Adventurous OJs - Mariana Silva

I have gone to 9 different schools before college and lived in 13 different houses. Home does not mean a physical location to me. One time during an Orange Jackets meeting, we had to draw on a piece of paper what home meant to us. Many people seemed to know it right away, they knew what it looked it, what it smelled like, they could physically picture it. I could not. After a few minutes of trying to make all 13 houses into one, I realized that home had a very different meaning to me that did not involve tangible aspects. I am extremely adaptable and pride myself on how low maintenance I am. 2016 has been full of experiences that have helped me understand myself better and what it really means to be physically able to live anywhere. My adventures started during spring break when I had the awesome opportunity of camping a total of eight days, where five of those were spent at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Being able to carry everything you need on your back is one of my favorite feelings in this world.

After spring break I finished the semester and headed to India the day after my last final. It was a little stressful since I was also moving out and preparing to leave Austin for about 9 months. I sold/gave away almost everything I owned. Moving a lot throughout my life made me become quite unattached to material things, so it was not that hard. Currently, absolutely everything I own fits into two suitcases and a 65-liter backpack (plus a book bag, since I could not make myself give all of my books away). I find having few things one of the most freeing things in the world, so I am content with my decision.

Anyways, my trip to India is too overwhelming to explain in a paragraph, but here is the gist of it. I was part of an engineering - social work collaboration named, Projects with Underserved Communities. Through this program I participated in a year long class, where my team and I worked with an NGO in India named CASA, to fundraise, design, plan, and implement our project. As you can see in the picture below, we built a community center for the Nasampalli village in Andhra Pradesh (close to Chittoor). The center serves as a daycare during the day and a place for community meetings at night. The center was something the community had requested from our NGO, so it was a project they deemed needed and had full buy-in. During this experience I learned a lot about international development, social work, engineering, and myself. I was in India for 30 days and every time I am asked: “How was India,” I describe it as: amazing, overwhelming, difficult, and wonderful. The heat was excruciating, so sleeping was generally very difficult. The food was difficult to adapt to for many of my team members, but I actually loved it. South Indian food and mangos have become two of my favorite things! I also realized that I had never experienced the feeling of looking different from almost everyone around me. Being from Brazil and living in the US, I have always blended in easily wherever I was. Again, it is hard to talk about everything we experienced during the trip, but if anyone is interested in more of the details, our website/blog is the perfect place to learn more!

After coming back from India, I spent two days in Austin then came to San Francisco. I started my internship here with DPR Construction on June 13th and am now about to be done. I live in an AirBnB home called hacker house with about 15 other people and I could not have asked for a better temporary home! I have met people from all over the world and those of us who are here for the entire summer have become very close. The Bay Area is very different from Texas. It is the first time I have lived in the US outside of Texas, so it has been an interesting experience. I realized that after seven years in the lone star state, I have actually become quite defensive of it. Although I would never consider myself anything other than Brazilian, Texas has grown on me and I apparently say “y’all” a lot. In the beginning I thought I would never consider moving to San Francisco permanently, but it has almost won me over. I don’t know anywhere else where I can hike, bungee jump, ski, surf, camp, white water raft, and do a million other things within a 300-mile radius. Long story short, this has been a great summer so far. In two weeks I will be heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil to spend 12 days with my family and friends. I haven’t seen my parents or siblings in 8 months and will not be back until after I graduate, so these 12 days are extremely important to me. My siblings, pictured in the photo from this past Christmas break, are by far the most important people in my life, so sometimes the distance can get a little tough.

The last thing I have planned for this year is a study abroad exchange to Valencia, Spain. After Brazil I am flying directly there to start the fall semester at the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia and I will be back in Austin around mid-January (have not bought the flight back yet). I do not have much planned for Valencia as of now. Since it is exchange there isn’t a lot of oversight or structure to the program, and as far as I know no one else from UT is going there. When I made the decision to participate in this program, I wanted to be completely on my own and not have any expectations. It is getting a little scarier since it is so close, but I am excited to go through this experience. I have not decided where I am going to live, so I plan on just getting an AirBnb for a couple of weeks until I find a place I want to move to.

This is it for my current adventures, but as someone who sometimes cannot stay in the present without planning the future (I am working on it), I have some ideas of what I want to do next year during my last semester of college and summer before full-time. I’m glad OJs had me write this blog, even though I took about 2 months longer than I said it would.

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