The Brazil Exchange: Value in Experience Abroad

With so many LDS returned missionaries and a good number of international students, it’s no surprise that nearly 70 percent of BYU’s student body speak a second language. In addition, the university boasts one of the largest language teaching programs in the nation. One of the newest language learning opportunities available to students, the Brazil Diversity in Education Exchange Project (BDEEP), is consistent with BYU’s emphasis on international experience.

The newly formed exchange program is designed for teacher education majors proficient in Portuguese. Eight of these students will be sponsored by BDEEP in order to spend a semester taking education courses at one of two partnership universities in Brazil (the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro in Nova Iguaçu, and the Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis) and working in Brazil’s public schools. Ashland University in Ohio and Georgetown College in Kentucky are also partner universities taking part in the exchange program. The program will be directed by Ramona Cutri of the Department of Teacher Education, along with Blair Bateman of the Spanish and Portuguese Department.

Studying at a university in a different country can be completely different from a student’s experience here. Even for those who have served foreign missions, it can be hard to navigate the university setting outside the U.S.

Students in the exchange program will gain general cultural experience as well as a valuable opportunity to participate in a foreign school system. As they spend time in Brazilian elementary and secondary schools working with teachers and students, they will also gain unique insight into how the country’s education system addresses the needs of students of diverse racial backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. “This is a great way to prepare students for work in diverse populations,” Bateman remarks.

Additionally, exchange students will enroll in and take courses at the participating partnership universities in Brazil, which will also provide challenging opportunities. “Studying at a university in a different country can be completely different from a student’s experience here,” says Bateman. “Even for those who have served foreign missions, it can be hard to navigate the university setting outside the U.S.”

The directors of the exchange program are especially hopeful that BDEEP students will eventually participate in Utah public schools, where a Portuguese language integration/immersion program has just been started. For this reason, program participants are encouraged to stay and work in the state of Utah.

Above all, students who are accepted to BDEEP can expect an in-depth cultural experience that will ultimately help shape them into more capable, understanding, and effective teachers.

6 June 2011