The Importance of Community

Caroline Smith - Brazil


September 17, 2017

My bridge year, like most endeavors I take on, has been great so far in large part because of the people I have met and those who support me. 

I am so grateful for my newfound family in the Brazil cohort, who are always down to jump in the ocean fully clothed, stay up late playing werewolf, and wait for my “I made it home safely!” text, which brings me to a story about why community is so important within the homestay portion of this year:

My host parents, Erica and Roberto, seem to know everyone in the little town of Ratones where we live. While walking down the street or driving through town, a crazy number of people wave hello, ask about the Associação (the communty association in which they are very involved), or invite us over for lunch. While it can be tiring being introduced to so many people every day and answering questions in Portuguese about what I’m doing in Brazil, I feel so welcome here and am glad to know my neighbors. 

My Ratones community came in handy a couple days ago as I was returning from a regional reconnect with the Florianópolis fellows. 

I was riding the bus home for the first time. My host mom had explained the bus system and I knew that it would make a loop around Ratones before stopping almost directly in front of my house, but that didn’t stop me from panicking  and getting off the bus when I started to not recognize the scenery around me (now I understand why we learned about the amygdala during our Stanford training). Instead of trusting the bus route I knew, I was walking home in the dark with a dead phone and only a vague idea of where I was (sorry to my team leaders and parents!). 

After a few minutes of walking and praying that I was headed the right way, a man riding by on a bicycle stopped and said, “filha de Roberto e Erica!” (“Roberto and Erica’s daughter!”). He was a neighbor I had met and talked to a few days prior at a meeting for the Associação, who knows my host parents well. After I struggled to communicate why I got off the bus and what I was doing (I’m not sure I even knew how to answer that in English), he proceeded to call my host dad to come pick me up. I was further from my house than I realized, but thanks to the tight-knit community in Ratones and the fact that my parents know everyone, I made it home safely. I learned to trust the information and bus route I know, to always keep my phone charged, and of course I learned the importance of forming a community in a new place. 

Here you can meet my host parents and catch a glimpse of Ratones and the regional reconnect!

Até breve, gente! See you soon!

My host mom and dad with art that they made

My room (complete with a banana tree and a coffee plant visible from the window)

Setting up for the monthly art fair my host parents run!

The aforementioned jumping in the ocean fully clothed

Visiting a historical fort that protected the island of Floripa

Caroline Smith