there and back again

tales of a Brazilian geek living in DC

A quick update.

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Welcome Week (as AU Students call the week right before classes) was amazing. Through the help of a new gay boyfriend (and all the amazing people he introduced me to), I suddenly found myself greeting strangers and welcoming the people that were moving in the floor. Heck, I even asked a girl out on a date.

I didn’t take me a week to start feeling like I belong here. The university is amazing. Not only the campus is gorgeous, but I also feel like I couldn’t ask for better classmates. The student body (at least those I got to know) are politically involved, active, and generally want to change the world. The feminist and GLBTA movements matter, and are not only represented institutionally, but also in the student body (more about that on future posts). And these concepts are something I can’t wait to export to Brazil. The more I see, the more I realise just how far Brazilian students still have to go in order to try and effect change from within the university.

Classes started today, and I’m already excited. Participation is part of the grade, to one of my classes I’ll actually have to write blog entries, and discussions will take over of lectures.

I should not get used to this.


Written by Lu

August 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm

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I am Charlotte Simmons

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A friend of mine once told me I was really brave for applying to study abroad. I remember appreciating the compliment at the time, but not entirely understanding its implications. After all, she had also told me living abroad was one of the best experiences a person can have, so taking that leap didn’t really strike me as something particularly courageous.

Boy, was I wrong.

I must preface this by saying that I’m not a shy person. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m usually a loud, outgoing, social, guns-blazing, make-friends-in-a-minute sort of person. Some would even tell you I have an ego the size of a house and that I’m confident and sure of myself. So I was really shocked to suddenly discover my feet were too big, my voice was too loud, my face was too weird, my hair was too rebellious, and my body occupied too much space no matter where I stood.

Self-conscious. No better word to describe how I have felt in the past two days: always thinking I was in someone’s way, saying the wrong thing, acting like a crazy person, and, most importantly, feeling like everyone was paying attention to me and judging my every move. In the blink of an eye, I was thirteen again.

Obviously, I know that what I’m feeling is normal. If I stop to think about it, really, this is the first time I am living alone, away from my parents and friends, going to a school where I don’t know any of the students, and, to top it all off, in a foreign country. So it’s not just that I’m out of my element; my element is so far away I have no idea what it was in the first place.

Tom Wolfe once wrote a wonderful book called I Am Charlotte Simmons, in which he tells the story of small town girl who manages to get in a fancy Ivy League university. Expecting to find an environment where people would have the same thirst for knowledge and academia she did, Charlotte Simmons has no idea how to behave when she’s introduced to a world of jocks, frat boys, Valley girls and pretentious pseudo-intellectuals. The novel gives the reader a wonderful insight on the struggles teenagers go through when they move to college, especially those who find themselves in completely unfamiliar ground.

I don’t think I really understood the full meaning of the book’s title until I got to the United States. Asserting and being oneself in a completely new environment is a hard job. Especially when you realise you really are very different from most of the people there. It took me a really long time to finally be OK and happy to be who I am today. Turns out I will have to go through a whole new and more complicated process to be my weird foreign self in an even more foreign and unfamiliar place.

So it turns out my friend was right: living abroad is scary, and it takes guts. However, the last two days were enough to prove my friend was also right about another thing: living abroad is one of the best experiences a person can have. My expectations about the university were more than met, and I can honestly say that, despite the unfamiliar shyness that fell upon me and the eventual desire to spontaneously combust, I couldn’t be more happy with my choice to come to the US.

Exhausted after two days of 9 to 5 orientation lectures, armed with my new MacBook Pro and looking forward to my a free day tomorrow, I can’t help but feel this is where I’m supposed to be right now.


After all, it is frakking beautiful, right?

Written by Lu

August 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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My overall problem with blogging has always been failing to find a good theme or proposition, lacking the capacity to tell people why I’m blogging, what I’m talking about, and why do I believe that’s interesting (which, in turn, has led to my being unenthusiastic and generally skeptic about the whole thing). So it was only when I found out I’d be studying in Washington DC for six months that that the little disappointed-yet-always-hopeful blogger in me opened its eyes, blinked, and exclaimed, ‘Eureka!’

And so There and back again was born.

Much like Bilbo Baggins’s original hobbit’s tale, this blog will be about a journey to a far away land where people think and act in a very different way. Except there won’t be dragons, dwarves, elves, treasures, bears, spiders, trolls or a magical ring involved (unless they are action-figure shaped and safely packed in a box). Which is to say this will probably be a bit more relatable, albeit a lot less interesting than fighting Smaug.

At this point, some info on yours truly may be called for.

I was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and have lived in Rio de Janeiro for most of my life. I’m twenty years old, and currently enrolled in Law School, where I discovered one of my biggest passions: International Human Rights Law. The plan is to, hopefully, be a Human Rights lawyer and professor someday. I’m also a total geek, and tend to obsess over things like The Lord of the RingsHarry Potter, Doctor Who, Terry Pratchett, Neil GaimanBattlestar Galactica and Quentin Tarantino.

It’s my last week in Brazil, so life is pretty hectic right now. What with taking care of my recently operated cat, doctors’ appointments, pending vaccines, lab tests and forms to fill out—let alone the utter horror that will be packing—time is running short and I’m getting awfully worried and giddy. I’ve never really studied abroad before, so I reckon there will be a lot of firsts during the next six months, which is mind-bogglingly exciting, but also downright scary.

My first proper post will probably happen when I arrive in the US next week (if I’m lucky enough to have acquired a MacBook by then). In the meantime, subscribe and stay tuned!

Written by Lu

August 9, 2009 at 10:35 pm

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