When I first arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, my policy was to always meet new people and never reject making time to chat with new peers. In fact, on the way from the airport to my host mom family on the first day, I met students from the states that I keep in touch to this day. The experience in Rio over the next months and now over the past year would create lasting memories with people that over a year ago I did not know existed.
During the first semester, for example, I met students from the University of California system, but even more from PUC-Rio and Europe, where I made friends with French and German students, as well as Brazilians. Usually at PUC-Rio everyone goes to school only to attend classes, leaving for home, an activity or the beach soon thereafter. I hung out with most people usually outside of school where we would spend some afternoons at Copacabana or Ipanema beach. On Monday nights we’d go to Centro, in the center of the city, to an event with live samba music and some caipirinhas, a famous Brazilian alcohol drink with a lot of sugar, ice, lemon (or other fruit like strawberry and passion fruit), and Cachaça, a famous Brazilian alcohol fermented from sugar cane. Samba is a unique Afro-Brazilian music genre with diverse sounds and dances with roots from Africa. It is widely known as part of Brazil, seen and heard everywhere throughout the country especially in the North.
On Tuesdays, foreign students and locals go to Canasta, a bar in Ipanema where we can drink some beers, talk for long hours about anything and practice Portuguese at the same time. Next up is ‘BG,’ or ‘Baixo Gávea,” a small like-park near PUC-Rio located in Gavea where students go every Thursday to hang out. In Rio de Janeiro there is always somewhere to go, and that somewhere to hang out is usually next to a bar with music and a lot of strangers. I never consistently went to every event or place every week because of time and money, but I tried my best to meet new folks and find new relationships and friends. That’s my policy, to stay open to meeting people, and it worked out perfectly. Aside from the weekly events outside of PUC-Rio where I hung out with new friends I also spent time with some at the beach on the weekends and during class.
During Carnival, I met even more people from all over the world. The event in Rio de Janeiro is gigantic and meeting people left and right was very common. I met complete strangers from Canada, Germany, France, Brazilians from Minas Gerais, friends of friends from Argentina, and a bunch of other folk I jumped into through friends and walking around in the crows of “blocos,” street parties. Soon after I headed for my trip to Patagonia. Then I explored Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. There too I met a whole bunch of other strangers whom with time became friends I keep in touch through Instagram and other social media. Many of them traveling the world. That’s one thing I will be taking from studying abroad, that I should be traveling twice a year at least because there’s much to explore in other societies and even inside the states.
This second and last semester in Rio too has been the same. I’ve been here longer and I know some people, but I still try to make new connections, making some good friendships with students from the states and some more Brazilians. I also finished my internship and became more involved in Brazilian jiu-jitsu practices and my graduate human rights course where I recently completed a paper on US foreign policy with respect to human rights towards Central America after 9/11. The friendships I have made abroad will be for a lifetime and I can’t wait to repeat these moments in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, where I hope to see everyone again.