Seeing vs. Being: Thank You, Dr. Carlos Castañeda

Natalie Laurence is a student at Texas A & M University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with Veritas in Florianopolis, Brazil.

When you think about the place you grew up or somewhere that you have lived, what do you remember most? Do you think about the hottest restaurants, the landmarks, and museums? Or, do you think of the people you knew there, the conversations you had around the dinner table, and those moments when you faced a difficult situation and overcame it?

I have come to learn that there is a remarkable difference between seeing a place and being in it. Traveling and site-seeing can be an incredible joy, but what a privilege it is to be able to devote part of your life to living amidst another culture. If you ever have either the desire or opportunity to study abroad, pursue it and with great fervor. Being in Florianópolis for nearly five months now has given me the chance to meet and discover the life of the locals here and live it with them. And, oh, how sweet it is!

But, perhaps I should clarify this “sweetness.” Not every day while I’ve been studying abroad has been overtly out of the ordinary (or, at least to a Brazilian). Some days, absolutely, yes! I’ve had beach days with friends (both ISA and local), gone on unforgettable weekend trips to Buenos Aires and Rio, and experienced super awesome excursions with ISA. But, then others, maybe I just had class with the other study abroad students, drank tea before bed with my host mom, or ran a couple of errands making small talk with the workers.

Overcome by the majesty of the cataratas (“waterfalls”) in Foz do Iguaçu.

Regardless, every moment was significant because in being here, I was declaring myself available and willing to both learn from and spend time with others around me who see life from a different perspective.

Some things that you should know about Brazilians: They are hard workers and dedicated learners. They speak a beautiful language and talk with strong emotion. They are kind, welcoming, and curious. They know food really well and love to be hospitable. Brazilians are passionate–about their ideals, preserving their culture, and caring for their community. They hate corruption and hope in change. But, most importantly, there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter Brazilian.

Two friends from the dance studio and I attend a dance competition in Florianópolis.

The ability to have discovered these things means more to me than any list of sites that I’ve seen.

Muito obrigada, Dr. Castañeda, for not just the opportunity to see Brazil, but to be here.

A view of the sunset in Florianópolis after an evening run, as several others stop their workouts to adore its colors.

The world awaits…discover it.

One thought

  1. I love that you have also realised that to experience a place you need to live there for a while. Be part of the community and experience the culture! As you say, it is completely different from just seeing a place!

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