Written by Yui Quintal

3 months ago, I quit my job, gave up the keys to my apartment and said good bye to my family and friends. With a bag on my back, some savings in the bank and a burning desire to seek something more than the 9 to 5, I hopped on a plane from Sydney airport to start a new life on the other side of the world, in the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’, Rio De Janeiro.

The first couple of weeks was full of glitter, booze and banging drums with anthems on repeat. In the blaring sun and humid nights that never seemed to end, I survived my first Carnaval. This was followed by some sites and itinerary ticking in spectacular South of Brazil. But eventually I had to wake up from my tropical dream of sunset island parties and tropical jungles and it was time to find a volunteer job in my field of social work. A bit of research a few emails and whatsapp messages later, I met with Diana of the Caminhos language Centre and shortly after, found myself in the sweltering classroom of Solar Meninos De Luz.

The empty room was quickly filled with sweaty faced, chattering teens. I introduced myself nervously and desperately tried to remember a list of impossible names. As in any classroom, a combination of eager, determined students and some not as enthusiastic,some already with an impressively advanced knowledge of English and some with little and lacking confidence. The greatest challenge, to engage and cater to all, a seemingly impossible task which we give our all to make possible. With the team of vivacious and dedicated women Colleen and Bridgit, lead by the inspiringly hard working Sally, week after week teaching not just conversational English classes but encouraging the lights of underprivileged young adults to see their own potential and shine brighter than they know they can.

Learning and growing together, breaking down cultural and language barriers, not only facing the challenges associated with teaching teens in a community but the challenges of a new life in a foreign country, I continue the quest to look for answers that I can’t just google, breathing new life in to the meaning of can do.

The Mais Caminhos programme is an initiative of the Caminhos Language Centre in Ipanema the most exciting Portuguese school in Brazil.