February 16, 2017

This is fourth week studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The city is a beautiful quilt, vibrant with mismatching swatches of metropolitan virtue and tropical nature. I will admit that it is not an easy place to live in but perspective changes every day happenings into elements that make this ocean edge a must-see spectacle.

My trip started mid-January with a quick orientation that took me to different parts of the city. The Monday after my arrival, I started my language intensive course so that I could learn Portuguese before the regular semester started. Language is a critical, every changing organism that connects people nationally and globally. It is history in people’s mouths. So the process of learning grammar and pronunciation continues to be challenging but rewarding. Before the course, I could vaguely understand conversations and articles given the remarkable similarities to Spanish. Now, I can hold conversations and I can understand lyrics in songs about love or heartbreak.

These are only miniscule things I could not have imagined, even a year ago when I was working on my application to study here. Speaking the language and riding mototaxis through favelas does not feel foreign to me after the adjustment. But they are themselves huge feats from my point of origin. I remind myself that I am learning so much here. I think we forget too often to tell ourselves this.

In retrospect, I think the most incredible aspect about my study abroad process was the inkling of doubt that almost dimmed my desire to travel my junior spring. Therefore, before I expand on my experiences in future posts, a preface is order: Self-Care is Necessary for Self-Growth is Necessary for the Revolution.

This trip could have not happened at all because I did not know it could be part of my self-care agenda. I was so captivated and paralyzed by negative images in my personal life that went back and forth between images at the seemingly galactic sphere of nonsense. I told myself I had to work non-stop and on top of the academic, I told myself I needed to be emotionally available for folks who needed me to be. I will say that although my junior fall was one of my best semesters socially in college, so many external pressures bombarded my experience from remaining healthy and enjoyable like my last summer. Every day elements were non-existent but I was hesitant to accept that. So studying abroad seemed to derail from this rigid curriculum I had built and evaluated in my head about how I was supposed to reach my goals and my ideal me.

But the fact of the matter was, I was not wholeheartedly commiting to actions or action plans, no matter how good they were for me. I made a quick friend out of Hysteria and Tension. I became more confrontational. It was difficult to believe in the existence of goodness at a predominantly white institution at a time when the nation was only beginning to tear at the seams.

I think my mental health is at a better place because I am not on Pomona’s campus this semester. The external pressures still hover over me and over people I love. But internally I know that the values I hold and my learning processes are legitimate and enough, especially because I have taken the time to self-reflect and they are still persistent in me. I realized I need to find ways to enjoy my life as equally as I am able to demand more from the people and the institutions around me. I know many people will say, “Time slows down” when you are abroad but I think the truth is we slow ourselves down. I do not know exactly how different the school year will be, as it has yet to start, but overall I feel that I will be more enthusiastic to put forth my best effort because the world is bigger and so is my hope. I know this is not an experience many student were able to have this semester due to a series of unfortunate events. I can only assert that when I return home, this state of mind will be sturdy and will only seek to revitalize the communities that always give.

If any student is doubting to study abroad: Study abroad. The world is bigger.