On my own overseas

17 Jun

The title of this post is a bit misleading because while, indeed, I did come here on my own, am living on my own, and am (supposedly) caring for myself, much of my time in Brasil thus far has been spent with friends, family, and co-workers who I am already familiar with.

I am currently here in Brasil under research funding from DukeEngage. Unlike many students who applied for funding for independent projects, I did not apply to go to an unfamiliar place. I instead opted to return to a place that I have lived in previously, Salvador, Brasil. Because I already have an orientation for the city, having spent 4 months here in the fall of 2011, my experience here thus far has been a fairly easy transition, both enjoyable and productive.

I have plenty of friends and family to rely on and I’ve been able to begin my volunteer work and research right away. While I am sure it would have been exciting to travel alone to some place new, I think it would be insane for Duke to let anyone come here on there own without them already having have lived here before.

Salvador is the third largest city in Brasil, and as always the case with big cities, it is very dangerous, ESPECIALLY for foreigners. Not many people here speak English so getting around could be incredibly difficult. Even something as simple as arranging for housing or purchasing a meal could be a hassle of you don’t understand or speak Portuguese. Not speaking Portuguese also makes you a target for getting ripped off, or worse assaulted or robbed.

Having already established myself here, however, Duke gave me the benefit of the doubt and trusted me enough to live in Brasil completely on my own with an organization that has never had an American volunteer before me.

That being said, this summer is turning out to be exactly what I imagined it to be. I am working and volunteering regularly by day and enjoying the culture of Brasil with my friends and family at night. Having people here that I care about has made the experience so much more meaningful for me, and it’s the only reason why my research project is possible. After all, I am working with HIV/AIDS, sex workers, pimps, drug dealers, etc. How many people can say they do this type of research on their own in a country other than their home country at my age?

So thank you, Duke, for affording me the opportunity to come here and carry out my passion for working with marginalized populations and allowing me simultaneously to live my life in the place I call my second home.

Will post more about my research and volunteer experiences soon. Until then, boa noite… From my apartment.



2 Responses to “On my own overseas”

  1. Andrew K January 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Hi Rachel, thanks for sharing this blog! I’m writing my own application for a DukeEngage independent project in Salvador de Bahia to work with a microfinance NGO. Your commentary has been interesting and helpful–I’ll try to find you on campus if you haven’t graduated yet! Thanks, Andrew

    • Rachel Safeek January 28, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

      Andrew–thanks for reaching out! I tried to email you the other day, but I’m not sure if you received it. Feel free to contact me to set up a meeting. rs173@duke.edu

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