There are two ways to learn about Brazil’s lan guage, cul ture, and gov ern ment. The first way is in a class room, through lec tures, class dis cus sions, home work, and exams.
The other ways is to simply go to Brazil, the largest country in South America.
A group of North eastern stu dents chose the second option, arriving in Brazil in early May for one of the university’s Dia logue of Civ i liza tions pro grams. Since then, they’ve toured the country, living in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Hor i zonte while studying the Por tuguese lan guage and Brazil’s edu ca tion and polit ical systems.
“I came on this trip to see my roots and family,” said Leonard Ziviani, a second-year busi ness admin is tra tion stu dent who grew up in Brazil before moving to Boston nine years ago. “But I was also looking to meet new people and make a lot of con nec tions for future intern ships and co-ops.
“I feel like I am going to come back to live and work here,” he added, “so knowing more about my own country and how its polit ical system and economy works were huge rea sons for wanting to par tic i pate in this program.”
Guided by assis tant pro fessor of polit ical sci ence Thomas Vicino and Simone Elias, a doc toral stu dent and the Por tuguese pro gram coor di nator, the stu dents are get ting first hand expo sure to topics they pre vi ously explored through text books and Pow er Point pre sen ta tions. After morning classes, the stu dents embark on excur sions to key cul tural and gov ern mental sites, meeting with top state offi cials and civic leaders. One time, they stopped at Mineirao Sta dium, one of the cen tral sites for next year’s World Cup, which Brazil is hosting.
With events like the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics—the first to be held in South America—Brazil’s pres ence on the world stage is increasing. Its fast-growing economy makes it a key player along side emerging economies in coun tries such as China, Russia, and India.
For stu dents on the Dia logue, how ever, the under stated moments often prove the most enlightening.
“I like to play soccer and a bunch of us have been going to a park right up the street where we can play with Brazil ians,” said Alex Rodriguez, a second-year stu dent studying inter na tional affairs. “They’re so much better than us, but it’s still a lot of fun. And we get to learn a lot of the con ver sa tional lan guage and slang that we don’t pick up in our classes.”
Taking part in the Dia logue in Brazil helped fourth-year inter na tional affairs major Katherine Dopler land an inter na tional co-op. From August to December, she’ll be in the country teaching Eng lish and helping run a lan guage learning center.
“I’ll have a solid footing for when I return to work and live in Brazil for a semester,” Dopler said.
As part of the pro gram, stu dents pair up with their Brazilian coun ter parts at Centro Uni ver sitário UNA in Belo Hor i zonte. Dia logue teaching assis tant Allana Leigh, who par tic i pated in the pro gram last year, noted that face-to-face inter ac tion rein forces the lessons learned in the class room and on the site visits.
“It gives you a new per spec tive,” added Dopler. “It’s one thing to learn about a country from the United States, but it’s another thing to live and learn side-by-side with people in their own country.”
– by Matt Collette