Batavia, NY- Seven Brazilian students are experiencing many firsts while studying this semester at Genesee Community College. This is the first time they’ve been out of Brazil and it’s the first time any of them has experienced elements of winter. “The snow is beautiful, but it’s too cold for me,” 21-year old Wilson Junior Cardosa says with a smile. Wilson is from the city of Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, Brazil where the average high temperature in November is 82 degrees. For Yulli Luna Athaydes Martins, 20, the cooler weather is a nice break from the heat of her hometown, Sao Luis, Maranhão, where the temperature is almost always in the 80s with humidity around 85%. “I kind of like the cold,” she says. Maira Da Costa Ferreira agrees. “It’s so hot in Brazil.”
Yulli, Wilson, and Maira are among the seven students participating in a Brazilian government scholarship program that aims to increase scientific research and discovery in Brazil. The Brazilian Science Mobility Program (BSMP), often referred to as Science Without Borders, provides university students in Brazil with opportunities to study abroad. According to the BSMP website, it aims to “…revolutionize the educational system in Brazil, exposing students to an environment of high competitiveness and entrepreneurship.”
The seven did not know each other in Brazil. They all studied at different universities, majoring in physics, chemistry or computer science. As part of the BSMP, they committed to spend 18 months in the United States, with no visits back to Brazil during that time. Their study includes one or more semesters at GCC before transferring to a four year school. They return home in December 2014. Once back in Brazil they are required to remain there for twice as long as they studied abroad, or three years in the case of these seven students. Here is a snapshot of each of them:
•Yulli Luna Athaydes Martins, 20, São Luis, Maranhão, Brazil
Yulli credits an “awesome high school teacher” for getting her interested in Physics, which she studied for two years at Universidade Federal Do Maranhão. She has adapted well to being away from home with the help of Facebook, on which she talks “every day” to her twin sister Yasmin. She’s grateful for her roommate here, Camille Carvalho De Mendonca, a fellow Brazilian whom she calls her ‘guardian angel.’ “My mother used to do everything for me,” says Yulli. Camille, who likes to cook, has helped fill the void. Yulli finds Americans “different. Brazilians are more noisy and touchy. People here are quiet.”
•Camille Carvalho De Mendonca, 21, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Camille grew up in Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro. She began her college career as an economics major at Universidade Federal De Juiz De Fora, but switched to chemistry. She is working at GCC to improve her English as she prepares to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) in early December. “You feel the pressure because your future depends on it,” she said. Her score will determine whether she remains at GCC for another semester or furthers her studies at a four year campus. Camille has taken advantage of her assigned “conversation buddy” Katya, with whose family she will spend Thanksgiving. She misses her parents and younger sister, but keeps in touch through Facebook, Viber, and Skype. She says Americans are different, quieter and less demonstrative. “I keep telling myself ‘Be quiet. Don’t try to hug everybody.’”
•Maira Da Costa Ferreira, 21, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil
Maira is the oldest of three children. At age 9, her family moved from the small town of Ipuiuna to the much larger Campinas, São Paulo. She feels comfortable in a city the size of Batavia, but finds American eating habits to be much different from Brazilians. “Americans eat a lot of things at breakfast,” she says. “In Brazil we have milk and fruit, maybe a cheese sandwich. Here, there is all this meat for breakfast!” Maira feels much more comfortable with the language than she did when she first arrived. “In the beginning it was really hard. My English was awful. My roommates had no patience with me.” She was self-conscious about speaking. “Now I don’t care anymore. If it’s wrong, I try,” she says. She is preparing to take the TOEFL while enjoying the experience of another culture. “I want to go to other countries. I want to know more of the world.”
