Before every trip I’ve taken, I spend a lot of time imagining what specific aspects of the trip are going to be like. For this trip, I took time to imagine what my host mom would be like, what the university would be like, and how we would spend our time. This was my first trip outside the United States and I had many expectations.
Many of the experiences I have had while in Sao Paulo have exceeded my expectations. My host mom and her family have been much more welcoming than I would have ever imagined. The food I tried tasted better than I ever hoped. I have even surprised myself with how willing I have been to try different foods and how much Portuguese I have learned.
There have also been experiences that were different from my expectations. For example, on our trip to the Atlantic rainforest, I expected a long hike through the rainforest. The experience we received was much more focused on the life lessons we could learn from the small portion of the rainforest we walked through. It was an excellent medium for delivering information about the forest and life philosophies. However, most of the group felt initial surprise because what we expected differed from what we actually were able to see and learn. As a whole, I think the experience we had at the rainforest taught us more than a longer hike would have.
With this experience, I have started to realize that my expectations (created by myself or others) have at times left me surprised and wanting to experience what I had created in my mind. The visit to OMNISYS solidified this concept for me. I went into this visit having no idea what to expect; I had no expectations. So far, this has been one of my favorite parts of the trip. This company sells radar equipment in the aerospace, space, and defense industries. Our tour was informative and fun, and I left feeling so thankful for the opportunity to learn about that business. I also realized that I didn’t leave wanting anything more than the experience I received, and I think that is because I came in with no expectations.
I want to be clear about one thing. This lesson I have learned isn’t about lowering your expectations so everything seems impressive. I have learned that we should depend less on the expectations we generate and are generated for us. I’ve learned that it is more important to view experiences for what they are, rather than comparing them to what you expect. I am in no way an expert in this area. If anything, I’m just a new believer, ready to apply this lesson to the remaining few days of this trip, as the Global Honors Program heads to Iguaçu Falls. I have heard that it is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I know that I have an expectation created by Niagara Falls, a famous waterfall located 20 minutes from where I grew up. I have seen pictures of what we might experience and have heard stories of what the group last year saw, but as I sit on the plane, excited for what I might see, I remind myself to depend less on what I expect might happen and simply prepare to be open to whatever I might experience.
I would also challenge anyone reading this to try it with your next trip, especially next year’s Global Honors students. You will hear a lot about our experience in Brazil. You will hear about the best parts, which is pretty much all of the trip, and the funniest stories, which often come from uncomfortable experiences. But I hope that you will be able to distance yourself from expectations and simply enjoy this experience like I am learning to enjoy mine.