sexta-feira, 26 de setembro de 2014

My American Friend Shares Her Experience in Brazil (in my hometown)

When we talk about impressions about a country, it is always nice to see the other side's perception. I mean, as M. Scott Peck says, you should "share our similarities and celebrate our differences". What make us unique is being different from each other, and this is nice. 
I would like to share a newsworthy point of view from a very dear friend of mine, called Calista. 
Calista went to Brazil, specifically to my hometown, with some Occupational Therapy students and Dr. Christine Urish (my American mom), where I had the amazing pleasure of meeting her and work as their interpreter.
Calista is an angel that God put in my life to present me "The Bridge", which is the group that I have talked about, and I really love her comments. Take a look at the picture below. I found this at the elevator of McCarthy Hall! (PS.: Thanks for mentioning me! :) I feel blessed for being your friend!  )

quinta-feira, 25 de setembro de 2014

The Expen$ive American Dream

One of the things that we all care about when we are planning on going abroad is: "How much will this wish cost?"
While being abroad,  we are tempted to think that everything about our country is crappy and horrible. Well, we should think twice and analyze the pros and cons and see things from a different angle.
We pay a lot of taxes in Brazil which is terrible. On the other hand, if you ever get sick in the US, get ready to become a billionaire in a couple minutes. I paid my Health Insurance for the period while I am here and I really needed to see a chiropractor. My insurance covers 60 or 80% of the costs depending on the doctors I have seen, if they are either from the Insurance Company's network or not. Moreover, you are responsible for the copay (amount of money that you pay the doctor, then he/she sends your bill to the Insurance, they cover the percentage previously agreed and the balance/ difference of it, you need to pay). Sounds nice, but what they charge people here for some stuff is an absurd!! It's really expensive. A friend of mine told me that her husband went to hospital and stayed there for a couple days due to a disease. They had to pay over 30.000,00 dollars, which is insane. Having a Insurance is REALLY important.
Despite the fact we have a lot of issues with Health System in Brazil, it is good to see the doctor for free, get shots for free, get medicines for free, etc...
Another aspect that it is really expensive is: Education! We, Brazilians, are really fortunate for not having to pay for college if we study at a public university. Guess what? It doesn't matter if you are studying at a public or private university, you will pay tuition either ways, and they are not cheap. People have debts and debts with this stuff. My tuition is already paid because of the agreement between my university and my current American university. Everything I needed to pay was: Meal Plan ( as I explained in my previous posts)/ Accommodation / Health Insurance / Books / Personal Spends. But not everything was exactly as I had planned before.
My 4 books were really expensive. Just one of them was over 200 dollars! Thanks to my great buddy JJ, we order all my books online (on for less than 120 dollars. But, there's more...
I firstly registered myself to take voice lessons, but at my first week of class (that I didn't have all of the classes because some of my professors couldn't show up) I was called by one of the coordinators of the Department who informed me that my voice class was cancelled for the semester because I was the only student for that class. Frustrating right? Get ready for the "better" part!
The coordinator told me that he was sorry about that ( and he is truly a nice guy) because he knew I was really excited about taking voice lessons, but the university "would give me" another option. I could take private lessons with a teacher normally, but I had to pay over 200 dollars! hahaha
My first thought was: Alright, I applied to take this class, they cancelled the class because I was the ONLY ONE and they forward me to another class, but I would have to pay for it! :( I am kinda having the same class, but now I would have to pay for it... That was the sad part. In order to take the classes that I wanted, I would have to spend a little more (that's way you should prepare yourself for the unforeseen issues that may arise during your trip). But there's more stuff...
I looked at my online bill to check how everything was going and I realized that my Health Insurance priced was more expensive than the price I saw online, I say, almost 50% more expensive than the previous cost. I talked with them to try to get a discount, anything, because, honestly, I was not ready for the increased price, however the university couldn't do anything because every year the price increases  ( and that year, around 43%). Well, I paid since I don't want to pay more if I need to see a doctor ( I really hope not).
Well, going back to the point of Education.
One of the discussion in my class among the Americans was why the tuition is so expensive in the US, since Education is a priority in our society?  (their words!) This is something that I am not able to answer, but I know that it is too much ( I can not imagine if I had to pay also the tuition. I can totally say that I would consider coming here to study here more than twice. lol)
In short, my mom and I have paid more than we thought we were going to pay, and since I was not born with a silver spoon, I have to control my finances more carefully and reconsider things I want to do while I am here.
In sum, I am really thankful for people that have helped me financially in some aspects of this trip, and also because my tuition is paid ( thanks, Ambrose ) otherwise I would have to pay more than I paid, but it not fun at all! hahaha.
To conclude,  I also would like to give you some tips to think before traveling:

