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Tula Strong '15

When I applied to the Princeton- in- Brazil program, I wrote about how I want to experience a culture that feels like home. Princeton is no doubt amazing and crazy, but it is also so different from the culture I grew up in. So I went to Brazil with this in mind, expecting a place that would allow me to feel completely in my element. Well, it didn’t quite do that. Instead Rio de Janeiro offered me a different kind of home, but nevertheless one that showed me an amazing experience that I could have never anticipated.

For my first week or so in Rio, I honestly spent my time trying to get over feeling overwhelmed. It was my first time out of the country, not to mention my first time in a place where everyone speaks a language I have never heard until coming to Princeton. For me this was the most challenging part of the trip, however it was also so essential. Through being challenged I started to realize the things I was so incredibly lucky to be experiencing: I stayed in the famous cidade de Ipanema just two blocks away from the beach. I was fine dined in Centro, Brasil. I watched a free concert on the beach while drinking caipirinhas. I had the chance to visit an amazing Christian church right behind my homestay. I took muitas aulas de Samba, Zouk, Flamenco, and Salsa. I met beautiful people that I will never forget. Plus whenever I went out at night, I could always without fail find an amazing dance partner! And these are only a few of the great things that happened there!

When I got back to the U.S, I realized I would miss many things about Rio. For instance being in a culture that truly embraces the idea that beauty comes in many different shapes and sizes, or experiencing a culture that sees love as something essential, normal, and is not afraid to express it. Being in Rio did not just teach me about another culture. It taught me how to find the feeling of home no matter where I am. It showed me to always appreciate whatever I have, to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and to experience fully always. I am incredibly grateful and still excited that I had the ability to travel to Rio for this program. It was an experience that I will never forget, and it has convinced me that I must go back.