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Faridah Laffan ‘18

There are a lot of things to recommend Rio to anyone considering travel, from the white-gold sands and sun drenched waters of the beach, to the cobblestoned streets and colourfully grungy colonial buildings of Old Rio. Of course, the PIB program itself is an excellent one, as students work with both Princeton professors and local teachers to improve their Portuguese grammar and knowledge of Brazilian culture. But what I remember best about the month I spent in Rio was not the gorgeous setting or the challenging course, but the warmth and openness of the people I met. Despite my shoddy Portuguese, it was surprisingly easy to strike up a conversation with cariocas. Every person I met was both delighted that I had chosen to learn Portuguese, and though they laughed at my attempts to talk to them they were universally enthusiastic about helping me through conversations. I remember in particular a conversation I had on the bus back from a trip to Păo de Açucar. I was unsure where I ought to get off, so I turned to the woman next to me and stumbled through asking her where the stop nearest my street was. She was excited that I was learning Portuguese, and we ended up talking about study abroad experiences that she had had. As the conversation progressed I felt my discomfort with my grammatical errors slipping away, and I got off at my stop with a stupid grin on my face. I had done it! I had had a conversation without a) giving up and resorting to English, b) whipping out Google Translate on my phone, or even c) turning red and waving my arms around in a last-ditch attempt to get my point across. 

Over the course of the month I felt my ability to talk to locals improving little by little as I spent more and more time actively seeking out conversations like the one I’d had on the bus. My host mother in particular enjoyed talking to me about the latest novelas, and I learned some choice swear words at a soccer game I went to from the irate Flamengo fans sitting next to me (their team was losing with an own goal, unfortunately). Although my month in Rio was not enough to gain fluency in the language- an elusive goal, certainly- my Portuguese improved in leaps and bounds because of the ease with which I was able to talk to and build relationships with the people I met. And that really is the point, I suppose- actively building friendships with and simply chatting to locals is what will give you an understanding of a different language and culture that you just cannot attain on the other side of the world, no matter how many movies you watch or books you read. The friendliness and warmth of the people I met in Rio made the intimidating job of putting myself out there that much easier.

Jonathan Baron ‘18

I decided to do the Princeton In Brazil Program because I wanted to explore a new culture, see a different country, solidify my Portuguese, and have a fun summer in Rio de Janeiro. I never thought that besides accomplishing all of those goals, my personality and mindset would change as well. The long talks with my Brazilian family, the class discussions about Brazilian culture while experiencing it everyday, and the beach soccer-volleyball games changed my life. I fell in love with Brazil, the Portuguese language, and Brazilian culture. Furthermore, I made life-long connections with my host family, the faculty, and my classmates. When I returned home, I was certain that I wanted to pursue a Portuguese certificate and that I wanted to return to Brazil. I would have never thought that a trip to paradise would end up changing my life.

Vira Tarnavska ‘17

Every day that I spent in Rio de Janeiro during the Princeton in Brazil program was an exciting and unique experience, and I cannot communicate through mere words how incredible the entire experience was. First of all, Brazil is the perfect location for a study abroad program: the adventurous atmosphere of Rio and its’ various attractions never ceased to amaze. Throughout my time in Brazil, I found it easy to combine the intense and rigorous curriculum with everything the city had to offer (such as the breathtaking beaches and the lively social scene) and also had time to get to know my host family as well as other locals. Staying with a host family was definitely one of the highlights of the program, and I stay in touch with my Brazilian roommate as well as my Brazilian grandmother (as I became accustomed to calling her) until today. Although our weekly cultural excursions, especially visiting the statue of Cristo Corcovado and Maracană, were all unforgettable experiences, one of my favorite things about Rio was definitely interacting with the locals. Everyone I interacted with – whether in a store, on the beach, or while I was out with my friends – was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and helped me forget every day that I was in a foreign country. Although I arrived in Rio with only two semesters of prior Portuguese courses and was definitely worried about the language barrier, I quickly realized that the locals are not only accepting of foreigners, but are also eager to help them learn the language. 

Zoe Toledo '18

As I walked the streets of Rio de Janeiro with my host mother’s arm linked with mine, I couldn’t help but feel connected. As I formed each sentence slowly and carefully my măe brasileira, Brazilian mother as I fondly called her, would correct me when I made the wrong conjugation. For the month that I lived with her, she would be patient with me as I learned to speak her language. She wasn’t the only patient listener I conversed with. I would chat with the desk worker who guarded the door to our apartment, the elderly gentleman who sold his wife’s paintings at a local fair, and many others. Each conversation with each individual would entail the same level of patience. Often I could see the confused look in their eyes when I misspoke, but they were always too polite to mention anything. It was these conversations with people who smiled when I would greet them in Portuguese, who would give me little beijos, kisses, on the cheeks as we said good bye. These moments of conversation along with the many adventures I had visiting the Botanical Gardens, experiencing sunset from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to eating all the Brazilian desserts from a local bakery. I enjoyed my time in Brazil.