Kissed by Portugal


Gabi Green

Junior Sofia McLeod-Ali (center) chats with friends during lunch.

For her junior year at Lincoln, Sofia McLeod-Ali sees the school with new eyes. A year in Portugal will do that to you. She is excited to be home, but will take her experiences in Portugal with her in school.

Her mother’s work with AFS, a student-exchange program, inspired her to get involved.

“I’ve always wanted to do it because I’ve been around [my mom] talking about it,” McLeod-Ali said.

Portugal’s beauty and McLeod-Ali’s knowledge of Spanish that steered her choice. Still, she said, the language “turned out to be very tricky…I got it in the end.”

Mcleod-Ali got the full Portuguese experience. She picked up the language along the way, experienced cultural fumbles, even saw Real Madrid Striker Cristiano Ronaldo play soccer.

Portland, it wasn’t. In Portugal and much of Europe, you greet someone  with a kiss on both cheeks. For Mcleod-Ali, this led to some sticky situations.

“The first time that I met someone in Portugal…this guy said hello to me and I said hello and he started leaning into my face and I was like ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’

“I freaked out; I was really scared.”

But her reaction evolved. “After a few tries, a few months, I started becoming more accustomed to the culture.”

Now, she even occasionally scares her American acquaintances by leaning in for a kiss when they meet. “It’s embarrassing and it’s awkward but that’s part of the experience.”

One of the best things about coming back to America for Sofia Mcleod-Ali was reuniting with her best friends.

Huddled together at lunch at Lincoln the second day of school, McLeod?-Ali and friends Audrey Lilly and Hailey Nelson describe how happy they are to be back together. They were waiting for her at the airport when her plane from Portugal touched down at the beginning of the summer with a banner with her name.

I got off my flight and I picked up my bags and they came running at me,” Mcleod-Ali said. “It was so magical, like a movie moment. We cried…or I cried.”

“I left as a freshman and came back as a junior and so the way I see things [has changed],” Mcleod-Ali said. “Being older definitely gives me a different perspective of Lincoln.”