Well, it’s 3:43 AM on a Monday and I’m wide-awake. I guess I might as well do something productive.
Living in Rio has managed to completely demolish any semblance of a sleeping pattern that survived my first two years of college. It has turned me nocturnal. Really, I don’t know how they do it (and by “they” I mean Brazilians). They all have work or school in the morning just like everyone else in the world. Yet, somehow they manage to go out at samba-ing at midnight or 1 AM and not come home until 6 AM and still make it to the next day’s responsibilities. Okay, well, I guess a lot of the time they don’t. Hence, the much more relaxed schedules here (i.e. if a class starts at 7 AM, it doesn’t really start until 7:20, or you can miss up to 25% of your classes without being penalized as opposed to the 1 or 2 absences at Georgetown, or, attendance just isn’t taken at all). But, still, I’m impressed. I mean, at Georgetown, you’re generally out until, what, 3 AM on a late night? And so, you sleep until 11, 12, sometimes 1 PM the next day. So, presumably, you’re only going out on Thursdays (if you don’t have class on Fridays, or, if you just have an afternoon class), Fridays, and Saturdays. If you go out any other night of the week, you won’t make it to the following day’s obligations. And so, consequently, there’s nothing going on on a Sunday night, Monday night, or Tuesday night. Because, well, everyone’s in the same boat. We all work during the week, and play on the weekends. Hence the Georgetown motto of “work hard, play hard”. But here, it’s just “play hard, play harder”.
Yes, they definitely work. I just really haven’t figured out when they do it. Or how they manage to do it. Here, Sunday nights are poppin’. Tuesday nights are big for samba-ing. Wednesday nights are drink specials (so that the already incredibly cheap alcohol is cheaper still). Thursday nights are a must…and the list goes on and on. Brazilians have incredible stamina when it comes to playing. Really, I just can’t keep up. And at Georgetown I’d like to say that I keep up with the best of the best of Hoyas in doing our motto justice; I’d like to say that I have pretty good endurance when it comes to both the work aspect and the play aspect of our saying. But, man, we Hoyas don’t stand a chance against these Brazilians. We’re like sprinters racing against marathon runners.
That said, I’m having trouble deciding how I feel about leaving here in two months. Part of me is thinking, “I am far too type A to live here for more than six months”. And, well, it’s true. At the end of the day, I am American. I was raised in America. I was raised as an American. And, as Americans, I feel like we’re always in go-go-go-mode. I feel like we’re not taught how to just “chill” very well. And, honestly, I’ve never been very good at it. So imagine me being dropped into a very “chill” Brazilian lifestyle. Yeah, it was an adjustment.
And that’s why I didn’t immediately fall in love with Rio, I think. It was just a huge clash in lifestyles. But one that I’m so grateful to have experienced. Because of this culture clash, I’ve added a lot of really positive aspects to my lifestyle and learned a hell of a lot about myself. But, at the same time, you can’t change who you are entirely. And I don’t know that I’ll ever be “chill” enough to live here permanently.
Now I don’t want to represent the Brazilian people unjustly. They do work, certainly. But they do, just as certainly, have a much more relaxed lifestyle than I think most Americans lead. This does feel like a very long vacation to me. And I’m trying to soak up every last ounce of it that I can. Because I know that I’m going to get back to my life in America and miss my big Brazilian vacation so much. But, at the same time, part of me can’t wait to come home from this vacation, from this hiatus from life. Part of me can’t wait to get back to my life that I’ve put on hold. Vacation can only last so long right?
But then again, I am starting to build a real life here. I have Brazilian friends. I have weekly rituals. I’m learning the “chill-ness” of their ways. And so, another part of me is thinking, “oh no, just as I start to really build a life for myself here, I’m going to have to leave.” This is why in high school I lived in Italy for a year, rather than six months. Because generally speaking, you spend the first six months adjusting and the second six living. But, in this case, should I have really left a life that I love, and so many people that I love, for a year, in order to live in a place that will probably never really mesh with a fundamental part of my personality?
Ultimately I think I made the right choice. But, to future study-abroad-ers, I would recommend thinking long and hard about how much you love Georgetown and how much you could potentially love where you’re going to be studying abroad. Because, had the situation been different for me (had I loved Georgetown a little bit less, or had I predicted a stronger connection to Brazil) I think I would have chosen to stay the year. I think I would have chosen to really build a life for myself here (something that requires more than six months). For me, six months was the right decision. But I think for the majority of study-abroad-ers a year would be the wisest choice.