Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about going into today since we were mainly traveling! However, the time we spent traveling gave me a lot of time to reflect on my gratitude for everything we experienced on this trip. Specifically, I am grateful for life, I am grateful for laughter, and I am grateful for love.

I’ve struggled with mental health for almost ten years at this point, so every day that I am alive, I am grateful. But this trip has shown me how beautiful and marvelous it is to be alive. I saw this as we were on the bus to the airport, where exhaustion and excitement filled the space. And I saw it even as we were waiting in the airport, where I watched hundreds of people filter through the space, each with their own journeys and destinations. How beautiful is the world in which we live, where 50 people on an airplane can all have separate and equally significant experiences and intentions? 

Second, I am incredibly grateful for the laughter. Laughter as we played UNO on the last night with our host family in a game that seemed to never end. Laughter at a stuffed alligator sticking out of a backpack traveling through an airport. Laughter with our professors as we shared a delicious meal. Laughter came as we went with the professors into a pharmacy to get Dr. Marshall a toothbrush, and we all walked out with a bunch of Brazilian candy. Laughter has carried us on this trip! And the joy from laughter has taught me that in any absurd situation, the only thing to do is laugh – anger or impatience are much less productive. 

Finally, I am endlessly grateful for the love I experienced these past few weeks. The friendships I’ve made, the people I’ve gotten to know even better, everyone!  It’s impossible to list all the buddies and family that made these weeks so wonderful. Regardless of where we met them or how long we spent with them, I have loved people more recklessly than ever before, and instead of being afraid of the repercussions, my heart feels even more full. I can confidently say that I love every member of my host family and every Brazilian student buddy I had the honor of getting to know. Giulia, Mari, and Nicholas are the only ones I’ve put pictures of here, but there are so many more that I love dearly!


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