In August, after my summer internship at Temple, my student visa dictates that I have to go back to Brazil. I have to – it’s not something I want to do. I’d argue most international students feel similarly about leaving America.
I think any experience abroad takes place because a student is already interested in the country of choice, but sometimes people are disappointed when they finally find themselves in the new place. That hasn’t been my experience.
In America, I learned that no matter how available pizza is, my body is not ready for it every day. I can’t buy the biggest bottle of milk, because it will spoil before I can drink it all. And just because the movie popcorn has a machine with free butter doesn’t mean I should add extra.
I fell in love with New York – sorry Philadelphia, it’s just so glamorous – and got caught up in the fast-paced bustle of American city life. But there’s more to studying abroad than those silly details from the country that stick in your mind.
During my time in the United States, my English improved, but it’s far from what I wished it to be by now. I live in a residence hall with about 50 Brazilians. Even though we try to meet Americans, we usually are together and the Portuguese comes naturally and easily for a quicker conversation. Any students considering studying abroad should remember to immerse themselves in the new language – it’s the only way to truly improve your speech.
I’ve worked before in Brazil, but nothing compares to getting an internship when you are a foreign student, especially if some American classmates can’t find one. If an exchange student has the time before their visa expires, they should absolutely look for an internship. This summer is my only chance to experience an American internship, or any American work environment.
Even though in Brazil we have the longest lines in public health clinics – sometimes with months of waiting – to have a doctor’s appointment, at least there you’ll still have money to survive the rest of the month. Even to pay for a private doctor, the prices in Brazil are not so absurd. I panicked when I received the bill for routine exams I had done in America. Paying for medicine is something I won’t miss about this country. It’s clearly important to understand the medical system of a country while staying there.
It seems most Americans don’t know much about the rest of the world and there are a select few students who are compelled to discover more. That’s why Temple is an interesting choice for an American student, since there is such a diverse group of cultures here. Temple is a place to study, but it is also a place to discover different parts of the world by meeting students from different countries. Students should take advantage of that opportunity, whether they are American or foreign.
Temple has an organized international studies department with great advisers to help students through their time here. These advisers also organize international student events, like receptions during Temple sporting events, tours and special meetings.
I’ve not only connected with fellow Brazilians, but also Korean, Chinese, Arabic and American friends. It’s hard to accept that after I leave, it will be difficult to see them again.
Soon, I will be finishing my degree in Brazil and everything will go back to normal – but I don’t want normal anymore. Now, it feels like I don’t belong here or there. It’s like I am a confused teenager all over again and need to find my way in life.
To find some direction, I’ve been making lots of plans for educational projects in Brazil, to help high school students to find their way. I know that no matter how much I try to make my return and the coming year exciting, I will always want to come back. I do intend to find a way to come back to United States, hopefully even to live in NYC. In the meantime, I’ll try to enjoy the time waiting, like I appreciated the time I had here. After all, it’s not always about the final goal, it’s about enjoying the journey – studying abroad has certainly taught me that.
Monique Roos can be reached at email@example.com.