•Dayvid Bruno Fernandes Da Silva, 20, Andradina, São Paulo, Brazil
Dayvid sums up western New York weather easily. “It is crazy man!” He’s amazed at how many different types of weather can be experienced in just one day. He misses the sun, Brazilian food and culture, and his family. Dayvid’s parents are divorced and both remarried with additional children. He has two step-sisters and two step-brothers. He most often lives with his grandparents and likes to Skype with all of them to stay in touch. He’s enjoyed experiencing new American holidays, like Halloween and Thanksgiving, but he’s frank about one thing: “I just do not like the food, I am sorry.” He finds Americans “a bit more conservative” and sometimes more polite. “People say ‘I am sorry’ all the time and for everything, even if this is unnecessary, and I think this is funny.” He’s made friends easily and has enjoyed the American college experience. “Here we have gyms, pools, fields, etc. in campus. In Brazil, I never saw a university which has this kind of things. Basically, in Brazil we just go to university to have classes and study.” There are no school-organized athletics or clubs. Dayvid plans to continue his study of Physics at SUNY Geneseo, return to Brazil to complete his teaching degree and then return to America for advanced degrees. “I really would love to come back to America and stay here forever!”
•Wilson Junior Cardoso, 21, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Wilson was a student entrepreneur in his fourth year of university when he decided to study abroad. He left an important role as president of his class “prom” and had to find a replacement to organize this graduation event. But he’s comfortable that he made the right choice, even though he misses his family. “I miss my Mom’s [home-cooked Brazilian food].” A chemistry major, Wilson has found America to be “totally different than I expected.” The language is difficult for him, but people have been helpful. “When I don’t understand, they rephrase, which surprises me because I didn’t expect this to happen.”
•Jose Paulo Henrique De Melo Fernandes, 21, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
Paulo, as Jose is called, says “everything is different” in America. But he considers this a “great personal experience. I always wanted to learn new cultures, get experience with diversity in the world. I’m learning more than I thought. A lot more.” Paulo is studying computer science and completed three years of university in Brazil. He will transfer in January to SUNY Stony Brook University on Long Island. He finds Americans “not as friendly, open” as Brazilians. He keeps in touch with his parents and younger sister daily via Facebook and Skype. In Brazil, they spend time with extended family on Sundays. Eating passion fruit mousse at Samba, a Brazilian restaurant in Rochester, he says “it tastes like Sunday afternoons.”
•Elder De Jesus Ferreira Da Silva, 22,Belèm, Parà, Brazil
“Now I think I prefer small cities,” says Elder who hails from the port city of Belèm near the Amazon River. The population is around 2 million. He likes Batavia. “Even for a small city, there are a lot of things here. And it’s very safe.” He’s also enjoying the break from the heat of Belèm. Snow delights him. “I love it. I had so much fun. We built a snowman and threw snowballs at each other.” Elder was adopted at 2 months old. His mother continues to run the real estate company she owned with his dad, who died four years ago. It’s not a business Elder wants to join. “It’s a lot of stress and customers can be hard to deal with.” He’s studying computer science but also loves literature. “I used to hear in Brazil that American literature is very bad, and now I don’t think so.” He’s enjoying the American college experience and GCC. “Here, teachers seem to care about you. If I miss class, she will ask ‘Elder, is everything okay?’” Just two classes short of earning his degree in Brazil, Elder will transfer to SUNY Geneseo in January to further his studies in computer science and literature. “I like to write.” He is blogging (in Portuguese) about his American experience at www.oepitafio.blogspot.com.
“We’re very pleased to have these students here at GCC,” said GCC Director of Global Initiatives James Goodwin. “It’s a credit to our College that we’ve been selected to partner with Brazilian universities for this program. And these students bring diversity and international exposure to our local students.”
As the Brazilian science program notes “Every highly qualified academic or research center around the globe is experiencing an intense process of internationalization, increasing its visibility and addressing the needs of today’s globalized world.”
GCC prides itself on a vibrant international community with more than 65 students from Brazil, Japan, India, Germany, Vietnam, Curacao and Canada. GCC also offers a number of study abroad opportunities for students, including opportunities in Brazil. To learn more about all the study abroad options visit http://www.genesee.edu/academics/studyabroad/.
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A photo of the Brazilian students is available here: http://marketing.genesee.edu/images/Brazilian_Students2013.jpg
Caption: From left to right: Dayvid Fernandes Da Silva, Yulli Athaydes Martins, Elder Ferreira Da Silva, Maira Da Costa Ferreira, Wilson Junior Cardoso, Camille Carvalho De Mendonca, and Jose Paulo De Melo Fernandes.