Friday, March 15, 2013

Inside Scoop on Studying Abroad - Part II

Part II of our Insider Scoop on Studying Abroad! For those who ever wondered how a semester study abroad program would be like? Here are two inside scoops from Cody Feldman, studying in Beijing, and Emily Elliot-Meisel in Rio de Janeiro!


Despite coming to Beijing at a time with some of the coldest temperatures and worst pollutions levels, I have been able to explore this unique culture in a way that only study abroad can teach me. While a language gap certainly exists, I find myself learning about new foods, traditions, and philosophies every day. China has allowed me to leave my comfort zone and experience life from an entirely different point of view. Through my study abroad in Beijing I see my classes come life as I visit museums and explore China's capital. I am able to gain the first hand experiences that teach me about a city and country like nothing in the West.
Studying abroad in China has allowed me to understand the feeling of being one small individual among 1.3 billion people. I have been humbled by the fast growing society that grows with every day in China's capital. Reading about China's growth in class is one thing, but living it breads a whole new kind of learning.


The beaches, Carnaval, soccer, and the beautiful people. That’s what people think of when then think of Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro specifically. And to be honest, I didn’t know much more than that before I came, and spoke very little Portuguese. However, I’m now entering my third month here in Rio and the amount I’ve learned can’t be measured. I’m studying at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro and teaching English at an NGO called Educarí in a favela close to the university. My classes only started last week as Brazil is in on the South American system. In January I took an intensive Portuguese class (5 hours a day for three weeks) to improve my Portuguese and then I went on vacation for the entire month of February. I enjoyed the beach and local hotspots for the first week of vacation and then Carnaval began. It was perhaps the craziest week-long experience of my life. Nobody can prepare you for the constant extravaganza that is Carnaval. To recover, after Carnaval I went with some friends on a trip to a beach town a few hours away to soak up the sun on quieter beaches than the ones in Rio.
While everybody back home was planning their spring break, I was just starting school on March 4th!  PUC-Rio has many international students and therefore offer wonderful classes in Portuguese like Brazilian Foreign Policy, Social Brazilian Debates, Special Topics in Brazilian Literature, and Brazilian Culture. I’m taking two of those and then for a real challenge, I’m taking a history class and international relations class all in Portuguese, with the regular Brazilian student population. School is very challenging but still relaxed and a nice change from AU. The view from almost every classroom is either the Corcovado (famous Christ statue) or the rainforest that is all around the university. Rio is such a different place than DC; people friendly and helpful, less stressed and as Cariocas say (people from Rio) we work to live, not live to work, quite the opposite from DC. On the weekends, the nightlife in Rio outdoes any city I’ve ever been too and the beaches during the day never get old. There is so much to explore within the city and the language is easy enough to learn. I can’t believe I’m already in my third month but I still have 4 more to go!

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