By Juliana Machado

After living in N.Y. for 9 years I am “landing” in L.A. with an invitation to write an article about studying abroad, since in my years in the U.S. I have assisted in the ‘comes and goes’ of many international students. My first trip abroad from Brazil was to the England, Holland and Portugal. I was a teenager and not much remained but a few memories including a couple of rock concerts: The Who, Eric Clapton and an indescribable and illusionary sense of freedom.

During my first trip to the U.S. in 1999, I felt like I was merging into a movie screen. Everything was different: the houses, the colors, the people, the taste of the water, and the language of course: “The Everything”. During one of the first classes I’ve taken here in the US, I was told that when we speak another language, we access a different part of our brain.

By doing so we alter the perception of our center of identity. Easier to understand if we consider our roots and how related they are to our sense of belonging, being part of a community, a tribe, a culture, a family, a city and so on. I experienced a lot of frustration in-between visas, accents and a deep nostalgia with my immigration process.

I asked myself questions such as: How do I go about being accepted? What do I say to be included? How do I convey the message that behind my accent there is a brain? The answer I found is: What a great opportunity to open up, wash away old patterns and allow myself to be a presence now, not depending on our social and family experiences but anchored on a deeper place inside.

It is a wonderful and powerful opportunity that requires immense attention to awareness and presence, to avoid the waste of time of separatism and illusion about wondering if I am American, if I am Brazilian, and instead to know that I am a strong presence, regardless of where I am.

We can broaden our experiences abroad searching for our purpose in life. Peeling layers off of our social and family commitments and references to make room and space for another level of reality where what matters is who we really are and what we are here for so that we can consciously contribute to a better planet in times of so much need.

* Juliana Machado is the founder and director of Icon Workshops and Events. She is Brazilian and lives in Los Angeles.

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