Saying Goodbye to Study Abroad

My semester abroad has officially come to an end. Saying goodbye to IHP is so bittersweet! I’ve gained so much throughout this semester and have made such beautiful memories. I’m so sad to let it go!

This picture is from our very first flight together (to India)

We ended the program with an end-of-semester retreat in a retreat center two hours outside of Sao Paulo. We spent three days there reminiscing on the semester, doing intellectual syntheses, and prepping ourselves for going back home. We talked a lot about how to put what we learned to use back in our homes, as well as how to talk about our experiences while abroad.

We did an activity where we threw a piece of yarn around to each person in the circle and shared something we want to say to the rest of the group

I am feeling so grateful to IHP for the beautiful places it took me, the amazing people it introduced me to, and the difficult lessons it taught me. I grew in so many different ways this semester. Now I am preparing to go back to Bryn Mawr. I’ll continue to blog advice pieces for students that want to go abroad, as well as other things! I am actually currently in the process of designing a praxis course, so I should blog a little about that too. And of course, I’ll talk about what it’s like re-integrating into campus and all of the things that come with being a junior. Here’s to the next chapter!

My plane ride home

Cool Museums (in the artsiest city I’ve ever lived in)

The thing that most impressed me about Brazil as soon as I got here is how artsy it is: every street has murals; there are countless museums to visit; and there’s music in every corner, etc.

I wanted to share some of the awesome art I’ve been able to see here. The most impressive by far is at the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio. They had a wonderful exhibit in Portuguese, Spanish, and English on people and things that we experience. I took pictures of the exhibit and people reading the explanations. It was beautifully designed and written. I would definitely recommend checking this museum out if you ever find yourself in Rio!

  

We also went to Beco de Batman, which was so similar to Miami’s Wynwood Walls. Here are some pictures:

This kind of mural is all over Sao Paulo

Me being a tourist and taking a picture in front of a wall

This was definitely the most touristy part of Sao Paulo that I’ve visited

Other cool museums I’ve been able to visit and are a must-see:

  • MASP
  • Afro Brasil Museum

I just realized while writing this that there are so many more museums I have to check out and I only have two weeks left! Wish me luck!

Pao in Sao Paulo :)

I arrived in Sao Paulo a few weeks ago and it’s been beautiful so far! The city has the young, energetic vibe of Cape Town and is full of murals and art galleries and amazing food and the kindest people. The language barrier has been a bit of a challenge since this is the first country I’m abroad in where English isn’t widely spoken, but we’ve been taking survival Portuguese classes in the morning, and my Spanish background helps a bit!

My passport had a rainbow on it when I flew to Sao Paulo, so I knew it would be a good trip

These past few weeks have been full of me overeating at delicious Brazilian kilos, doing as many touristy things as possible (I still have so much left on my list), trying to communicate in my broken Portuguese, and taking in Brazil in all of its glory. It’s my last country 🙁 !

Brazilian food (aka the best thing on this planet)

Brazilian pastels (which in my country, DR, we call pastelitos) are a little reminder of home!

fresh honey

we are clearly very excited about banana chips

Fresh coconut!!

I have been in my element in Sao Paulo! My program is coming to an end in two weeks and then I will be preparing to head back to Bryn Mawr in the spring. Everything is so bittersweet! For now, I am just enjoying what’s left of my abroad experience.

Weekend in Rio!

Last weekend, a couple of my friends and I took time to visit Rio de Janeiro! We spent six hours on a freezing bus, but it was all worth it. My favorite part was the Escalera de Selaron, the famous stairs in Rio:

My favorite piece of the stairs in Rio

Me at the stairs, shining, because I love Rio!

We were also able to see Christ the Redeemer which was a super cool experience; it was so packed, but so worth it!

The view from the top of Christ the Redeemer

We ended our short weekend trip with some much needed relaxation at Copacabana Beach. I was sad to leave, but am luckily returning with my sister at the end of my program. I can’t wait to go back and experience Rio again (and this time with my sister!) So far I’ve seen three beautiful parts of Brazil (Sao Paulo, Rio, and Barra du Turvo), and I hope that my future will allow me to see more of this huge country with so much to offer.

Homestay 101

Although many abroad programs place students in dorms, IHP places students with a fellow student and a family in each country. The homestay experience has been wonderful and I wanted to write a blog about it so that students who are studying abroad in the future can decide if dorms or homestays is the correct choice for them!

