue, where other people would talk up a storm, and all I did was shake my head yes or no and smile. I had headaches pretty much every day from thinking. I didn't realize you could get headaches from thinking.
I thought it was funny how I was great at the English classes I took in Brazil, but here I sounded like a moron. Soon I realized how much I didn't know. Most people underestimate the difficulty of trying to say things in another language fast enough to sound smart and end up saying completely inappropriate things. The word condom for instance, is very tricky.
I still remember when I, innocently enough, asked my host-mom for a "condom ball"...
Needless to say that both my hosts stopped what they were doing immediately, turned to me with dropped chins and asked "What do you need?"
I was about to go out, and all I wanted was to take off my cracked nail polish. But if you are hosting a foreign girl at your house and she comes downstairs dressed up, at night time, and asks for a condom...I guess you would be just as surprised. If you couldn't guess, what I really was asking for was a cotton ball.
Or the time when one of my girlfriends engaged in explaining the living situation in Brazil to cute guys we had just met at a bar.
She preceded to tell them that, in Brazil, many people live in "condoms." She really meant to say condos. Their answer: "Well, they say that Brazilian people are very welcoming, but now I see they must also be contortionists!" If there was the possibility to have a hole open under my feet where I could just disappear into, I would have!
I have gone through so many situations living with host families and away from my people and my place. Some good, some bad, all valuable.
It is tough to adapt and resist those times when something upsetting happened and I wanted to pack my stuff and go right there and then. Or the nights when "saudade" is so strong it feels like my chest will rip apart.
Something kept me from giving up though. I guess Brazilians are persistent by nature, but I'm just stubborn. Many times I wanted to give up, but I never did. There was always something inside of me that wouldn't let me do so. And I'm proud of how far I've made it.
I met some amazing people from all around the world that I never thought I would. Made friends I will take in my heart forever, also found out who my true friends back at home are. I am fluent in English, and almost done with college. I traveled to places I had only seen on TV. So far I am doing pretty well!
But each experience contributed to who I am today. Each experience made me grow. If anyone asks me what I think about traveling abroad, I say 100% do it. It is an unbeatable experience. It's one of the best ways to learn about yourself and find out your true potential. We only have one life, we might as well open our arms and throw ourselves to whatever comes. "Take risks or live in regret", I guess.
Just one last thing about my experience in the US...