WEST LAFAYETTE — Busy, stressed-out Americans should take note from Brazilians, according to Ridgewood High School student, Ali Davis.
"The Brazilian culture is so different from ours," she said. "They take time to relax and take care of themselves consistently."
She said she could see this comparison immediately. Davis recently returned from Brazil after a ten-month stay as a Rotary Exchange student.
Her mother, Jamie Davis, was approached by Sandy Pyle, who is the preceptor for the Exchange Student program for Coshocton County. Pyle asked her mother if she knew any high school students in Coshocton County that would be interested in the program and going abroad. She has always half-heartedly stated an interest in traveling and being an exchange student. She said she never thought that it would ever materialize — or even this soon, if it ever did.
Davis left Columbus in August 2008 and flew to Atlanta, Ga., then on to Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is the largest city in Brazil. She said there was a lot of preparation for the trip such as obtaining a Passport and VISA. She said the whole process took about three weeks to get everything in order.
Davis, who is a senior at Ridgewood High School this year, said besides having interest in the Brazilian culture and communication itself, just like many young girls her age, she was impressed with the Brazilian fashion and clothing trends. The clothing is colorful and sheik. One popular trend is lots of bracelets on one arm and large hoop earrings for young ladies. The culture was a shock at first as she was unfamiliar with greetings. She said it is customary to kiss someone on the cheek that you are greeting, even if meeting for the first time. She said eye contact during conversation is also a must with Brazilians. She said she was a rare sight to the Brazilians due to her light colored hair. Blonde hair in Brazil is very noticeable, especially by the young Brazilian men.
The people in Brazil were very friendly and asked many questions about American culture and American paraphernalia, she said. The host family she stayed with had never baked brownies and were very excited about the brownie mix she took with her. She gave the families several gifts that were popular in America such as OSU collector’s items and several American designer colognes and lotions.
Davis said the thing she liked least about her stay in Brazil was going to school. She said she was required to attend school even though she could not read the textbooks or understand much of the language. Davis said she learned the basics of the Brazilian language but has a desire to learn more and become very fluent.
She plans to study international business after graduation from Ridgewood next May and is looking at several colleges that specialize in international business. She would love to return to Brazil again in the future, and hopes that once she achieves her dream of obtaining her degree in business that Brazil can be one of her frequent business trips.
Davis relates that another memorable aspect of her exchange student experience was having the opportunity to be a role model to the second grade class at Ridgewood Elementary. She kept in contact with the class, which is taught by Mrs. Sonda Bates.
"It was a great feeling to come back and meet with Mrs. Bates’ class and see all my penpals, and talk about Brazil in-person with them," she said.
The class met with Davis at Burt Park in West Lafayette following her return home this past month.
Davis encourages any local high school students to contact their local Rotary clubs and investigate their possibility to become an exchange student. Davis and her trip was sponsored by the West Lafayette Rotary Club.