In India, I was placed in the home of a wonderful older woman named Sobha. She was a hard-working widow with no kids in the house, so my roommate and I (both very introverted) had a lot of space and time to adjust to being abroad. We had the sweetest cook, Rekha, who lived there as well. I was initially nervous to have my first homestay and first roommate, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I ate the most delicious food every day (with dessert after every dinner), I had a really beautiful home with a nice patio connected to my room, I had a super sweet roommate, and I had a lot of introvert time (which I needed). Of course, we had an early curfew and couldn’t do some things that people living in dorms could. But, having home-cooked meals and a space to call my own gave me a sense of comfort that dorms could not. Rekha was also such a beautiful light and I loved having the experience of knowing her.

My roommate and I bought Rekha and Sobha flowers and a polaroid of us as a goodbye gift

Rekha with her bouquet of flowers!

In South Africa, we had two homestays. The first was in our rural stay of Zwlethembe. There, I had one of my favorite host families. I lived with an older woman who was a cook at a local school. She was very sweet and cooked the most delicious meals and always watched movies and South African soapies with us after dinner. She shared with us such personal stories and we got very close. I appreciated the love and comfort that she gave us. Zwelethembe is also a very tight-knit community so I would always walk home with a handful of kids beside me, holding my hands. Sometimes we would stay outside after class and play games with them; I was always in a good mood! This layer of community is something you can’t get from dorming.

me and my roommate in Zwelethmebe with our host mom!

My next homestay, in the oh so beautiful Bo-Kaap, was my favorite! Prior to this placement I had been complaining that other students got babies and children in their homestay and I did not. The universe must have heard my complaints because this homestay had four children and towards the end, my host mother’s other grandkids stayed with us as well and made it eight children! This was a really sweet homestay experience. The kids were all musically talented and sang and performed for us all of the time. My host sister was also very sweet and my roommate and I were able to bond with her. She still texts us today! Needless to say, I was very sad to leave this homestay!

Me and my homestay nephews, Dayyann and Dean (they always wanted to take pictures and make videos)!

My homestay sister took a selfie with me and my roommate

My real sister came to visit me in Cape Town, and my homestay sister took us to the carnival!

My last and final homestay is in Sao Paulo! Here, I am living with two dads (Thiago and Eduardo) along with my friend, Salome. My dads don’t speak as much English as my past homestay families did (Brazil isn’t heavily populated with English speakers), but we all speak a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and English together, which is really fun! They’re also very young and are always telling us to go out more and have fun. They’re not like regular dads, they’re cool dads. My past homestays had been very mom-centered, so it’s really nice having two dads for a change. This homestay has also been super convenient because we live a five-minute walk from our school and a 10-minute walk from the station, so we can access everything really easily.

Our homestay family!

The cons of choosing a homestay is it might be harder to meet other students outside of your program since you are not on a college campus and you have to be more conscious of rules and respecting people’s homes. However, you get delicious home-cooked food, a chance at forming great relationships with your host family, people to provide you with the cultural context and a real immersion into wherever you are staying.

Either way, studying abroad is such an amazing experience that you can’t really go wrong!

Rural stay in Barra du Turvo

As I’ve previously mentioned, IHP does a rural stay in each country we visit. For Brazil, that meant we spent five days in the rural state of Barra du Turvo. During this week we learned a lot about food security and were able to get in touch with nature and disconnect from the busy city of Sao Paulo that we’ve been in.

We had to cross this river on this little boat to get to Barra

Our classroom during the stay

The people who welcomed us into their home in Barra were so kind and gave us insight into their lives and their farming techniques. This is something I’ve never learned about before so it was super exciting for me! We even got to eat fresh food from them while on a tour of their farm!

Our guide cutting us some sugar cane

The sugar cane we ate (which was unbelievably delicious!)

I learned what the heart of a banana bunch looks like!

Fresh fruit every day

This was by far my favorite rural stay. The people who took us in were so genuine and kind. I got stung by a wasp and overreacted, but the host was so kind about it and helped me through it. He shared his personal story that resonated so deeply with all of us and really moved us. We spent a stormy night singing karaoke, and we spent our lunch breaks playing cards — we even got to learn Capoeira from locals (which was so difficult but fun)!

We were truly able to unplug and be present in the moment. I almost wish the stay was longer than just five days. It was a beautiful last rural stay and the memories will always stay with me.

