Alumni Spotlight: Sasha Cooke

Sasha is a 25 year-old Canadian who loves to travel. Nothing gives her greater joy than seeing the world through another culture's eyes. She will soon be graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Latin American Studies from the University of British Columbia.

Why did you pick this program?


I picked this program because I wanted to experience Brazil from a local's perspective. That is, I didn't just want to see the "Brazil" that foreigner's talk about; I wanted to live, feel, touch, see, and understand what it meant to be a Brazilian living in Brazil. The Teaching English to a Homestay program offered me this opportunity.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

The most important thing I learned abroad is that boundaries are key. That is, I can say yes to every single person, experience, and opportunity offered to me, but that will eventually lead to burnout and inauthenticity. It's okay to let people know you would rather do something else, that you need your own time, or that you simply don't want to do what is offered. Yes, open up new possibilities, but ensure that your experiences will feed you, not drain you.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

One of the most special experiences I had on this program was visiting an urban public school on the outskirts of São Paulo. Many of these children came from immigrant families and had never seen a foreigner before. I was charmed, inspired, and touched by their innocence while also shocked by the realities they grew up in - violence, poverty, broken families, drugs, and abuse.

Regardless of the hardships they endure on a daily basis, I was moved by the inextinguishable light in their eyes. I walked away changed by the experience.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?

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Traveling somewhere new always changes me. Spending a month in Brazil opened my eyes to entirely new worlds. Whoever I was with, I had to stretch my reality in order to understand their values, worldview, lifestyle, goals, and perceptions of society and culture.

Going through this process with multiple different people, of all ages and social classes, caused me to grow exponentially while also exercising my bridge-building capacities. In short, this program taught me "the art of living in multiple worlds."

Why are you seeking to travel, and what do you want to get out of the experience?

I find it is absolutely key to pinpoint the underlying motive(s) for my travels. I often highlight two or three main goals or intentions, write them down, and use them as a reference when I am in the up-and-down fray of the actual experience.

It's amazing to look back on your intentions at the end, and see how each of your goals were met, often in unexpected ways that might exceed your expectations!