Written by Bret Quinn, (American University) Alum CET Brazil, Fall 2015
I was lucky to attend CET’s study abroad program in São Paulo, Brazil in my fall 2015 semester of college. I had been eager to get there having heard of CET’s unique roommate program. On most semesters abroad, you either live with a host family, or in an apartment/dorm with other Americans. Upon arrival, I quickly realized that experiencing another country together with a new peer from your host culture would make for an incomparable experience of immersion and discovery (in fact, I enjoyed my program so much that I ended up interning in CET’s Washington, DC headquarters upon my return!) Better yet, not only was my time abroad colored by my fantastic Brazilian college-age roommates, but they got the chance to experience American culture, as well.
However, never did I imagine I’d be able to show one of my roommates so much of my culture in the same way they were able to show me theirs. Throughout the months, I got rather close with my Brazilian roommates, Vini and Ygor, and knew I’d miss them a lot upon my return to the states. It’s been a gift to have such close friends in a foreign country. We keep in touch to this day on a weekly basis, so my cultural exchange has lived on long after my physical time spent in Brazil (and I’ve never lost my Portuguese!).
For that reason, we had joked around a lot that they’d come for a visit to the US, and I was so excited when I found out Ygor was actually able to make it here. We had been planning throughout 2016, and he booked his tickets that summer. Ygor came for a whole month over the holidays this past December, right after we both graduated from college. I live in DC, so he got to hang in the nation’s capital for a few weeks and experience all it had to offer. It was his first time ever to the United States, and we made sure he got the full experience. He even got to attend my college graduation ceremony! I grew up on Long Island, in the suburbs of New York City, so after graduation we went back to New York for another two weeks for the holidays, and showed him the classic experience of the Big Apple during Christmas time (I was relieved to find out I didn’t have a nervous and overwhelmed tourist with me—New York and São Paulo are about the same size!).
His trip here really put things into perspective for me. Not only has our friendship and cultural exchange continued, but it showed me what a job the CET roommates had. I was Ygor’s tour guide for four weeks, and for parts of it I was balancing that with final exams, graduation, my internship, etc. Ygor and the rest of the CET roommates are intelligent, open-hearted individuals who are steadfastly committed to intercultural exchange. While I was responsible for showing Ygor my culture for four weeks, he and the other roommates were dropping what they were doing to show me Brazil for an entire semester. I can’t thank them enough for making my experience something I think about every day, and for reminding me that I have a network of friends and a second home across the globe should I ever find myself in Brazil again!