Picking The Right Program: Why I chose IHP

Before I came to Bryn Mawr, I knew I wanted to study abroad. My sister had spent a semester abroad in Paris, and she said it was life-changing. Once study abroad applications were available, I needed to make a decision: which program was I going to choose?

Bryn Mawr has a variety of program partners and so many options for students to study abroad. When I first saw that huge list, I was attracted to programs that went to multiple destinations. I had never seen a study abroad program that went to more than one country before. Once I saw that one of the multi-destination programs had a public health approach, I was sold!

I am currently doing the IHP: Health and Community program. IHP is committed to providing its students with a dynamic experience. We are conducting a comparative analysis of health in India, South Africa, Brazil and the U.S. (which is why we did two weeks in D.C.) This program is social justice-oriented, and steers us away from having an ethnocentrist mentality during our visits. We’re coming in with a desire to understand how differently health is understood and experienced universally. I also loved the opportunity to focus on one subject through the case study. I knew this was the program for me because it would allow me to explore, and gain a better understanding of, my passions.

I tend to be a homebody and I’m not adventurous, so I love that IHP is driving me to visit different countries and experience different cultures. IHP has a tight-knit community with only 27 students in the program. We take all of our classes together, and each of us has a roommate for our homestays.

If these things sound interesting to you, I would definitely recommend this program! However, it can be far more rigorous than some study abroad programs; the schedules can be very packed; wifi can be hard to come by in these countries; and the time difference takes some getting used to.

When choosing a study abroad program, I strongly suggest you understand everything about the program, so here are a few of tips to help you prepare:

  • Attend the information sessions on campus
  • Talk to as many alumnae as possible about the program
  • Read the program’s website often

It’s just like applying to a college — you want to make sure you make the right decision for you!

Also, if you need any advice or have any questions about this program feel free to comment on this post or email me!

 

My home in SA

I have had the pleasure of living in Bo-Kaap for the past two weeks with a beautiful homestay family. Bo-Kaap is home to South Africa’s Muslim community. It is a visually stunning area of Cape Town which is always full of tourists taking pictures.

Fitting for the rainbow country

I had the absolute best homestay experience in Bo-Kaap. I was in a huge family with eight kids, and though they’re exhausting, they are so sweet and this experience is so rewarding. My house also was at the top of the hill which meant I had a beautiful view of the city.

I learned that you don’t have to choose between the city and the mountains!

I’m currently living near Bo-Kaap with my sister while on my one-week break, but I already miss it. Monday we leave for Brazil, and while I’m super excited for what’s to come, I am so sad to leave Cape Town. I know for sure that I will be coming back here whenever possible.

Climbing Mountains!

Hello!!

So an update on my adventures: I’ve been in Cape Town for two weeks, and I will have several posts with many pictures of my time here, but I wanted to dedicate just one post to the hiking I’ve been doing, because it’s a lot for this city girl!

The first mountain I climbed was in Muizenberg, and even though it was the smallest, it was the most physically draining because I took one of the hardest routes up. The view was so worth it though!

Muizenbergs’ hike

on top of a mountain!

Then, my sister (who is also a BMC alum) flew out to spend my vacation week with me in Cape Town. Our first hike together, and her first hike ever, was to the top of Lion’s Head. She realized her fear of heights throughout this journey, but we made it to the top nonetheless and the view was stunning!

Lion’s Head

Bryn Mawr women on top of Lion’s Head!

AND today we did Table Mountain! My sister was super scared of hiking again so we ended up taking the cable car up. But it was still such a cool experience. When you’re on top of Table Mountain, it feels like you’re in a cloud!

I used to hike in early high school and then I stopped, so I’m really glad I’ve had the opportunity to take up hiking again while abroad. Maybe I’ll keep it up in the future!

Touristy-Things in Cape Town

Though I like to act as least “touristy” as possible, there are so many cool things about Cape Town that just make the tourist in me jump out.

Now that I’m on break, I’ve been doing a lot more sight seeing. Below, I have pictures of different things I’ve done!

We went to Boulders Beach to see the penguins!

This is my sister at Cape of Good Hope (the southernest point of SA)

I’m always at the waterfront!

Boat ride off of the Waterfront! (Table Mountain in the background)

This is me when I took a tour of the University of Cape Town (which was beautiful and full of so many amazing students)

Me and my study-abroad friends at the Saturday market (which is super cool and should definitely be checked out by everyone visiting CT)

Left on our to-do list is Robben Island (where Mandela was held), hopefully paragliding, and lots of eating!!