Global Citizen Year is a program that gives the Fellows lots of support –
not only through staff, but also by providing a large group of students who
are experiencing similar things. However, the many variables involved (host
family, apprenticeship, language, location, fellow, etc.) ensure that every
GCY gap year experience is it’s own, and will not be duplicated by another.
While this does make it easy to compare experiences, it also opens up many
avenues from learning – not just of another Fellow’s experience in country,
but how their pre-GCY life has shaped how they receive this gap year.
Although almost everything is based on the individual, there are a few
things that everyone experiences. The following things are just basic facts
about the GCY program in Brazil; without opinion or bias.
Location: This year, fellows are located in Florianopolis or Garopaba.
Florianopolis is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina. While it is a
city, it seems to be much more like a series of neighborhoods/small towns –
connected because they all are located on one island. Florianopolis (aka
Floripa) has wealthy and working neighborhoods and everything in-between,
Fellows are located all across the island. Most fellows live quite close to
another fellow (the closest to me is about 10 minutes by walking). The
state and city are considered safe. Florianopolis has an extensive bus
system, with bus terminals dotting the island (with a student bus card, a
ride is about R$2). The island takes around 4-5 hours (top to bottom) by
bus. The island has many beautiful beaches, as well as options for hiking
(always in groups for safety). In Floripa, the winters can be quite cold
and rainy, with HOT and humid summers.
Garopaba is a beach town about two hours from Florianopolis. It is much
smaller, but boasts multiple beautiful beaches. I live in Florianopolis, so
I don’t know much about Garopaba.
Apprenticeship: I chose to come to Brazil for the opportunities for an
environmental/animal based apprenticeship, which I believe many others were
interested in as well. Many, possibly the majority, of apprenticeships are
working in schools or with children in some manner. There are some very
interesting apprenticeships available, such as working with animals or in a
local park, but choosing Brazil does not ensure you will be placed in an
animal-based apprenticeship. This may be a bit more biased, but I think it
is important to stress that working in this field is not guaranteed, like I
thought. Out of 36 fellows, there were 5-6 spots working with animals. My
first apprenticeship was working at a church children program, but midway I
switched to environmental work, as I was unhappy with my first
apprenticeship. However, switching is not guaranteed.
Language: During the first week in country, there is a short placement test
for Portuguese. In Florianopolis, all fellows meet at a language school for
Portuguese class one day a week. In the beginning, class was 6 hours per
class, but 1-2 months in, it is 3 hours per class. There are ways to
supplement your learning, such as Duolingo or talking. I came to Brazil
never have learned another language, and boy… it is difficult to not
understand or be understood for several months. I believe I became more
comfortable (not fluent!! but able to get around) around December. That
being said, I also did pay for extra language classes as I wanted to speed
up my learning and help me with confidence in speaking. Although my
speaking and understanding is not perfect, I am able to get my point across
and have conversation about practically anything.
Many fellows have learned Spanish, French, or other related languages,
which should help with basic things.
Families and apprenticeships may or may not have English speakers. My host
family has one English speaker, and my first apprenticeship had none (which
is good for learning but terrible for when you have absolutely no
Portuguese to work with).
Host families vary so wildly that I can’t really comment on it. Not
every experience is perfect. Some fellows switch host families for a
variety of reasons. Neither the fellow or the family is perfect, but it is
an interesting experience to learn together.
The Brazilian diet has a lot of meat, beans, rice, potatoes, etc. An
amazing variety of fresh juices, as well!
You will have access to shops for clothes, food, toiletries, everything
really. Florianopolis had a few big malls with movie theaters, food courts,
and many clothing stores (such as Zara and Tommy Hilfiger). So don’t worry
about having to pack everything for a whole 8 months.
Florianopolis had many choices for activities – Jiu-Jitsu, dance
lessons, gyms – lots of choices. I joined an outrigger canoeing team in
Lagoa de Conceção, which is so fun!
Alright – well there were some basic things about GCY Brazil and things I
wish I had known. Remember that Brazil is a huge country with intense
diversity, even within single cities. It is a beautiful country, with lots
of great people. GCY isn’t easy, but there are lots of benefits.