My host family’s dog, Yoda, changed my Brazilian experience to something familiar even when I felt different. Growing up surrounded by pets, I’ve always found an unexplainable comfort in having a dog around. There’s beauty in walking with them, witnessing their growth through thick and thin, and knowing they’ll always be there as your loyal companion. It’s undeniably a universal experience that occurs between many cultures.  Dogs can unite us regardless of country, history, or spoken language.

When I arrived in Brazil, anxiety gnawed at me about meeting my host family, especially because their English wasn’t perfect, my Portuguese was worse, and I’m not the most social butterfly. But upon arrival, one thing that instantly connected us all was our love for pets. We shared laughter over Yoda’s goofy personality. He’d pop out of nowhere in a perfectly quiet house, panting like crazy because he’s a pug. His sudden appearance would always put a smile on our faces or make us attempt to catch him for some decompression time. Nothing was better than spending time with something familiar when I was far away from everything else familiar. Yoda was an anchor in a new place and an interpreter everyone could understand. He helped me open up to my host family in an unimaginable way because I felt like they could really understand me when I interacted with Yoda. My host family’s grandparents, who could not make out much of anything I said, could still understand me when I chased Yoda around. This sparked so much joy: my own joy as I played with Yoda, the joy they shared with Yoda too, a joy that rivalled their love of football and their chosen teacm, the Corinthians.

Today, we are leaving our host families to spend time at Iguacu Falls, and while I will really miss everyone, I might just miss Yoda the most; just like how I miss my dogs while I’m at school, I will miss my furry friend of the southern hemisphere. He made life so much less stressful every time I looked down and saw him begging for food as he distracted me from any hardship I was experiencing. Nothing is more comforting than something that can keep you rooted at home.


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