Beth Santos: I studied abroad in Portugal in 2006. I am Portuguese-American, so I was interested in getting to know my roots, master the language, and feel like a local. I lived with family members for the first two months. I started off feeling very, very foreign and had a real culture clash. They would have these raucous dinners, drinking wine and laughing and I remember there was one night I was sitting there, just crying. I was trying to hide it, but I just felt so alien.
I thought I was supposed to understand them, and was upset I didn’t learn Portuguese before arriving.
At a certain point, I underwent a wild transformation and ended up feeling very much like a local. I picked up the language, and even had locals convinced I was from Portugal.
When I moved home, I felt like a Portuguese person living in the States and it was the culture clash all over again, in reverse.