Brittany Bettile, 19, of Canfield just returned home last month from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she spent a year as a foreign exchange student. Bettile participated in the Rotary exchange program and completed her senior year in Brazil.
She left on Aug. 25, 2013, and returned on June 2, 2014, two months earlier than anticipated. Since she completed her senior year requirements before leaving the country, Bettile wanted to return home in time for her commencement at Canfield High School.
Bettile originally thought about visiting Spain for a few weeks, and after mentioning the idea to her father, Tony Bettile, former Canfield Township trustee, he suggested she do the Rotary exchange program instead.
Photo Special to the Town Crier
Brittany Bettile poses on her plane ride to Brazil, where she spent a year under the Rotary exchange program.
After talking it over with her dad, Bettile made a quick decision to meet the application deadline. She had her interview one month later, and then was asked to visit Brazil
Bettile said her first choices included Argentina, Spain and Chile because she took Spanish in high school and would feel comfortable with the language.
During her stay in Brazil, Bettile faced common challenges. One of the biggest ones was getting acclimated to speaking Portuguese. She said it took almost five months to adjust and really understand the language.
During those five months, Bettile attended school and took classes like trigonometry and Brazilian and American history. She said the language barrier made understanding the curriculum difficult.
Another struggle she faced was getting from place to place. During her stay, she wasn't allowed to drive, so she became accustomed to the bus system. She said not knowing the area and language made this an arduous task at times.
Though she faced many cultural differences upon arrival, Bettile said she eventually adjusted.
During her adventure, Bettile stayed with three different host families. The Rotary exchange program tries to give the students as much exposure to the culture that it can, mostly by living with host families. By living with different families, the students learn not only more about the culture but also how to live and get along with different people.
''It's an amazing experience. I knew there would be difficulties, but it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I learned how to speak Portuguese and probably met people from at least 40 different countries,'' Bettile said.
One of her favorite things during her stay was going on a nine-day trip to the Amazon and on the northeast trip through the Rotary program. During the short trip, students got to experience 12 major cities in Brazil including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Brasilia. While on the trip, Bettile said she even met a girl from Columbus.
She said parents also visited Brazil for 10 days during her stay.
One thing that struck Bettile was how everyone got along in Brazil. She said there weren't any cliques.
''I would go back. I have so many families that would love to have me stay with them,'' she said.
She plans to attend Youngstown State University in the fall, majoring in exercise science and minoring in Spanish. Her future goal is to get a job either as a sports trainer or a Spanish teacher.