Imagine leaving home for the first time to study in a foreign country where the people speak a completely different language. This is the story for 39 Brazilian exchange students at Florida A&M University. FAMU has opened its doors to students from Brazil’s several study abroad programs.
The exchange students are required to learn English before they can enroll in academic courses. Those students who have not taken an English exam before their departure must enroll in the Intensive English Program (IEP) through FAMU’s Division of Continuing Education, where they prepare for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam.
Many of these exchange students arrived last fall and have already immersed themselves in American culture, improved their understanding of English, and adapted to FAMU’s unique university culture.
Sara Raissa Brito Bezerra, a 21-year-old agricultural engineering student from Teresina, Piauí, Brazil, is pleased to be at FAMU. “I was so happy because I searched FAMU and I saw it was an old university that was very important,” said Bezerra.
In addition, several students have volunteered their time at the Center of Global Security (CGS) teaching conversational Portuguese. The director of the CGS, Keith C. Simmonds, Ph.D., expressed his appreciation for the Brazilian students’ eagerness to serve. “They displayed an easygoing willingness to be helpful and were warmhearted in their friendship with everyone,” said Simmonds.
Rodrigo Bono Nardini, a 23-year-old agricultural business student from Atibaia, São Paulo, Brazil, is one of the volunteer Portuguese instructors. He is sponsored by Brazil’s Scientific Mobility Program. He explained that the program provides two semesters of academic studies and a three- to four-month internship. Nardini’s next journey is to Wallingford, Connecticut to intern with Geremia Greenhouse. “As an agricultural student, the greenhouse experience will be good,” said Nardini.
Anna Carla Lima Villela, a 22-year-old agriculture student from Nova Fatima, Paraná, Brazil, has also been persistent in searching for an internship that will demonstrate the diversity of her undergraduate degree. “I have three different options: soil science and soil management, animal nutrition with Sanderson [Farms], and plant science at Disney to work with [the] greenhouse at Epcot,” said Villela.
Many students, such as Bezerra and Villela, have embraced their historically black college and university experiences. Villela said: “I’m so impressed here with the hairstyles. I love it! People here are really friendly and I am really glad to be here.”
Many of these exchange students have sought spiritual homes as well. Jessica Mariella De Carvalho Oliveira, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, is a member of Every Nation Tallahassee Church. “Every Nation is similar to my church in Brazil because of the way they worship, how the pastor preaches, and [how] the people are friendly,” said Oliveira. She recently started volunteering to watch over children during the Sunday services.
The process of applying to study abroad is complex; many of these exchange students say it is also very long.
Ighor Diaqiuno Matias Santana, a 23-year-old Agriculture Engineering student from northeast Bahia, Brazil, said he applied to study abroad to improve his research skills. He explained that Portugal was his first choice but that 20,000 Brazilian students had applied to study in that country this year and that the program only had limited scholarships available. “I think it was November 2012 [when I applied]. We spent about eight months … [signing] papers and [translating] documents in order to come here,” said Santana.
This study abroad experience has been a long journey for these students, but it has made their dreams come true, and they will have memories that will last them a lifetime.