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Why I Decided to Intern in Brazil


Asking "why" is the most important question before starting an internship abroad.

Until two months ago, if anyone had asked me if I would like to go the inland of southern Brazil for my international internship, I can say with certainty I would have shyly backed away from the opportunity.

For years, I was slowly building it up in my head that the best place to land my work abroad experience would be in Eastern Europe, if not in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Only in late October did I fully realize that while I have always dreamed of visiting these locations, my real purpose for going abroad was so that I could begin to leave a footprint on global society. Even the smallest places and most remote corners of the earth have unique realities and part of being a global citizen is coming to the understanding that an impact can be made anywhere in the world. This is how I ended up choosing an internship in Chapecό, Brazil teaching English to children of all ages at FISK Language School.

I do not leave until late January, but I am already scrambling to catch up on Brazilian culture, history and socioeconomic climate. Still, I feel as though I know absolutely nothing about where I am going. I do not know a single word of Portuguese. The one thing that I do know, however, is that I cannot wait to arrive in Brazil because of the impact I hope to have while I am there. Perhaps in several years, or maybe even months, my students will be empowered to embark on their own international work experiences to places they would have never thought of visiting. This kind of impact would be not be restricted to Chapecό or even Latin America, but could happen when traveling to work in any location around the world.

The impact I want to have through my international internship was not something that came to me right away. It changed daily as I sought out AIESEC internships and applied to upwards of seven per day for a period of one month. For each prospective internship, I asked myself why I wanted to apply. Trends emerged as I answered this question dozens of time and I soon understood my “why” was not about traveling. Eventually, I came to realize that my “why” was about being a global change agent. There are sights and there is history everywhere, and likewise, there is an opportunity to make a difference anywhere in the world.

We are growing up in a generation where “why” is the most important question that can be asked. Once that question is settled, choosing an international internship becomes far less stressful and much more exciting as you now have a concrete reason to evaluate how you feel about internship opportunities. Asking “why” is essential to finding an internship, and something all internship agencies should be doing for their clients. Once that question is settled there are far fewer barriers to finding the internship of your dreams.

Choosing Chapecό was not an easy process, and it really is shocking to look back and think I would have never considered working in Brazil a year ago. I spent many nights awake in bed thinking about if I should send in my acceptance. I do not believe my story or my challenges are entirely unique, but I do hope that through my posts I can help one other students step out of their comfort zone like I have. You should be prepared to take the plunge—this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so do not limit the places to go or the work you will do. Regardless of destination, if you really want to, you will make a difference.

My following posts will aim at addressing some of the challenges that arise in the pre-departure stages of leaving for an international internship. Already I have experienced tiny hints of culture shock and discovered things about Brazil I did not think existed. Given that I have not yet left Canada and have a variety of topics to write about, I can only imagine how rich with experiences Brazil will be once I arrive.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Rob Small

Rob Small is an international relations graduate of Carleton University. An AIESEC intern, he is working as an English teacher at a local language school in Chapecό, Brazil. His first time living abroad, he hopes to share insightful, yet entertaining, stories about being a Canadian in Brazil.

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