Annah Chulam: From Rio De Janeiro to Pittsburgh

Annah Chulam, Contributor

Oh America…

I am from Brazil. Yes, Brazil is a country in South America. No, we do not speak Spanish, we speak Portuguese. No, we are not all extremely beautiful, we do not have monkeys as pets (believe me, I have been asked that question), and it is definitely not a carnival all year long.

What most people don’t understand about moving to a different country is that speaking the language is only one of the difficulties to be faced. I cannot speak for all the international students, or for all the foreign people living in America, but what I can say for myself is that adjusting is pretty hard. There are so many differences between cultures that even after five months here, I am still not used to my new life.

Food is an interesting topic when it comes to cultural differences. Has anyone ever realized how many different sauces for salads there are in America? Or, how many types of cheese, soda, or should I say pop, and crepe options we have here? It is a lot to experience and try out, and I have had a really good time doing it. During my first week, I tried a wrap, curly fries, and a smoothie for the first time, and I loved them all. During my second week here, I tried chocolate chip cookies, and that was a big, big mistake because I got addicted to them. I am still trying to understand why we don’t have cookies in Brazil, but the point is that we don’t have them, and they are absolutely delicious.

Relationships are a little bit more complicated then food habits. For example, when I met my roommate, I gave her a hug. Her thoughts at that moment were probably something like “Great, I got stuck with the weird girl,” and can anyone blame her for thinking something like that? But, everything worked out. Later on she understood that I did not know that Americans don’t hug when they meet for the first time, and I started learning to adjust. I cannot speak much about relationships because I am actually still trying to figure them out. Whenever I smile at someone, I am flirting, and if I don’t smile, I am being rude. Who gets it?

On top of learning the language, adjusting to the culture, making new friends and trying to keep my grades up, there is the inevitable homesick feeling. It does not matter how much I love my new life, the feelings of missing my family, my bed, my friends, my culture or my mother’s homemade food will most certainly hit me again, again, and again. And, remember, I have never been to a nude beach, I don’t even know where one is, I have never seen a zombie and I don’t really know anything about voodoo. And, yet, I am Brazilian!