October 10, 2013 - by Zoe Sigle (PLC '12)
In January of 2013, Meg Barritt of US-Brazil Connect spoke to the Presidents Leadership Class' first-year scholars about a program that connected college students in the United States with high school students in Brazil. The program, called US-Brazil Connect, strove to improve international understanding, develop friendships across borders, and encourage Brazil's economic boom with English coaching. I received the incredible opportunity to join US-Brazil Connect as a fellow.
The program involved three phases. During Phase I (March 1, 2013 – June 16, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado, United States), I built leadership skills with fifteen students from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Red Rocks Community College and communicated via Facebook, Skype, and Google Hangout with ten students from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. During Phase II (June 17, 2013 – July 15, 2013 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil), I coached eight Brazilian students in English for four hours a day. During Phase III (July 15, 2013 – August 30, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado, United States), I strengthened the connections and English language learning with Brazilians students even more over Facebook, Skype, and Google Hangout.
The program taught me various lessons with a wide range of topics. Working as a "coach," I learned how to lead a team by establishing trust, appealing to various learning styles, connecting with students on a level of genuine friendship, and embracing our cultural differences. My students' perspectives on both their own cultures and my culture enhanced the learning experience for all. With Brazil being my first abroad experience, I gained insight on vastly different lifestyles and social interactions, such as how people interact communally and greet each other with close contact in comparison to interactions in the United States. The communal social interactions were strongly evident during the protests that erupted in Brazil this summer. Seeing nation-wide passion for improved government and observing the ascent into violent protests encouraged me to rethink the paradoxical complexities of activism in general. My experiences in Brazil captured lessons on emotion, culture, social interactions, leadership, and personal growth that will surely impact my future work as a person, student, and leader.
The summer of 2013 was US-Brazil Connect's second year on site in Brazil. Based on quantitative English test scores from Brazilian students and qualitative feedback from fellows and Brazilian students, US-Brazil Connect has an effective model for cross-cultural language development and friendship building. The program, however, could not operate without the dedicated people that set the tone for all fellows and Brazilian students. Thank you to the incredible people that made this opportunity come to life for me, as well as the 850+ students, fellows, leaders, coordinators, US-Brazil Connect staff, and Conezão Mundo staff. There is no doubt in my mind that the international interactions significantly impacted the lives of every person involved for the better.
Obrigada. Que saudade!