Cultural Encounters in Brazil Study Abroad Program
Fifteen Spelman students recently returned from a month-long study abroad trip to Salvador, Bahia, as part of the Cultural Encounters in Brazil program led by Barbara L. Carter, professor of sociology and Erica L. Williams, assistant professor of anthropology. For five weeks this summer, the students, whose majors range across academic disciplines, explored the country's culture while attending classes in Afro-Brazilian culture and learning Portuguese for beginners at the Faculdade Social da Bahia.
"You could never imagine the wealth of learning that occurs from this type of day-to-day interaction," said Nandi Edouard, C'2014, who described the experience as "valeu a pena," Portuguese for 'it was worth it.' "Not only did I learn a lot about Brazilian food, customs and culture, I learned a lot about myself."
The program included an excellent balance of in-classroom instruction and outside activities and excursions. The program orientation and initial instruction began in the small, historic resort town of Praia do Forte. Other excursions outside of Salvador included full day outings to the town of Cachoeira in the historic Recôncavo area of Bahia.
Students traveled by ferry to the island of Itaparica for a beach-day; took excursions to the Steve Biko Institute and Bahia Street, two non-governmental organizations committed to expand the educational opportunities of socioeconomically disadvantaged Afro-Brazilian youth; and earned eight academic credits for taking two classes, Beginning Portuguese and Brazilian Culture and Society for three days a week from 9:30-4 p.m.
In her blog entry, Seana Dark reflected upon her first trip abroad: “Living in a place where the population is made of 80% of people who are of African descent, but who live in poverty really opened up my eyes to so many new things. From my experience in Brazil, I was able to see the importance of education, uplifting the Black community, appreciating different cultures, and the strength of the people who are of African descent. I will never forget everything I saw, the character of the wonderful people, and my Brazilian family. These five weeks have changed my life, and my prayer is that I will be able use my experience here to help me grow into the woman I am destined to be. I have truly been inspired. Thanks, Brazil. I love you!”
Students were housed with homestay families in the neighborhoods of Rio Vermelho, Ondina, and Amaralina. Homestay families were organized by Patricia Burgos of Brazil Cultural. Dr. Carter and Dr. Williams made home visits to most of the homestay family to see the residences and observe the interactions between students and their families. Two to three students were placed with each family.
In her entry, Kandyce Perry discussed her homestay family: “My home stay family is so special to me and makes me feel so welcome. To my surprise, my home stay is the best place for me to practice my Portuguese.”
Cost and Funding:
The fee for this year's program was $5,000. Nearly all of the students received scholarships and financial aid to partially cover the program cost. Four of the students received scholarship support from the G-STEM program, and conducted scientific research under the mentorship of Dr. Givaldo Reis at Unidunas. Other students received Gates or Mellon scholarships.
Partner Organization - Brazil Cultural: Dr. Javier Escudero, the director of education and cultural programs for Brazil Cultural; and Patrícia Burgos, director of public relations and the homestay coordinator for Brazil Cultural.
In August 2009 Spelman received a grant from the U.S. State Department to explore opportunities for developing new undergraduate summer study abroad programs in Brazil, Turkey, and China, according to Dr. Erica Williams. "I was recruited as a member of the three-person committee for Brazil, which also included Dr. Barbara L. Carter and Dr. Terezinha Cassia Galvão. We traveled to Brazil for twelve days in March 2010 to meet with university officials at eight institutions in both cities, in order to determine where to base the program, and which organizations and institutions with which to partner." After serving on the planning committee to develop the new summer study abroad program in Brazil, Williams assumed leadership as faculty co-director, along with Dr. Carter.
This is the second year of the program. In 2011, the following Spelman students participated in the program: Leala Kushner, Aviana Gantt, Mariah Coggins, Camesha Jones, Drew Lomax, Courtney Sykes, Ashli Cumberbatch, Raquel King, Jeshawna Wholley.
Raven Smith (Mathematics), Nandi Edouard (Psychology), Valencia Spears (History), Csonya Jackmon (International Studies and Public Health), Seana Dark (Psychology and Comparative Women’s Studies), Imani Finley (Psychology), Antonia Gore (Biology), Erica Ferguson (Biology), Jasmine Parker-McDuffie (Biology), Kandyce Perry (Environmental Science), Chatiqua Ellison (Political Science), Briana Bryant (Political Science), Kelli Abrams (Political Science), Cydnii Harris (English), Alyssa Battle (International Studies).