I truly find myself lucky to have been able to spend five months embracing this incredible journey, traveling and studying in Brazil.The one thing I reminded myself as I was browsing through abroad programs, was that I wanted to be pushed outside of my comfort zone and be thrown into situations where I truly had to rely on my own instincts and experiences. I'm a strong believer that this CET program provided me with the right platform to do so. Being able to go abroad to a country without previously studying its native language is quite hard to find in abroad programs, especially countries where English is not commonly practiced.
São Paulo definitely has its similarities to New York City: a big city with lots of people, urban culture and its own style. There were many times where I did not feel like I was even in Brazil because of the population, high-rise buildings and similar fashion senses. But traveling around Brazil, I really gained a better understanding of Brazilian lifestyle depending on the area you live. Being able to travel to the North of Brazil to places like Rio de Janerio and Salvador, Bahia I saw that it was just like the "West Coast vs. East Coast" rivalry. The North is a beach-y and laid back lifestyle, you see more of the Afro-Brazilian culture as you travel to places like Bahia. But as you travel more South like Guarujá and São Paulo City you get more of new face-paced metropolitan feel. Both parts of Brazil are so unique and embedded with culture in their own ways and honestly shows how diverse Brazil is and how you can find whatever you are looking for.
One of the biggest reasons why the CET Brazil program is different than most programs is because I was truly "studying" abroad. Most students want to leave their host universities for a semester of fun in new place. And while I had the time of my life abroad, a major reason why I enjoyed it so much was because what I was learning in my classes or the discussions I was having with my roommates about Brazilian culture was shown in my day to day life. I understood inequality gaps within different regions of Brazilian from my classes and was able to see first hand how this effects society by visiting and traveling to different cities. A lot of my discussions with my roommates, friends or even my host family for the weekend we spent in Itapevi, SP were more than just interesting and enjoyable but rather meaningful in the sense that I could bring back the same topics to my classes or in class assignments.
My advice to anyone going abroad is to go with the flow and take in everything as it comes. You cannot predict how your experience abroad will turn out, so do not letting expectations and other people'e experiences take away from yours. At the end of the day, your experience abroad is what you make of it. My experience abroad would not have been as incredible without the help and support of CET from before I even landed in Brazil to when I was physically on-ground.