Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura library in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Virtues of Study Abroad is a yearly volume published by the College of International Studies that explores the way travel and intercultural exchange promote human flourishing through the development of vital character traits. This year’s book, volume V, features seven enlightening essays by OU students on their life-changing experiences abroad and the virtues they have developed on their journeys.
Throughout the summer, CIS Snapshot will be sharing essays from The Virtues of Study Abroad: Volume V. We hope you’ll enjoy these stories — accompanied by beautiful photos — of curiosity, perseverance, confidence, perspective, courage, empathy and patience. To read past volumes of The Virtues of Study Abroad, visit our website.
When people hear that I was born and raised right here in Norman, Oklahoma, it is often clear that they assume I am not well traveled or cultured. What they do not know about me, at least at first, is that I’ve spent over two years of my life in one of the most exotic, fascinating, strange, alien, peculiar and downright unfamiliar places on the entire face of the earth. While there, I woke up every day knowing that I was going to see, taste, feel, hear and smell things that I had not yet experienced in my 20-plus years of living. Indeed, seeing a family of six all riding on a single moped, smelling the stench of open air sewers running through the city, seeing pigs’ heads hanging on hooks in open air markets and tasting durian, the world’s “stinkiest” fruit, were all things that I never imagined I would experience in my lifetime, let alone the very first day I was in this wonderful country.
There is a reason Cambodia is affectionately known as the “Kingdom of Wonder.” When I tell others about my adventures there, I refer to it as “The World’s Last Frontier.”
Once you know this about me, you will understand why my sense of adventure is at an all-time high. Whether at home or abroad, I rarely sit still and am not afraid to explore and get lost along the way. I simply want to explore all that this world has to offer. So when I found out that my schedule and finances would allow me to travel to Rio de Janeiro to study abroad, I was ecstatic. I had heard of the infamous favelas dotting the hillsides of Rio, of the masterful dancing of the samba in the streets and the alluring open-air markets tucked around the city. I was excited and ready to experience it all. Everything seemed perfect — but there was one thing that held me back.
Traveling in a large group was new for me. Never before did I have to wait for people hopping on and off buses. Never before did someone else’s lack of adventure stop me from seeing what was around the corner. Never before was I bound to someone else’s schedule as I planned out my day. In the classroom I was learning about all that Rio had to offer, only to go home to my hostel and hope others were up for an adventure.
I had to learn to be patient. But after a slow start, I finally found my adventure buddies. Like me, they were excited and willing to see what the city was all about!
One of our first adventures came when we heard about a beautiful library, tucked away on one of the side streets next to the city’s largest market. We were committed to finding it, and planned to set out for our adventure. It took an Uber ride, a subway ride, lots of walking in circles and lots of attempts to ask native Portuguese speakers questions (in the Spanish we knew) before we finally stumbled upon one of the coolest libraries I had ever seen! In fact, it was just the sort of adventure I liked. We felt lost and confused as we arrived on the steps of the library just 15 minutes before it closed, but the journey was worth it. We admired the stacks and stacks of bookshelves towering over three stories high, accessible only by ladders, balconies and trips up steep staircases. It was reminiscent of the libraries animated so vividly in the Disney movies of my childhood. My friends and I all agreed that the view was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
My experience with travel and adventure, both in Cambodia and in Rio, has taught me that patience pays off. My process of making new “adventure buddies” required patience and effort, as did our adventure to the library. Was it worth it? Absolutely! It was not long before my newfound friends and I sought after and conquered more adventures, and I know I will continue to seek new ones throughout my life.
Rio as seen from "Christ the Redeemer."