Hannah Richardson: four months in Brazil and a lifetime of memories


“So [my friends] introduced themselves to me,” junior Hannah Richardson said, “and it was the beginning of this fantastic friendshipa�� and I found these people that really accepted me when I needed them the most.”

4,000 miles. That’s the distance that now stands between Hannah and these people.

This is because last March, Hannah boarded a plane, embarking on a life-changing trip to the capital city of Brazil. Her mother received a full grant to teach piano at the University of Brasilia, consequently providing Hannah with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live on another continent for four months.

Life-changing is perhaps an understatement. For four months, Hannah got to live another life 4,000 miles away. Right off the bat, there were many distinct discrepancies between life in Brazil and life in America. Most notable to Hannah was the difference in the mannerism of the people.

“Brazilians are all very friendly and really open to approaching you; they’re not afraid to say hi to you and ask you how your day was,” Hannah said. “So many people came up to me and were like, “Are you Japanese?a�� and would strike up a conversation with me, and it was very weird to me.”

At the beginning of her trip, Hannah found herself with more alone time than anything. She kept up with her academics via online schooling. Her everyday routine consisted of maintaining her online work in cafes near where her mother worked.

Nevertheless, thanks to the inherent friendliness of the natives, Hannah made friends quickly.

“I was waiting in the music area for my mom to get done teaching one day,” Hannah said, “and [some people] approached me because they knew I spoke English— they get very excited when someone speaks Englisha�� that’s how I met [a lot of my friends].”

As Hannah’s friendships developed, and her mother grew to trust them, Hannah’s freedom expanded.

“The freedom was very constricted at first just because of the language barriers and living in a country where I don’t know my way around,” Hannah said. “… And then gradually, as we were going to campus a lot more, I had more freedom when I was with my friends.”

Hannah’s friends’ instantaneous kindness amazed her.

“What was interesting was that they were so accepting even though I was an American high school student who was sixteen, and they were college students who were into music, and I didn’t have anything [in common] with them,” Hannah said. “But they just accepted me into their friend group seamlesslya�� So that was an incredible experience for me, and I think that really changed my perspective on Brazil too.”

However, anything less than unbiased generosity would have been out of the ordinary for Brazilians. And, they couldn’t help but take an immediate liking to Hannah.

“She was friendly from the get-go, and that’s something that we appreciate a lot here,” said Bruno Bessow, one of the friends Hannah made in Brazil. “We have a very extroverted culture, so when a person is open and genuinely friendly, that’s what happens.”

As expected, there were innate cultural differences between Hannah and her newfound friends.

“Her body language and her habits are so different from ours, like hugging when greeting and even the way to talk with people she just met,” said Samara Lins, another one of the friends Hannah made.

Bruno, too, recognized natural differences between Hannah and other Brazilians.

“The most obvious difference is that she didn’t speak Portuguese,” Bruno said. “Her body language was quite different from ours. From her posture to the way she looked around, you could tell that it was a bit different from what we’re used to. It’s not like it was odd though, just different. Also, there are a lot of things that we do differently from how they are done in her homeland. Things like table manners and such were also different.”

Nevertheless, Hannah fostered incredibly strong friendships. These relationships combined with the overall experiencing of creating a life for oneself in a foreign country resulted in immense personal growth for Hannah.

“The way I view others, the way I view myself, the way I view the world– that all changed when I went to Brazil,” Hannah said. “Everything about myself [changed] in some way or another, for better or for the worse. I became this different person with different opinions and different views.”

This growth and development was glaringly apparent to those around her.

“It’s actually funny because throughout my whole life, never had I seen someone mature so much in so little time,” Bruno said. “You could tell that as soon as she allowed herself to open up and truly experience things, she grew extremely fast.”

Hannah’s progression was inspiring to say the least, especially the way in which she quickly adapted to life in a foreign country.

“Most people could learn a thing or two from how she works diligently towards her goals,” Bruno said. “And the way she embraced our culture and understood it is simply amazing. I think I speak for all of us that met her when I say she can be considered an honorary Brazilian.”

However, an entire semester away from school does have its consequences. For example, Hannah is currently making the jump from online chemistry to the infamously challenging AP Chem. But despite the bumps in the road, the transition is going alright.

“I feel like that initial, breaking through the transition period has gone okay,” Hannah said. “… There are some things that I know I have to work harder on.”

Regardless of the difficulties that come with the transition shift back to school and life in America, Hannah values what she gained from her experience tremendously.

“But all in alla�� I think it was worth it,” Hannah said. “You win some; you lose some. In academics, I might have lost a little bit of in-depth, hands-on [learning]. So if you’re looking at it strictly from [an academic perspective], yes, maybe I lost a little bit of education there. But I think I came back a better person. I think that I have more confidence in myself; I pay more attention to the world around me; I’m not so close-minded anymore, and I realize that I don’t want to surround myself with the things that I was surrounding myself [with] before I left.”