Environmental Studies & Criminal Justice major
Amazonia: Culture and Environment, Brazil
Summer II, 2016
My four weeks spent studying in the Amazon Rainforest was, by far, the best experience of my life. I learned so much, and tried so many different things. I made enough memories to last me the rest of my life.
I was able to have a lot of experiences with the different kinds of wildlife while in Brazil. While we were spending a week in the middle of the rainforest at the Juma Reserve I saw all different types of animals, and was able to hold a few. One of my favorite experiences was being able to hold one of my favorite animals, a sloth. I was also able to hold a python at one point.
While spending the week at the reserve we would go out daily on a boat along the river to look for wildlife. We could see monkeys, numerous bird species, and were even able to catch a baby caiman one night to hold and look at before releasing back into the river.
While on the trip we had numerous difficulties we had to overcome. One of which was learning how to deal with, and work around the language barrier. The main reason we would have to speak with a local there would be while ordering at a restaurant. The biggest way we worked around this was pointing to what we wanted on the menu, if we did not know how to say the name of what we wanted. While buying things at stores, or shops the cashier would type in the total on a calculator, or show us the computer screen, so we would know how much we had to pay since numbers are the same in all languages. Another more personal instance of breaking the language barrier is when I was at an art type flea market. There was a necklace I was buying from a young girl. I had her type the price into my phone calculator, and that way we were able to haggle a little bit with the price, we’d take turns passing the phone back in forth each typing in a different price.
Another struggle we had to work around was the fact that the water in Brazil is not safe to drink. Unlike the United States where we are able to drink the tap water and refill our water bottles freely, we have to constantly be sure to buy more 2 liter water bottles to keep in our hotel room to use to refill our water bottles instead of the tap.
Studying abroad has made me look at the world in a completely new way. Seeing the Amazon rainforest was my biggest dream in life, and being able to achieve that so early on in my life is amazing. Life is completely different in Brazil, it opened my eyes to just how many things I’ve taken for granted here in the United States. I did not realize how grateful I am to be in a relatively clean city. Living here and not having traveled anywhere else, I used to think it was really dirty. Now that I’ve traveled abroad and seen the state that Manaus is in, I do not look at it that way. Even our animal control here, I never thought twice about it, we hardly ever see many stray dogs around here. However, in Brazil, it is completely different. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere, and many are in very poor condition.It seemed completely normal to everyone there thought that strays were walking around the streets, parks, and outdoor restaurants.
Overall the people of Brazil seem so much happier with their lives, and they have so little compared to most Americans. Going out at night and seeing large crowds of people dancing and singing in the streets together was one of the most moving experiences. These people are making the most of their lives and I am truly glad I was able to experience it. I hope to go back the next opportunity I get one day.