1) While you are making the budget, be exaggerated about the prices: since I have got here, the currency rates are really high (price of the dollar, IOF and the bank operation fees which even includes withdraws. These days I paid more money in Reais to withdraw 230 dollars than when I withdrew 260 dollars to pay my bill.). Therefore, try to add 5, 8 or even 10% of the costs of each item on your budget. For example: if the Accommodation costs 3.000 dollars, write 3.300 in your budget, so you can have some money for emergencies (or maybe fun! :D ).

2) Always have a Health Insurance Company during your trips: you may have no idea how health system is in another country, so spending this money with a company is something that I highly recommend.

3) Review your budget over and over again: checking the prices and trying to prepare yourself ahead for any situation is really important. So, keep an eye out at the price of currency rates, other fees, etc...

4) SAVE MONEY: All the experiences abroad will compensate all the financial effort!
That's it! Looking forward to sharing more about my adventures!! :)

domingo, 21 de setembro de 2014

My American Dream or My American Nightmare?

I thought everything would be perfect! And I truly have had amazing moments that have made my trip incredibly great... But you
 know what? Some cultural shocks were unavoidable... I never thought I'd experience so much in a short period of time. Every single day is a challenge for me when I am able to understand and get to know more about this new world and specially about myself.
I look at myself today and I can see the difference... I grow day by day... I have learned so many things... I have seen so many things...
The American dream for me, sometimes is almost a nightmare. Daily I need to face the college life that constantly contradicts myself. Every single day I've learned to do things myself and rely on God. I feel so blessed for having amazing and helpful people around me though.
I have seen so many things that bother me. The individualism and the over control about personal emotions is something that makes me sad. Sometimes I feel I am changing my personality just for being in here. My interaction with people have changed. I have been bombarded with "the urge to make money, racial issues, personal space, becoming someone and having the perfect appearance, how to show people that you have something or that you are someone that has nothing to do with the real YOU". I never heard so many cases of suicide as I am hearing now. I never saw so many people alone, on their own. I feel now that everything is leading me to think just about myself.
I have learned that there is a big and touchy difference between being white, mixed or black. I have learned how relationships work. I have learned that alcohol, drugs and sex are the ways to explode the emotion of being " finally free", or maybe an attempt to hide the needy individuals they are.
I have seen how people feel extremely worried about money and personal carrier. I have heard: "I do not talk with people because they can invite me to hang out and I won't have time to study, work and make money". I have seen people being ignored insensitively for being "different". I have seen people apologizing for not being athletic as others. I have seen people leaving a place because there was a "weird" person. I have seen people saying to protect the environment but wasting a lot, I said a lot of food! Dishes and dishes full of food!
But I also saw someone's life being changed by getting a "Hi! How are you"... I have been able to see clearly the black table, the white table, the football table at the cafeteria. I have seen how close but separated we are.  I have learned how the media crashes the life enjoyment and how people forget that life and relationship are important in a different way... Wow... It's a lot information for my head. Instead of trying to fit everybody in a table, I have heard: "you should look for another table".
I have seen people pretending that they didn't know me and labeling me as "the church friend", "the guy from my class" and meaning that our relationship is based on the place that we meet on a daily basis. I have seen my opinion being forsaken, my well-being and presence not being considered at my own place ( and this has nothing to do with my roommates, because they are awesome and really respectful with me! :) ). I have seen how superficial relationships are common and how people are afraid to talk to each other. I have seen how Christmas is expected as the most emotional and beautiful moment to hug, to love... I have seen that people do not like to cry because they do not want to show weaknesses. I have payed attention to the ways people find to release their feelings and how being 23 years old doesn't mean being mature at all. I have learned that the sense of being a community is usually expressed just by volunteer work (for a SPECIFIC community) but this is not usually shown on a daily basis.
I also have seen...
I have see how I can change someone's mood with a smile and a hug. I have learned that I can be with the "nerds", the "different people", the black people, the white people, the freshmen and still be cool. I have seen this person's smile for being included in the group instead of sitting alone... that made me day. 
I have seen how the cultural system is powerful... I have enjoyed gathering black, white, brown, different people in a group... I have enjoyed introducing people to each other... I have enjoyed looking for those who are alone and make them part of the group, I have enjoyed seeing someone's smile just because I listened to their worries... I feel awesome when people look at me weirdly for talking with "different people". 
People may judge me saying that I'm overreacting or judging the culture, etc. However personal impressions are to be discussed, confirmed or changed, If we say that our country is the best, we are not being patriotic but hypocrites. You may see the same things in my country or even worse, but we can only see cultural differences in this way... I could be fooling my readers by saying how everything has been perfect without flaws and without issues, but I won't. I will share my positive impressions as well as not very good impressions. 
Take a look at this article that my friend Sarah has shared with me on Facebook: "27 Struggles Every International Student At An American College Knows Too Well"!

