Open Letter to the Brazil 2019 Fulbright ETA Cohort

Prezados Amigx:

I can’t believe a year ago I was arriving in São Paulo for the 2018 Fulbright Brasil Orientation. For this new cohort there is a number a fellow 2018 ETAs who are returning to Brasil for Fulbright 2.0 and very close friends who are mentors. Bravo and parabéns!  I can’t wait to hear what treasures you will find on your new journey in year 2.

For the new Fulbrighters cheers to you and welcome to this unique experience in Brazil. You should be very proud of your accomplishments. Unlike some of my counterparts last year; through the Fulbright grant was the very first time I was going to live in Brazil. Some of my colleagues already lived abroad in Brazil and were eager to get back and continue practicing their Portuguese skills and reconnect with their friends. For me, I was excited for this new opportunity to learn a new language and live in another South American country. Since in my undergraduate experiences I did not have the chance to take Portuguese language courses and I was a Spanish language and literature major. I knew I had to rely heavily on my Spanish language skills to a certain extent and then I would have to buckle down on learning Portuguese. So, for those of you who do not speak Portuguese or are nervous about this new language immersion don’t be afraid!

Listen to your body. Let it rest.
You will be tired, so SLEEP… Learning a new language is emotionally and psychologically taxing. Honor the journey. Don’t rush your progress. You will get there, wherever that is for you. Do not mark your success with learning Portuguese with someone else’s perceived success. Follow your path to language acquisition. Take it from me – I did not speak any Portuguese at the beginning and now I feel confident in speaking to others in Portuguese and reading. Need to continue working on my writing. Onward, friends.

Stretch in the discomfort and lean into the opportunities you have daily to hone in on your new language skills. Stumble upon your words and let someone local correct you, learn the local lingo and become one with it. Throw the textbook out the window and truly listen to your surroundings. Friends, you have the optimal opportunity to learn. YOU ARE IN COUNTRY. You can literally feel, breathe, and touch the language. You have the right to Enjoy it, too.

You will make mistakes. Don’t dig a hole and wallow in it. Cultivate a practice in learning that its OK to make this mistake while learning a new language, living in a new city AND adapting. So its ok to cry and make mistakes. But its not ok to give up. You can do it, I’m rooting for you!

Read new books, try new foods, and explore.

Now, a year later, I am still processing this experience from the very moment I decided to apply, the acceptance, the preparation, the documents, and finally in the country experience.

You like the cohorts before you; answered a call and an opportunity to be abroad again and in Brazil. Cherish this moment and that journey. Honor it. Also accept the inevitable challenges and obstacles that will come your way.

Don’t put so much pressure on your experience to fulfill a romanticized view of what you want it to be. Let it unravel in the best way possible.

During orientation last year, someone from the embassy spoke and said she believed  we as Fulbright Scholars are an arm of the U.S. Department of State and diplomacy on the grounds. Thus, I learned that we have the supreme opportunity to demystify what it means to be an “American” abroad.

Hear out your new friends, colleagues, and people you encounter randomly, and what they think or say about the United States. Shift your perspective and paradigm. I urge you to look through their lens for it will lead you to gain a greater understanding of Brazilians, U.S. Nationals, and the world in general.

Ask deep questions that ultimately reveal raw connections and misunderstandings between you and them but also between both our great nations. In the end we are able to live this Fulbright experience because the founder dared greatly. His motto lives on: IMG_8577

I encourage you to have your personal goals, your professional goals but also reach out farther and be brave. Branch out of being the “American” in town and grow into your self and identity as you move through the streets of Brazil as You. Develop a deep sense of yourself within the contours of Brazil, The Fulbright Program, and your host institution. 

Stand in your power and your truth. Fight for what is right, be true blue. As a “Latina” my experience had many layers to it. For those who identity as POC, LBTQIA+, Varying Abilities, etc. know that you will also live through many layers. Know that You are not alone. There is someone who has been through this experience before and is here to help. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to us in 2018 and before. Reach out to your mentors, and if they don’t have the answers know that they will connect you with someone who they think will be able to support you. 

I hope this quote supports you in the way it guided me through my time in Brazil:

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” ~ Virginia Satir

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! LAUGH! DANCE! Soak it all up because it will FLY BY! Literally and figuratively! Once again Congratulations and Parabéns! 🙂 

Much love,


Excited about making it to one of the 7 wonders of the world

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