We last checked in with Isaac prior to heading to Brazil for twelve months as an exchange student with Rotary International. Now he’s home – and he’s learned so much from the experience! Isaac fills us in on the highlights and his future plans …
Hi Isaac. When we last spoke, you were about to embark on your 12 month Rotary Youth Exchange to Brazil. Now you’re travelling home (I’ve caught you enroute from Brazil via several long flights!) What are you most looking forward to about being back in Port Mac?
Hi Jo! Wow, I can’t believe it has been 12 months – it sure went quick! I am most looking forward to being back near the water and being able to wake up every day and head to the beach or catch up with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.
Introduce us to your host family/families you stayed with while you were away. How did they all make you feel at home?
While I was over in Brazil I was fortunate enough to have four host families. The first family, and I believe the family that got me though the year, was the Cunha family … There was my host mum, Melina, host dad Rui and host brother Andre (19).
The second family was a family of four people – a brother Lucas (18), sister Leticia (16), mum Valeria and dad Marcos. It was great in this family to have a brother and sister.
The third family consisted of a mum, dad, sister and brother, Diego. Diego was my best friend, I would really call him my brother; we did everything together!
And lastly, my fourth family, also with a mum, dad and brother and sister – my last family before I returned to Australia.
How much Portuguese did you learn while you were away … and did you pick up smatterings of any other languages as well?
While I was away, for the first four months it was very difficult to learn and understand Portuguese, but by the end of the 12 months I was speaking fluently and was able to have conversations, order food and everything in-between. I also started learning German whilst spending my year in Brazil and hope to travel to Germany one day.
What are some of the things you learned about Brazil, its people and customs that you didn’t know about before you left Australia?
I learnt that Brazilian people are very accepting of any race and any religion and also that they love a good old BBQ, just like Australia, which was really cool. Also, the people want to help in any way possible.
What was school in Brazil like compared to what you’d known and previously experienced?
School was so different – the way the system was set out, for example. There is no 7 – 12; there is 1st year, 2nd and 3rd year, so you’re studying material for two years in each of the three year groups.
I also found that the way the students are learning is more the teacher writing on the board and students copying, where in Australia it is more project based learning. Also, there are a lot less facilities in Brazil; for example, no computers, no WiFi and no canteens.
What are some of the new favourite foods/drinks you experienced in Brazil?
Wow, I experienced so many new food and drinks! To name a few, there is a Brazilian chocolate dessert called Brigader – sweetened condensed milk cooked until thick with butter, milk and cocoa powder, then once cooled rolled into balls. It is delicious! A drink I found amazing was called Guarana – it is a sweet soft drink, just like Fanta, but Guarana flavoured.
You went on some epic journeys in South America. Tell us about the Amazon – how much time did you spend on this mighty river, and what was the overall experience like?
The Amazon rainforest and its rivers … What a trip! In total I spent 15 days travelling up and down the river living on a boat, sleeping in hammocks every night and spending quality time with the other exchange students. The overall experience was amazing – something I have never experienced in my life. I hope to go back to the 47 degree humid weather and blistering sun one day! The Amazon is definitely something to put on anyone’s bucket list.
What were some of the other places you visited, and what did you like about them?
Some other places I travelled to included the amazing and breathtaking Rio De Janeiro, with the beautiful Christ Redeemer statue. I also travelled to Brasillia, the capital of Brazil and was invited to speak with the Ambassador for the Australian Government, which was an amazing experience.
I travelled to Lencios, Porto Seguro, Sao Paulo and so many amazing other amazing places.
How do you feel your time away has changed you as a person?
I believe the exchange program changed me to be a more independent person and also, I became more thankful for the things and people I have in my life. I have become more confident in who I am and more focused in what I want to achieve in my life.
Why would you encourage others to embark on a Rotary Exchange experience?
I would encourage others to go on exchange to become more confident and discover the opportunities and experiences this huge world has to offer.
What are your plans upon arriving home – what’s in store for the future?
My plans on arriving home firstly will be to pursue my goal of entering into the Australian Defence Force and while I’m waiting for that to happen, to get myself a side job and enjoy my time back in Australia.
Interview by Jo Robinson.