I returned home early Sunday morning, stepping foot in the United States for the first time in 264 days. I’ve had a few people now ask me how my experience has been, which presents the daunting task of condensing the past nine months into a quick, socially-acceptable soundbite. I’m still working out how to best respond.
But overall, I feel incredibly proud and grateful of my time in Brazil. I’m proud of having completed the grant and worked to the best of my ability. And I’m thankful for all the people who shared their homes and lives and communities with me, which has enabled me to truly feel like I carved out a space for myself in Caxias do Sul.
By and large, I’m going to miss living in Brazil. I’m going to miss the daily challenges of navigating a new language and culture, as well as the reflexive insights they bring. I’m admittedly also going to miss the sense of being foreign and interesting, of being an expert on a lived experience that everyone wants to hear about. And of course I’m going to miss my family and friends in Caxias, with whom I’ve been lucky enough to build real, lasting relationships.
That being said, I’m also glad to be back in the United States. Having grown accustomed to the daily struggles of living in a foreign country, I’m amazed at how frictionless my life in the US can be. I’m realizing I now feel this sense of competence and agency that I rarely felt abroad: I know exactly how everything works and what’s expected of me in any given situation. I’m suddenly no longer constantly trying to bridge some sort of cultural gap. Everyone, effortlessly, is on the same page as I am.
The tension here, of course, is that I learn so much outside my comfort zone—but it’s also far, far easier to remain within it.
I’m really glad that I finally got the chance to do Fulbright. It wasn’t always easy, and I recognize that it’s not for everyone. But for me, the benefits of my experience have far outweighed the costs. I’m honored to have been chosen to participate in it, and thankful and proud.
If you’re considering applying to this program, or would like to hear more about my experience, I’d love to talk to you. Please email me at email@example.com.
It’s been a pleasure sharing this blog with you. The grant may be over, but let the story continue!