What possessed a 16 year old from small town Ohio to venture to Brazil for a year?
Wunderlust? Language? Culture? Escape from the disco craze of the mid-70’s? What I
remember was, “why not?” I had nothing to lose by interviewing except for time and
could gain that experience and possibly the golden ring to a location far away.
Now as I reflect back on that wonderful year and think about those who are thinking about
going, I say, “DO IT!” Not only did I learn about a culture and language I knew nothing about, I more importantly learned about myself and my abilities. Living with host families who
did not speak English as I fumbled with my child-like Portuguese helped build
confidence that I could tackle anything.
Was it all a bed of roses? Remember that bed houses some thorns. The beginning
was hard. I was missing the opening day of the Cincinnati Reds, the big red machine, a
tradition my grandfather started at the age of 3 in 1904. I lived in a condo with three
brothers. No need to elaborate on that topic.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Today’s exchange students have advantages I never
thought possible. Internet, Google Translate, immediate access to family and friends
back home via email, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Zoom and whatever else is out there. I
had snail mail that took over a month to be delivered. Short wave radio had its
atmospheric challenges and timing, “over”. In some sense, it was a purer experience.
How has it affected me as an adult? After living in Colombia, while in college and
graduation from Vanderbilt University, I spent my career in software consulting focusing
on companies and subsidiaries based in Latin America. Currently, I am involved with a
Rotary non-profit providing education and heath to a remote indigenous population in