My 21st Birthday in the US! And no... I didn't get drunk! Haha

By seeing the title of this post we will see how the 21st birthday is so expected for some people. 
Differently from Brazil, the legal age to drink in the US is 21 and not 18 and the laws are really tough and strict about it. 
I see positiveness about it. Americans learn how to drive at the age of 16, become "an adult" at the age of 18 and can drink when they turn 21! So, THEORETICALLY, people have five years to think about the responsibility concerning driving and drinking which is great. But we all know that this doesn't always happen... Anyways... In general, when people turn 21, they want to drink and consequently they get wasted! My birthday was totally different!
I started celebrating with My American mom Christine a day before my birthday. We had lunch and she gave a lot of presents, she is so sweet! I loved all of them!
On the Sept. 1st my birthday and Labor Day in the US, I went to a Zumba class in the morning that was also a fundraiser for a baby who was ill. It was cool to have fun and help the baby and his family! We were all being coordinated by Bettinna Bolger and her crew with fun movements and a lot of dancing. I enjoyed a lot, but I was tired and my back was aching due to my posture while studying and using my iPad (however Dr. Eduardo Marquez, amazing professional and chiropractor, took care of me and gave my spine and neck adjustements!). Well, when we were about to end, Bettinna plays the 2014 World Cup Anthem by Pitbull ft. JLo and Claudia Leitte! I jumped from my chair and started dancing with everybody. No more pain, just fun! During Claudia's part in the song, we had a blast by joining all the Brazilian in the middle dancing a very original samba! What a fun and patriotic time that allowed us to show our culture. :)
After that, we had Brazilian lunch at the Tome's house where I personally met Global Awareness Consulting supporters and I had the pleasure of having my roommates with me and being with my dear friend Jennifer (Love you, girl! You're my favorite!). My roommates and I even sang "Seasons of Love" by Rent. It was a fun moment.
Thanks, Jacque and Christine for my 21st birthday!

Adventureland! :)

What a fun day! Austin, our great International Ambassador had four tickets to go to this nice park called Adventureland. He invited Jonathan, Justin and I to go!! I was happy for the invitation!! According to their website: " Adventureland USA is Iowa's largest and most completely family resort. Adventureland Amusement Park contains over 100 rides, shows, and attractions including some of the country's most exciting roller coasters and thrill rides that can challenge the most avid amusement park enthusiasts. There are also plenty of rides for less adventurous guests including great water rides as well as a full compliment of children's rides spread throughout the park. But the entertainment doesn't stop with rides - Adventureland presents a full array of shows in the park - from live music to magic to song and dance - there's always something to suit everyone's taste. Simply the most fun you will have all year! Adventureland Park is a smoke free facility."

