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Easy Ways to Kick Off a Conversation When Abroad

No matter how long you stay abroad, it’s the people you meet and the conversations you have that stick with you the most. There are certain topics that can be conversation-sparkers and that give you insight into underlying or fundamental differences between cultures. These are my three personal favorite conversation starters to help you make the best out of your experience abroad.

1. Food

It’s true I am a Foodie. I love food! But far form personal preference; food is part of our culture. You never become so quickly immersed in another person’s culture as when you’re exchanging secret recipes for traditional dishes. Take it a step further and invite someone over for a traditional dish party. There is nothing that gets people talking about their life and values at home than talking about a favourite childhood meal. These moments will be some of the most inspiring you will get to experience in your lifetime.

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2. Favorites

Who could ever be a better tour guide as someone who calls the country you are visiting his or her home? Most people love sharing local secrets with someone who is genuinely interested in exploring their country and culture. Be it a favorite restaurant (I told you I’m a foodie), their favorite park, beach, grocery store, building, quarter and so on. The list is endless and endless are the possibilities for new discoveries within a foreign country.

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3. Anything really 

You are in a new environment and most possibly experiencing moments that will be at the center of the stories you will tell old friends AND new acquaintances at home and across the world. Going abroad is a formative thing in itself, but it can be enhanced by the conversations you will have. We reflect and learn things about ourselves through communication. Engaging in discussions with people from different cultural and personal backgrounds gives you something you cannot get anywhere else. These conversations are facilitators for personal development and can make you a stronger, more self-aware and open-minded person.

The best is that these are the experiences that no one will be able to take from you. So if life offers you the opportunity to go abroad – take it! And make sure you are in 100% and conversing with as many people as possible!

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Author: Chelsea Hladik

Vamos ao Brazil!

Not only is the Brazilian Portuguese, with its soft melodic accentuation, arguably one of the most beautiful existing languages, it also emphasises some characteristics we all instantly associate with this enchanting place at the Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Everyone knows what Brazil is famous for: its colorful vivid carnival, yet adopted by many other countries; for being a crazy football nation with one of the top teams in history (despite the tragic ending during the world cup 2014); for the typical music and dances, such as Samba, that makes you want to celebrate and enjoy life to the fullest; and of course – for the beautiful people, who always seem to embody this unique lust for life that’s nowhere else to be found.

There is so much to discover, while visiting Brazil and its 200,4 Million inhabitants.

The Garden Eden – wild jungles and idyllic beaches

The northern part is famous for the miracle of nature – the Amazonas rain forest, whereas the northeastern part is dominated by some of the most magnificent beaches along the 8000 km coast line. You can chose between more than 2000 bays, most of them lying beneath palm trees, each offering you space to spend some hours in paradise. For some amazing waves and surfing courses check out the São-José Beach, Bahia. Travelling up north you can reach the capital of Bahia, Salvador, which is famous for its traditional, vibrant carnival, vivid culture and old charm.

Or how about visiting the Ceará coast and its urban capital Fortaleza? Over 600 kilometers of white sandy beaches, theaters, modern and colonial architecture, delicious regional and international restaurants and much more are waiting for you!

You know about the Victoria Falls?! The famous Niagara Falls?! Forget them both and travel to the South Western part of Brazil to experience the Iguazú Falls, part of an UNESCO world culture heritage, that mark the border to Argentina and Paraguay. They are said to be more stunning and, with a height of up to 84 meters, more impressive than any other waterfall you have seen before. You can take part in exciting activities such as rafting-tours or just enjoy the marvelous view.

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The big 3 – vibrant metropolises

Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte – the triangle of superlatives in the South East is probably the part where the huge social contrasts are the most visible. Even though the area is well known for its powerful economy, – just remember that Brazil is one of the leading agricultural exporters worldwide, – the society is facing tremendous social divides, extreme poverty and violence in many areas. The infrastructure is, on the other side, better developed, than in any other part of Brazil, with its many universities, educational institutions and well organized transportation system.

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo” is home to the most prominent art collection of South America and São Paulo itself has the reputation as the city of art and design. Thanks to its multicultural character, the city is sometimes compared to New York, – no surprise, because part of the inhabitants consists of Portuguese, German, Italian and Japanese emigrants. Another thing to be excited about when visiting São Paulo is its variety of delicious restaurants, where you can chose between typical traditional and/or international exotic cuisine. If you just want to grab a quick bite, make sure to step by the mercado municipal with its over 300 market stalls and try some exotic fruits and other delicate treats.

While staying in Rio de Janeiro you can not miss out on the chance to visit the iconic estádio-maracanã and the famous beaches Copacabana and Ipanema while enjoying some ice cold agua de coco. To get the best panoramic view over the city take the cable car up the 400 meter high Sugarloaf – you will understand why the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro call their city thecidade maravilhosa”. 

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Life’s essence

No matter where you are, the next crazy party is never far away. It does not matter if you travel in february for carnival or not – any decent-sized town offers an endless amount of possibilities to dance through the night and to enjoy yourself every single day and night.

But what would this all be without the people you surround yourself with?! Exactly – nothing spectacular at all! This is why, to me, one of the most important reasons to go to Brazil is for its inhabitants. Without trying to generalize, it seems that they embody a certain vibe that makes you fall in love with them. The joy they seem to have for everything they are doing is contagious and meanwhile they still seem to be a lot ‘down to earth’ with their love for family, children and strong believes. A little bit like Samba itself: – radiant and always in movement, yet soft and sophisticated.

There is much more to tell you, about places, customs, people, food, cities and nature, but the best way to really get to know Brazil is by going there and finding out for yourself. We cannot tell you what to expect in detail, but we can promise one thing – this journey will be everything but boring.

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Author: Sara Balitzky