When I was 15 years old, I saw an article in the local newspaper about an exchange student program where families hosted teenagers from around the world in their homes for a school year. I thought this was an amazing idea and begged my parents to be a host. You see…I am an only child and had always wanted an older brother or sister! My parents thought about it and they decided to bring over a girl from Brazil named Nara. We picked her out from a catalog, which to this day we find really funny. She was 18 years old and we had a ton in common. We both played the flute, took ballet lessons, and loved to travel.

I had no idea how much this random article would change my life forever. She lived with us for one year. We went to school together, we lived together and we traveled to Niagra Falls and Disney World. Yes, we fought and yes we eventually became “sisters.” When she left, I was so sad but forever changed. My world had opened up in ways I never knew were possible. I learned some Portuguese, I learned about her culture and food. I learned that we are the same yet different in really cool ways.

When I was 18 years old, I was able to go to her home in the capital of Brazil, Brasilia. I lived with her and her family for about 4 months. This was an awesome opportunity and such an eye opening experience. As our roles were reversed, I was know the foreigner in a strange land. She has a much larger family so I gained sisters and brothers and another set of parents. She comes from a fairly wealthy family, so I even got to have maids. My mom was worried I would forget how to make my bed. :-) I learned so much about Brazil, the world, and myself through this experience.

What I find more amazing is over the years we have stayed in touch. We even wrote real handwritten letters to each other before the internet, chat, and skyping were even possible. It has now been more than 20 years since we first met that summer day in 1990. We have traveled back and forth for special events and I even went to her wedding. Now she has two beautiful children and this past weekend, she brought her family to Disney World in Florida. I surprised my mom for her birthday with a trip down to Disney for the weekend to meet her granddaughters. Of course the most magical place on earth!

It was so amazing to see my Brazilian sister Nara, and meet her two daughters, my nieces, who are four and five years old. I truly fell in love with them. They are wonderful children who, despite a bit of a language barrier, wanted to hold my hand and play as if we have known each other their entire lives.

This weekend was one of those moments that makes you so thankful for the people who have come into your life and changed you forever. I am better for knowing Nara. She inspired me to love language and culture, and want to share my experiences with others. I am blessed and so grateful to have her as my sister.

Who has inspired you?

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