A life-changing experience started for me in January 2020.
I left behind all the fear and doubts and I said Yes to an adventure, miles away from the Netherlands. I spent 2 amazing months in São Paulo, Brazil, that I can only describe as “unforgettable”.
My main aspiration for this experience was to develop my interpersonal skills, as well as gain professional experience from working in a start-up culture. I can say that I succeeded in both! I was working as a Sales and Prospection intern in a Digital Marketing agency in Santo André, located in the metropolitan area of São Paulo.
The company had only 8 employees, with a great working culture and a cosy environment. The CEO was very supportive and allowed for tailoring the job description, according to my professional interests. Therefore, I was able to contribute with some market research for future prospects expansion, attended sales meetings with real clients and understood the whole process workflow of a digital marketing agency. I could be creative in this environment, as I assisted in preparing initial planning presentations for new clients.
The best part was that I could find a link between my educational background and the job.
One of the most interesting tasks was giving a workshop to the employees of the company on Agile methodology and how they could apply it to become more efficient. I really enjoyed preparing and presenting it to my colleagues and I definitely gained some professional experience. As I said, the company culture was amazing and on Happy Hour every Friday, we enjoyed drinking, trying traditional food and singing karaoke. So, very soon my colleagues became my friends.
Soon, I realized that people had difficulty in speaking and understanding English. So, here comes the first challenge “I have to speak Portuguese if I want to survive here!” I would have to find an effective way to communicate with my colleagues, my host family and anyone that I would interact with. Thanks to my very little effort in learning some Portuguese before arriving here, I was able to understand only very few things.
In two weeks, I managed to say my first full sentence and I felt extremely proud. By the end of the first month, I could understand the core of conversations and it was so satisfactory. The second month, I was even able to translate for new AIESEC interns. I am loving the language and I am so motivated to keep learning now, after my return.
Life after work was amazing. AIESEC in ABC was very friendly and had a great community of other interns. We had Portuguese classes at the university and weekly progress meetings. I was so lucky to have a great connection with my host family. They were so friendly, helpful and caring.
Thanks to my host, I got an introduction to the full Brazilian experience.
Let me name some of them: I learned how to dance samba and the very popular Brazilian funk, sang to lovely Brazilian songs (which also helped with learning), I tried delicious food and countless caipirinhas, I visited beautiful beaches and the highlight of all was Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The timing of my experience was perfect, hot weather and a whole month of Carnival celebrations. Sharing all these moments with friends from all over the world was the best part.
Summing up the whole experience and how it contributed to my development, this is what I would highlight. First, relating to the main Leadership qualities, I have developed a better level of self-awareness. I became more confident in taking decisions and daring to take risks. Embracing the different and adapting to a very different culture gave me a whole new perspective on looking at life. The life change was so drastic, that you could make the most out of it, only if you showed an open attitude and saw the bright side of things.
Second, this experience has elevated my fast-learning ability. Diving deep into the new is the best way to get yourself some life skills, like learning a new language, how to safely travel around on your own, making friends from a different background than yours.
Last, it was an experience worth living. I have gained amazing friends, great memories and interesting stories to tell. Thank you Brazil!