As I was coming up towards the end of my degree at the University of Manchester, I still had no idea what I was going to do after graduation. I hadn’t been too keen on the idea of a graduate scheme, and I was eager to return to Latin America after my third year spent in Santiago de Chile and São Paulo. A few weeks before my final exams, final year Portuguese students received an email about a teaching internship in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and so, upon applying, I was offered a place on the scheme shortly after the academic year ended, ready to start the programme in September. The London-based organisation, World City Links, already had strong ties with the Olympic Games Committee and one of the “extras” that came with successfully gaining a place was that I would be able to volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
After making my way through the maze of Brazilian bureaucracy with the help of WCL and obtaining a year-long internship visa, I was all set to return to Brazil at the end of September. I was to be based in the Minas city of Juiz de Fora, small by Brazilian standards, although, perhaps comically to Brits, actually larger even than, for instance, Manchester (side note: JF is known as ‘Manchester Mineira’ owing to its industrial history).
IFSudesteMG is the federal institute that I was to be teaching in, and although I was to live in JF, I was the intercambista selected to teach in the even smaller neighbouring city of Santos Dumont. It’s an especially rewarding experience to teach English in a small Brazilian city where there exist fewer opportunities for residents, both young people and adults, to explore learning a second language. The name of this nearby city actually comes from the man virtually all Brazilians will claim—perhaps with some degree of historical accuracy—invented the aeroplane, a historical figure that I, and many others outside of Brazil, will not have even heard of.
It very quickly became apparent that JF was indeed a small city, with everyone knowing everyone else, (I say that without even a hint of hyperbole). Although I was dubious when I first heard about this dynamic, it turns out that it’s particularly useful for meeting new people and discovering new places that I would not have otherwise come across in the city. JF is home to a great number of restaurants, bars, theatres, museums and green spaces with various cultural events taking place throughout the year.
The location of the city is ideal, being only a few hours away from both Rio and Belo Horizonte (the capital of Minas), and while JF does not have a beach itself, the coastal cities of Cabo Frio and Arraial do Cabo are just an hour away.
As my first job after graduation, teaching in Juiz de Fora has been a thrilling experience and I would strongly recommend an exchange like this one that World City Links has given me the opportunity to enjoy. Just four months away from the Olympic Games now and I can already begin to see the excitement building around the country!