As I approach what I have long considered to be the culmination of my collegiate undergraduate experience, I’d like to take a moment to look back at all that has gone into making this opportunity not only conceptually possible but the fulfilling experience that is set to begin so soon. In fact, it feels like I have been preparing for this my whole life. I started studying Portuguese independently the same summer that I spent working on a cattle ranch in small town South Dakota, listening to audio lessons seated in the cab of an enormous tractor as I stacked one ton bales of hay.
A significant component of my decision to come to Indiana University was the prevalence and prominence of its study abroad opportunities, and I’m lucky enough to have a family who supports me in my endeavors. My father, who has lived and traveled extensively in Brazil and who founded my interest in doing the same, loves to tell the story of how, on my fourteenth birthday, he and my mother took me out to breakfast to ask me if I would be interested in studying abroad in Bogotá, Colombia. He is proud that I never even hesitated at the thought leaving my family and greater culture for six months in favor of a foreign land and language. I quickly took to the city lifestyle and the language, and soon you could find a small, shaggy ‘gringo’ walking around the streets and raising his hand to volunteer to read and answer questions in Spanish literature class.
I wrote a little blog back then too, but its function was more to let people know how I was doing rather than to motivate others to find their own, equivalent experience. Studying abroad is such a unique collegiate experience and I am excited for everything to come not only for me, but for you as well, my readers. I am a living example of how transformative this type of experience can be, I wouldn’t be the same person that I am today if I hadn’t seized the opportunity that my parents gave me at that tender young age.
And now that I’m older and have matured (though I’ve done my best to keep my childish enthusiasm and wonder at the beauty of the world around me) I will be able to more fully immerse myself in the experience. As the first ever Indiana University student to partake in this program in Rio de Janeiro, I hope to help inspire any of you out there to challenge yourselves and seize today as a great day to go for it. Maybe you’ll follow in my footsteps here in the “Cidade Maravilhosa,” maybe you’ll put your own twist on a more traditional place like Florence or Paris, or maybe you’ll blaze your own path in a currently under-represented area.
Wherever you go, and whatever you decide to do with your time there, I hope that you begin with this same feelings of anticipation, excitement, and gratitude that consume me today.