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Student Perspectives on Brazil

Study Abroad: Brazil

In the Fall of 2010, I had the experience of a lifetime in which I studied abroad for one school semester (10 weeks) in Brazil, with my main learning objectives focused on functional ecosystems of Brazil. Upon discovering this study abroad/ internship opportunity through Antioch Education Abroad, I knew this program was for me.

Maria Boland

Environmental Science, Class of 2012

This was no ordinary study abroad experience where a student merely exchanges their primary college for one in a foreign country, but a study abroad experience that allowed me to travel all throughout the country without being grounded in one place, get hands-on experiences in which the enriched curriculum provided, and get deeply connected to the culture through food, dancing, conversation, and forming friendships that will undoubtedly last forever.

Because of this unique experience, I was able to identify my strengths and weaknesses, discover what I truly want in my future career, and allow myself to be open to the world on an international level. By taking myself out of my comfortable, scripted lifestyle and immerse myself in another culture, I was able to expand my outlook on the world and cross-cultural understanding.

Traveling (Part I)

The Lush Mountains of the Atlantic Rainforest

The 1st site of the program was located in the lush mountains of the Atlantic Rainforest, less popular than the Amazon but not of any lesser importance. It was here I learned how to capture and study birds with mist netting, live sustainable off the land, produce goods grown from the land for profit, and truly how threatened the Atlantic Rainforest has become. These two weeks were a vital part of group bonding time.



Curitiba: The City of Life

Next, was a one week stay in the city of Curitiba, which has been voted the best city in Brazil to live in and was awarded the Globe Sustainable City Award, where I lived with a Brazilian host family to practice my Portuguese tongue. My host family took me in and treated me like a daughter, showing me all the intriguing aspects of their city and exposed me to typical Brazilian meals and family life.

Pontal do Sul

After departing from the city life, my group and I traveled to the coast to study marine biology and oceanography in the small seaside town of Pontal do Sul. While chasing crabs into the water and finding sand dollars in my free time, I also had the opportunity to work with penguins and sea lions that had been thrown off their natural migration course and dissect sea turtles that had washed ashore dead.

Brasilia

The next study site took place in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, which is also home to the Neotropical Savanna Cerrado biome. The Cerrado makes up a substantial portion of Brazil and is rapidly undergoing conversion to agriculture. Here, I met with The Nature Conservancy to discuss federal environmental policy and learned about sustainable development options for this region.

Amazon Rainforest

The most anticipated site for me was the renowned Amazon Rainforest located in the North of Brazil, representing over half of the planet's remaining rainforests, and comprising the largest and most species-rich region of tropical rainforest in the world. We slept in hammocks surrounded by mosquito nets, encountered various types of tree frogs on night walks through the forest, and carrying out a field study of the factors affecting plant species diversity.

Pantanal: The Tropical Wetland

The last group site on this amazing journey was the Tropical Wetland, also known as the Pantanal, an area that supports an abundance of wildlife such as birds, fishes, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates. This was by far my favorite site to visit, enjoying horseback riding, fresh fruit picking, and having conversations with wildlife scientists, conservationists, and photographers into the early hours of the morning.

Internship (Part II)

The second part of the study abroad program was an internship at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center located outside the city of Jundiai where I worked hands-on with exotic animals while gaining valuable knowledge and experience. While working with some of the most hardworking and dedicated individuals I met in Brazil, I learned how to properly care for vulnerable baby animals, be a part-time veterinary assistant, release animals back into the wild, and how to enhance captive animals environment to stimulate their mind and physically challenge them.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the time I spent at Mata Ciliar Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center with the responsibility of caring for wild animals, which made me realize this is something I would really care to do and have passion for in a future career. I would be thrilled to work toward the goal of capturing some of the extremely endangered animal species in the wild, having an effort to have them reproduce, and then releasing them back into the wild to help balance out anthropogenic effects of poaching and the Black Market trade.


Summary

After completing my study abroad experience, I would highly recommend an opportunity to broaden your horizons on an educational and personal level...it will change your life forever. It may seem like an expensive undertaking to afford and one may be hesitant to travel to a foreign county where the culture or language is completely different than the norm, but it is worth any amount of money because you will grow from your experiences and the cultural/language barriers are what make studying abroad so exciting. The moment of realization comes when you finally start to recognize that little by little, with each passing day, that barrier is being broken down and the door of opportunity is opened forever.

 



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