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How an Exchange Program Changed My Life

The Perks and Adventures of Living and Working Abroad

One of my favorite trips, to New York where I visited Dumbo in Brooklyn

It started as an escape. Something new for me to do to forget about a massive heartbreak that I thought I couldn’t forget about. It started as a blank page. A fresh start. Something that was just mine for the first time in such a long time.

It started already so big, and somehow it managed to get even bigger. 

When I decided I wanted to be an Au Pair, all my family supported me because they also wanted me to live my dream of traveling and living abroad. 

It was one of those moments when you decide to do something and everything starts to work out so perfectly that you actually stop and think to yourself that this was the way all along, cause everything is in your favor. 

Even that didn't make it less scary, of course. Moving away from your parents is a big step. Moving away from your country is actually starting a new life that you don't know anything about. 

Well, after I finally moved here, everyone was worried about how I would  adapt and how would my life be. And you wanna know something, I adapted so quickly and it felt like home only after a of couple days with my new family. It was almost like I was supposed to be here. Like traveling and working with kids was something that I needed to do to discover what I actually wanted to do with my life. 

And a lot happened to me that made me think about coming back. Breaking my ankle and hearing the doctor say that I might need surgery was one of the worst moments, but having my family here and in Brazil to support me made me realize that I would not let that come in the way of my dream. 

I feel like all the time I've been here, it's given me a lot to think about. Especially about what I want to do when I go back to Brazil, and to keep working with children does sound like a great job I might pursue it. In a way, coming here was kind of taking a look at my life from a different perspective. So taking a "year off" has proved to me to be more than just a year to travel and clear my mind. It's been a year to actually discover myself and what I love. 

Now, after seven months here and planning to stay for a second year, I can tell much more of what I learned and how much I've grown. And it was nothing compared to my expectations when I was still in Brazil. 

I had to learn how to miss my parents and family and friends every day, but be strong and know that wherever they are, they are cheering for me. I had to learn that life back at "home" keeps going no matter if we are there to witnesses or not; that my younger sisters are turning into adults and that is crazy; that my friends are getting married and having babies and graduating despite me not there to see it. I'm always hoping that their lives are the best. 

I've learned how to be by myself and love every second of it. I've learned about jewish culture. I've learned more about kids and about American kids and culture. I've learned about different traditions and about USA Politics, Economy, and History. I've learned more about friendship in seven months than in my 23 years.

But most of all, I've learned about myself in ways I would never do if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone. 

And it was scary and made me nervous to do that, but I don't regret it. Because coming here was a hard decision, but I never had any doubts of how important it would be. So if anyone would ask me, I would say do the things that scare you. Get out of your comfort zone and go explore the world, because it's waiting for you. 

Chicago, or how I like to call it home 

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