Life of an exchange student in Bahia

The 4th semester of Brazilian Studies are on exchange in Brazil at the moment, and we were curious to hear how they are doing! Sofie Græsdal Hansen tells us how life is studying at Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador, where she studies sociology and brazilian culture:

"These two classes gives me an insight deeper into the explanation of brazilian lifestyle and the consequences of culture meetings. My semester is a bit different though. There was a strike in 2015, and because of that there has been many problems which did my semester is placed early so there is ”room” for two semesters this half year. My semester was supposed to run from 11th of January to 3rd of June – but it is Brazil, so it was a bit delayed.”
A typical day for me: “...therefor includes waking up at 9AM, doing exercises followed by breakfast - often mangos from the kind older man on my street. The activities at noon often are going to the beach, doing my readings for school or going on an ”adventure” in parts of the city that I don’t know yet.
At lunch I often go to the kantine of my university and eat a typical brazilian lunch made out of ”feijão”, rice, salad with ”farofa”, some kind of meat, fruits and juice – and this only costs 2,5 reais! After lunch I usually meet up with friends at ”our” usual bar: ”No Name Bar”, at the shopping mall or at the beach, where the conversations are build up by hand gestures, portuguese, a few english words and a lot of repetitions.

At night I often go to my apartment to make a non-brazilian meal – fx wok, spaghetti with ketchup or a toast (SU-friendly meals).

The day ends with hour-long conversations with my boyfriend, who also studies in Brazil, but a bit further south; São Paulo. We talk about our days, and how we deal with the whole thing of living in such a  different society. I’ve discovered that talking to him brings me a bit closer to my old and ”known” lifestyle, and it makes me comfortable.
I believe that fast routines creates the feeling of ”belonging”, and these routines has been very importing to me, to feel that I actually are living here and not just are on vacation”
Are you going to travel around as well?
“I have already been to São Paulo, two islands outside of Salvador and the ”outer” areas of Salvador.
Next week I will go to Rio de Janeiro and Ilha Grande with my parents and boyfriend, and in the following weeks I will visit Praia do Forte and, hopefully, Chapada Diamantina.
When my boyfriend finishes his semester, we will travel to Foz de Iguazu, and on the way down, or back, we will visit some of the cities on the coast.
I will be travelling more, but because of only one school day, I am free to do things more spontaneous. It is Brazil, and you never know what can happen!”
What do you miss most about Denmark?
“Two things are very clear to me, when it comes to what I miss:
1. Structure. The knowledge of when things are planned and scheduled – everything from closing hours at stores to classes and exams. You are not sure about anything until you’ve confirmed it 3-4 times.
2. Family and well-known friends. It is very hard all the time to be social, and be ”the best version of yourself”. I definitely took it for granted sometimes that, if I wanted, I could just go out for a couple of hours and talk about everything and unimportant stuff with my friends and family. You miss it very much in your everyday life, when it is not right around the corner.”
What do you like most about Brazil?
“I love the spirit and open mind of the Brazilian people. I have never met so helpful and friendly human beings. I also adore the spirit in the Brazilians: they have a love to life and a will to live it to the fullest, that I have never seen before. They don’t care if it is tuesday, friday or sunday evening – if they want to go out and have a good time, they will do it! They truly get the best and fullest out of it, and I am envy of that ability and will.”
What do you like least?
“The corruption and how it is shown in a more poor city like Salvador (but I guess it is shown just as much in ex Rio de Janeiro).
The way the government and the elite favors the people and the results thereof. It is a bigger discussion, but seeing the power being exercised - ex from the police on innocent people is hard, and knowing that it takes place all over Brazil is even harder to accept.”
If you could give one advice for future exchange students in Brazil....
“Embrace. Forget everything about Denmark and the culture that you know. Your semester and life for 6 months in Brazil is something totally different from what you are used to. Embrace the culture and the lifestyle. You may not like all of it, but you cannot have anything but respect for the Brazilians and how they deal with their lives in any aspects.

Thank you for sharing your adventure in Brazil, Sofie! We are all very jealous... Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay! 
- Check the blog next week, when Camilla Sunesen Rohde tells us how life is in São Paulo!

Written by Juul van de Voort


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