This blog’s purpose is to answer some questions I’d received.
Application process- do they have any specific requirements? How hard is it to get a scholarship? What are the factors affecting the fact of getting a scholarship?
The Global Citizen Year application process is quite simple. The 2 requirements that come to mind are (1) either you are a citizen of the United States and/or (2) you attend/have attended any of the UWC schools. Just like any application form, you have a bunch of questions to which you have to write essays, answer some questions, have interviews, etc.
Scholarships are need based, which means you fill in a form that shows your financial situation, and you get a scholarship according to their analysis of how much you can pay. The only factor affecting your scholarship is your financial situation in real life.
Is it better to apply to unis before taking the gap year with this program?
YES! YES YES YES! Definitely.
Even though you don’t have to apply yet, it’s way better if you start that tiring and stressful process and get it over with so you can enjoy your gap year. It is going to be a really busy year and you don’t want to miss out on the experience because you are stressing over university applications – the people who went through this can confirm.
But of course, it’s not the end of the world if you decide to apply during the gap year.
How is Brazil? Did you know Portuguese when you went?
It’s difficult to explain how Brazil is in a few words or even in a paragraph. I will let you discover it for yourself!
No, I did not know any Portuguese when I came here. I had started learning it on Duolingo (an application), but knowing how to say “I like eating apples” isn’t always the most useful information.
What is the weirdest thing you discovered about Brazilian culture?
I don’t know about the weirdest but here are a few points that stood out-
- Brazilians take coffee very seriously, they’ve even named breakfast as “morning coffee”, there is this thing in between lunch and dinner called “cafezinho” when they drink coffee again with snacks such as bread and cheese or cake, etc… I don’t drink an extreme amount of coffee so when I was offered to join them at “cafezinho” I used to refuse sometimes since I thought it means “drinking coffee time”, to which they would respond to in a confused way “but don’t you want to eat anything?”. So “cafezinho” isn’t just coffee, but you will definitely be judged you if you refuse the coffee.
- Big trash bins aren’t a thing. I’ve often needed to go scavenger hunting to find the trash bin at a Brazilian home. They usually have tiny ones, I have no idea how their trash fits in those bins but I guess it means they don’t produce a ridiculous amount of waste which is better for the environment. (This isn’t applicable to all the houses – but quite a few ones have made me realize it)
- Brazilians from the state Rio Grande do Sul (the state at the south of Brazil) take chimarrão very seriously. Chimarrão or matte is a green herb that you prepare in a special chimarrão container and you add hot water and drink it. If you see people walking in the streets with those, they are one hundred percent Gauche (people from Rio Grande do Sul). Legend says they even drink it in the shower. On a serious note, I find it delicious!
- “I have Italian decadency”, “My roots come from Germany”, etc etc. Some Brazilians feel the need to fit this topic in any way in a conversation. Many of them have Italian/German/Portuguese, etc roots and they feel the need to keep mentioning it. Most of them don’t even speak Italian or German, but get the hinge that mentioning the fact that their ancestors come from Italy is going to add something to who they are.
- Keeping the TV/some lights on to scare away a potential thief. I think if I were to steal something from a Brazilian house, I would definitely not choose to break and enter when it seems like nobody’s home – that’s when they actually are since the TV will be on if they’re not. I find this amusing.
- Brazilians greet each other by kissing (more like touching) on the cheek once. It’s the same in my culture, but with 3 kisses. This is completely normal to me. What I’ve found weird though, is that sometimes, strangers I’ve just met have given me a sloppy kiss DIRECTLY on my cheek… A kid or a close person giving you that kind of a kiss would be completely fine, but a stranger you just met… not something I would like to get used to. This doesn’t usually happen though, they usually just touch their cheeks and make a kissy noise.
So the Brazilian culture is quite diverse, so these points apply to the city I live – Florianópolis, but might not necessarily be relevant to other parts of Brazil.
Are you coming back to Lebanon?
As of now, I don’t have any plans to go back to Lebanon.
What is the most difficult thing about arriving to a country where you don’t know the language?
You can easily get around a normal day, like asking for directions or going to the supermarket, etc. What I found difficult was connecting with people. I was getting tired of small talk sometimes because of my limited ability in speaking the language. Through time and practice, I was able to get to that point, till then, you just need a bit of patience. It all depends on the country though, for instance, generally, Brazilians are very receptive and hospitable, they will try their best to understand you even if they don’t know a single word you’ve just said. They will start learning how to use google translator, speak su-per slow-ly (not always though), use their entire body to communicate something as simple as “do you want water?”, etc. The Brazilians I have met have had an incredible amount of patience with me throughout my process of learning the language, which helped me learn quicker than usual. They appreciate so much the fact that you are learning their language, and will even praise you for learning how to say “I am eating bread with cheese”.
You need to give yourself a chance to develop. You will make mistakes, it’s very normal. You will learn from these mistakes. You will forget what those mistakes taught you, you will relearn them. It’s all okay as long as you don’t back out just because you are insecure and scared of embarrassing yourself. Most of the Brazilians don’t speak any of the other languages I do anyways…
Did living in a country other than your own make you more or less proud of your heritage?
I’ve always been and always will be proud of my heritage, it is part of who I am. But I cannot let it define who I am. It’s a part of me, but it’s not me. This is a huge and complicated topic indeed.
Are people in Brazil friendly? Is it a diverse country?
99% of the Brazilians I’ve met are the friendliest people I’ve ever known. They are super talkative, expressive, approachable, hospitable, warm hearted, the list can go on.
Then there’s always that 1% I’d rather not talk about…
Brazil is a super diverse country! In terms of culture, nature, landscape, people, history… Brazilians like to say that Brazil is made up of little Brazils. It makes so much sense. Each city is different than the other, let alone the states… Brazil is HUGE.
Also I noticed you went to a lot of festivals, is that a common thing there?
What you have noticed was carnival. It is one of the biggest celebrations in Brazil. The entire country lights up during carnival, a week of nonstop movement all around the city…
Do they celebrate events that Armenian/Lebanese don’t? If so, what are the events, how do they celebrate it?
As I mentioned, carnival is a huge celebration during which the schools of samba present the dances they’ve been practicing on for the entire year, and they have a samba competition. And since it’s Brazil, every other person goes partying meanwhile, the streets get packed with people and music and dancing and glitter and soap foam and crazy outfits/costumes and on and on…
I can’t think of any other especially different holidays…
Did speaking English/Arabic/Armenian help you with your journey? In terms of language learning and finding friends
Not really. Knowing Arabic and Armenian is very useless and English… well it’s more useful for Brazilians to know English than for me since everyone here speaks Portuguese anyways, English will not be a language used in your everyday life integrated within the Brazilian culture.
In terms of language learning, it didn’t help me that much since I don’t remember the process of having learned any of the above languages. Maybe sometimes I hear phrases in Portuguese that make more sense in Armenian than in English, but not a super useful tool for learning the language.
In terms of finding friends, Brazilians usually find it interesting that I speak a language they have never even heard of. They also sometimes see me as their golden opportunity to finally put those useless phrases learned in English classes into use. They usually give up after 2 sentences and switch back to Portuguese.
Whoever knows English, it helps, but the majority of the people I’ve come across with don’t feel confident to communicate in English. To start a (non-superficial) friendship with these people, Portuguese is very huge factor.
If you have any more questions, leave a comment below and I will get back to you! (-: