Meu primeiro discurso em Português

I have a t h i c k American accent.

I hate it.

My voice is too high. I put too much inflection in my words. It breaks my heart, but I won’t be returning to the US with a Brazilian accent. But at least I’ll speak Portuguese.

Learning Portuguese is easily my favorite part of my GCY experience. It’s involved in every aspect of the program: working at my apprenticeship, immersing in my host family, and exploring my community with other fellows.

Although I pride myself in my listening, reading, and writing skills, speaking is still in my stretch zone. I struggle with my  t h i c k American accent that stumbles to pronounce words that I can’t speak as fast as I can think them. So naturally, I did the scariest thing possible: volunteered to give a speak up, in Portuguese, at the Local Partner Gathering on December 13.

For meu primeiro discurso em Português, the daunting task required me to talk about my apprenticeship experience in front of all the GCY host families, apprenticeship supervisors, team leaders, and fellows in Floripa.

My host brother, Matheus, recorded all 4 minutes and 52 seconds of my fight to sound as Brazilian as possible, but unfortunately, my laptop sucks too much to upload it here.

So instead, here are pictures of the script I wrote. I apologize for the awkward translation. Some of the words and writing/speaking conventions I use only sound good in Portuguese, or don’t have an English translation that conveys the exact same meaning.

DSC_0959Hello, everyone! My name is Elise. I am from the United States, but live with Claudia’s family in Lagoa Da Conceição now.

I decided to come to Brazil because of the apprenticeship opportunities with Global Citizen Year.

I wanted to work in the environmental sector because ever since I was young, my dream was to save the world.

I didn’t know how to, so I decided it would be best if I discovered what I wanted to do before college.

During the whole process until I received my apprenticeship, in every interview and meeting, I emphasized that my main motive for coming to Brazil was to get a job working with wild animals, sustainability, or something similar.


So I was very excited when I discovered I would work at R3 Animal.

I recommend that everyone visit the Trail of Rio Vermelho to see what we do at R3. It’s very cool.

Now, reflecting on my experiences since my first day of work, I would like to say that I grew up or discovered my passion.

Unfortunately, the only thing I realized was that I am scared of all the animals and that I am very dramatic.

It’s not my fault that the parrots are angry and bite us and poop on us.

Even though I go to work every day thinking, “I will probably die today”, I always have fun with Trevor, Sophie, Nico, my coworkers, and also the animals that don’t scare me.


Each day, I learn something new. When I work on the trail with Paula and Luciana, I learn why the animals come to R3.

They are usually victims of human activities, such as animal trafficking and domestication. I also learned to not stay too close to the Capuchin Monkey cage, unless I want them to steal my glasses again.

With the marine veterinarians and beach monitors, I learn that the work they do is to guarantee that Petrobras’ activities are not contaminating the oceans and affecting marine life. I also learn about animal body parts when I help during autopsies.

The terrestrial veterinarians, João and Maria, teach me about the different animal diseases and how to treat them, like with lazer treatment and blood analysis.
DSC_0962Even when I am doing something boring, like washing the dishes or cleaning dirty cages, I am arguing and learning with Trevor, Sophie, and Nico.

We talk about things like which superpower is the best, if grass screams, what would happen if Nico got rabies, and which of us will die first at work? They think it would be me.

I agree.

Through all of this, I realized that I still have a few years to go before I will be capable of saving the entire world.

But I also realized that even though we sometimes feel that our apprenticeships are not making even the smallest difference in the world, since we are only inexperienced foreigners of about 18 years old, we are still making an impact in our own worlds.

It doesn’t matter if I cannot save all the animals in the world, in Brazil, or even just in R3.


What counts is that what I do for each individual in my world, human or animal, matters.

The experience of discovering my purpose in life does not start and end with my work at R3, but starts anew every time I give purpose to everything that I do, from when I am working with animals, or building relationships with Pri, my coworkers, my friends, my new Brazilian family, or when I am having fun, learning, and most importantly, when I am truly living.


Love and Peace,