When the corona pandemic broke out, Samantha Deverich, a student in the Bachelor’ s program in International Business at Munich Business School, was already in Brazil for her semester abroad. In the blog post she talks about her experiences abroad during the Corona Pandemic.
When you tell people you are going to spend your semester abroad in Brazil, usually everyone has the same reaction: they are excited and ask “Omg are you going to be there for carnival?”. However, when you tell people you decided to stay in Brazil during the Corona pandemic the reaction is also pretty much the same – “Omg did you go to carnival?”–, but instead of excitement there is now concern. Most people are confused as to why I didn’t go back home to my family in the USA or back home to Munich in this exceptional situation. And I don’t blame them. At the beginning, I was also confused as to why I stayed until I realized that opportunity and changes are everywhere – if you choose to seize them.
I decided to go to Brazil almost two months before my classes started to familiarize myself with the language, culture, and have an opportunity to travel. When my semester officially started in March with Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina (UNISUL), I had the best two weeks of my life. My cohort was a group of 14 exchange students. Surprisingly, 12 of us were from the United States. We quickly formed a tight-knit group and took advantage of every event the university and city had to offer. Unfortunately our time together was short-lived due to the increase of COVID-19 cases. All of my friends went home within a week and I was the only one left, unsure of what to do or where to go. Return to the United States to be with my family, go back home to Munich, or stay in Brazil?
When confronted with this problem, I used my trained Munich Business School business brain and created a SWOT analysis; taking a look at the
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each option. To be frank, the threats and weaknesses of staying in Brazil were much higher than those of returning to the United States or Munich. But the opportunities – the opportunity of opening a treasure chest of an unexplored land, language, and culture – highly outweighed the strengths of returning back to familiarity.
My university UNISUL was quick and organized to move all of our classes online. I was impressed with the efficiency and appreciated that the university truly had prioritized our safety. The state of Santa Catarina was also one of the first states in Brazil to implement quarantine and mandatory usage of masks. My host family was also conscientious and protective of my well-being. In the beginning, it was strange to have so much free-time. In the morning I had classes from the safety of my own home, and the rest of the day to do literally anything I wanted. After a few weeks of mind-numbing Netflix, I took my own advice and took advantage of this unique opportunity I was given.
The new freetime I had allowed me to open my own business, to pursue new interests that I had never had a chance to, and to see the world change in front of my eyes due to the pandemic. When my city, Florianopolis, opened up little by little, I mustered up the courage to put my mask on and explore the city on my own. Florianopolis is also called “the magic island” and now I was finally able to see and experience that with my own eyes: to watch monkeys scurry around as you hike up a mountain, see three meter tall waves as a typhoon passes through or make real, meaningful relationships with my host family.
All these things were inside the treasure chest that I chose to open. These were the opportunities and strengths of my SWOT analysis. Staying in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic was an unique chance hidden in an obscure, almost ominous box of opportunities. No matter what the box looks like – big, small, flimsy or oblong – open it and seize its contents!