We left the cold morning at Ambrose at 7:00am headed to Des Moines. We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast (where you can get free wifi! Awesome! Haha), took some picture with a guy made of wood that we had no idea who that guy was! Lol... And then we continued our trip to Adventureland!
After getting there we had so much fun! The place looks like a small Disney city!! Haha. We first went to "Space Shot" which is the worst! Austin was trying to kill us! (I'm joking, buddy! You're a very nice guy!) When we less expected, we were thrown abruptly really high where we could see Des Moines entirely. That was the moment I forgot English for a couple minutes and started screaming (and praying) in Portuguese! Haha.
It was so nice to see four different continents and countries represented aiming to have a fun time. :) We got all wet during the water rides but we decided to dry our clothes by riding each of those roller coasters! Haha
After that, we were dead and hungry! We had Thai food (which reminds me that you shouldn't forget to tip the waiter. In Brazil it is already included but not in the US! Don't forget it! ), we went to the malls where bought some stuff, met some nice girls from a jewelry store, got surprised when we passing by this store shelves where we found superhero t-shirts, nice wallets, gothic stuff, etc, they also had a small sex shop full of weird toys! It was so funny! Hahaha
When we were coming back, we also stopped at a gas station where you put our own gas (which is different from Brazil). You scan your credit credit and pay for the gas, get the gas pump will stop when it's done! I think it is not that fun during the winter with -30 degrees Fahrenheit ( -34 degrees Celsius)!! 
In short, China, Nigeria, Brazil and the USA had a lot of fun! Thanks, Austin!!!!!

sábado, 20 de setembro de 2014

"The Bridge" Group and Friends: A Comforting God's Response

Before arriving in the USA, I was a little but worried about my spiritual life and relationship with God. I wanted to keep being involved with church, Christian work, Christian people... 

A day when I was working as an Interpreter in Brazil with Occupational Therapy students, one of the girls and my dear friend Calista invited me to participate of the non-denominational Christian club/group called "The Bridge". I really felt that that invitation was a God's response to my prayer. And it was! Besides going to St. Paul church I have the opportunity to meet amazing people every Tuesday night at the Chapel, where we pray, worship and study the Bible. In the middle of anguish, God provided me a spiritual refresh through Calista. She took me to a spiritual retreat called "Camp Shalom"! :) 
That weekend was an amazing time when we played games, had s'mores, sang songs, went hiking and studied that book "Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships". It was such an incredible American experience. I also met amazing people who became great friends!! I am always looking forward to moments that we will get together.

Besides having a lovely time with everybody, a friend told me something that is got stuck on my mind until now during one of our group discussion. After saying that sometimes people misunderstand my caring actions and that I'm afraid of people taking advantage of me because of that, he said: "God made you that way for a specific reason [...]". It may be a common sentence but that meant a lot to me. It was like God was restating that I am not perfect, but I should keep up being the individual that He created... Actually it is hard to explain what that meant to me exactly... But I got that and the message was fully received!
I so love talking about God that watching movies (like "God's not dead", I highly recommend it!), or even saying what God has done for us... It is a good way to draw me forward. Tina (my BFF! Love you, girl!) Katelyn, Kaitlynn, Josie, Kirk, Allison, Suzanne, Josiah (my dear brother), Calista and so many incredible people that I forgot their names (sorry! It is hard to memorize names in English! LOL) have taken good care of me and I am really thankful for that! Love you, "Bridge" crew! 
My other friends, Danielle, Jessalyn, Grace, Katie, Courtney, Kaila, Jenna, Maggie, Liz and other great people from North Hall are so welcoming and so supportive that I don't know how to thank you guys.
I also would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my roommates who are always helping me with everything I need, thanks Jordan, Joe and JJ, my big brother. Thanks the Tome's for making my days so unique in the States, specially Jacque for giving me such a fun, FUNNY and great experience! You know exactly what I am talking about! Love you, amazing lady!
thanks Christine Urish (my mom and her boyfriend, Tom) for adopting me this time while I am here). 
Thanks OT friends for taking me for dinner to celebrate my birthday and for being so helpful and nice to me.

Thanking is never enough. It is a way of acknowledging people for their effort and support towards a cause or someone. I might be forgetting some people, but feel loved by me! :)
May God bless you all! 
And thank you, Lord, for being my everything!