Simple Days

By Dominique Landinez

I was seduced by a heavenly concoction of light, warmth, and aroma in Anitápolis… I walked towards the fire slowly, the soft glow spooled over my skin. I took a deep breath. I stood at a distance, watching the fire climb. It moved quickly as it entranced me with its erratic dance. Every now and then it would shoot up flakes of light that would swirl up and mirror the cosmos in the dark sky. “There’s something so artistic about fire,” Tiago told me, “if you give it air, a reaction occurs, triggering a response that then results in a larger flame, but if you give it too much (air) the fire goes out.” I pondered this for a moment. Fire made the delicious soup that the community was enjoying inside. Fire brought these people together. Fire is a form of art. It can trigger change, it can trigger a response. It can also destroy. The branches leaned over and crashed—sending a stream of stars into the clean air.

I stood there, completely in love with fire. Completely in love with the moment.

Existing here, immersed in another environment, culture, and country allows you to see elements of life in a different light. There are days that we do extraordinary things that I would not be able to do back home but there are also days that are so simple. Days where I am riding the bus and notice how people interact around me, days where I feel the hot wind pick up right before a storm, days where I notice people speaking in English on the street but they slip away too fast before I have a chance to talk to them. These simple days are not insignificant, rather, they still change how I see the world. Simply living abroad has forced me to constantly keep an open mind. Activities so mundane seem to have a significant meaning, like looking at fire.

Consider the Chuchu

By Jonas Gerken

I think Americans take for granted the fact that all of their food share the same texture. Regardless of whether the food is whole or in pieces, cooked or raw, moist or dry, it all does the same thing in your mouth: it mushes. Now imagine eating a fruit with an identical appearance to a melon, and finding that after twenty seconds of vigorous chewing it has broken down into dozens of miniscule, dry pieces of fibre. This fruit–called chuchu–is native to Mexico and is included in everything from omelets to lasagne, despite it having no taste. The only reason brasilieros eat the fruit is because it contains minerals that benefit your immune system. Last Tuesday, chuchu found its way into my largest meal of the day: lunch.
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Dear Class of 2018

by Trevor Hall

I was stuck under an endless rainy cloud, with no idea of the intentions for my education.

In high school, I was rarely learning lessons applicable to my future. I was memorizing information, not retaining it. I felt like I learned more about how to study the structure of the standardized mess rather than the proper why I study…
Because of this learning environment, I began to lose purpose for education.
Instead of learning for the sake of learning, I began to focus heavily on the results–the grades, the score. I became obsessed with perfection and in the midst of time packing up and moving away, I seemed to lose all direction.

And after spending hundreds of hours crafting essays of perfection, taking entrance tests that the system deems to measure “college readiness,” and obtaining the spotless transcript, I chose to step back and take a risk on the bridge year.

That spontaneous decision led me here today; to a foreign country where I don’t even know the language. Yet, I would rather be in another country that I know nothing about than to continue through a system that depletes my love for learning.

In Brazil, I learn new things every day. Every hour sometimes. And although I may not be learning how to memorize the oxidation reagents of carbonyl or the formula for solids of revolution, I’m learning equally as impressive things. I’ve learned how to communicate without words, how other nationalities perceive America, the importance and perplexity of language, how to make a metaphor for the bridge year literally out of anything, why it’s essential to understand various cultures, and how to keep calm with clever, but malicious, Capuchin monkeys.

So this is for you, class of 2018, and the generations that follow you. If you are entering the college application process, listen closely: you are not alone in this daunting process. Every other class before you has embarked on the same journey. So, if you’re anything like me and find yourself constantly frustrated with the system or you wish to divert the path of normality, maybe consider taking time to travel to a place you never thought you would. Take time to meet new people, expand your horizons, learn a new language, and develop a fresh lens.

I know the decisions you are about to make are going to be hard ones, but those are the most fun. I regret nothing about my decision, even if I had to choose between where I should be and where I wanted to be.

Yeah, Brazil is a crazy mess for me and I am constantly confused; however, I am developing more and more direction each day. I’ve only been in Brazil for a month now and I have already recognized that this eight month journey is a test like no other.
A test that shreds your expectations in a beneficial way.
A test that gives you a dose of life readiness, which is way more measurable than college readiness.
And the first question for you is not why take a bridge year, but why not?