Thomas Vicino leads Dialogue of Civilizations in Brazil

By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | May 31, 2013

There are two ways to learn about Brazil’s lan­guage, cul­ture, and gov­ern­ment. The first way is in a class­room, through lec­tures, class dis­cus­sions, home­work, and exams.

The other ways is to simply go to Brazil, the largest country in South America.

A group of North­eastern stu­dents chose the second option, arriving in Brazil in early May for one of the university’s Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­grams. Since then, they’ve toured the country, living in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Hor­i­zonte while studying the Por­tuguese lan­guage and Brazil’s edu­ca­tion and polit­ical systems.

“I came on this trip to see my roots and family,” said Leonard Ziviani, a second-​​year busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion stu­dent who grew up in Brazil before moving to Boston nine years ago. “But I was also looking to meet new people and make a lot of con­nec­tions for future intern­ships and co-​​ops.

“I feel like I am going to come back to live and work here,” he added, “so knowing more about my own country and how its polit­ical system and economy works were huge rea­sons for wanting to par­tic­i­pate in this program.”

Guided by assis­tant pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence Thomas Vicino and Simone Elias, a doc­toral stu­dent and the Por­tuguese pro­gram coor­di­nator, the stu­dents are get­ting first­hand expo­sure to topics they pre­vi­ously explored through text­books and Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tions. After morning classes, the stu­dents embark on excur­sions to key cul­tural and gov­ern­mental sites, meeting with top state offi­cials and civic leaders. One time, they stopped at Mineirao Sta­dium, one of the cen­tral sites for next year’s World Cup, which Brazil is hosting.

With events like the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics—the first to be held in South America—Brazil’s pres­ence on the world stage is increasing. Its fast-​​growing economy makes it a key player along­side emerging economies in coun­tries such as China, Russia, and India.

For stu­dents on the Dia­logue, how­ever, the under­stated moments often prove the most enlightening.

“I like to play soccer and a bunch of us have been going to a park right up the street where we can play with Brazil­ians,” said Alex Rodriguez, a second-​​year stu­dent studying inter­na­tional affairs. “They’re so much better than us, but it’s still a lot of fun. And we get to learn a lot of the con­ver­sa­tional lan­guage and slang that we don’t pick up in our classes.”

Taking part in the Dia­logue in Brazil helped fourth-​​year inter­na­tional affairs major Katherine Dopler land an inter­na­tional co-​​op. From August to December, she’ll be in the country teaching Eng­lish and helping run a lan­guage learning center.

“I’ll have a solid footing for when I return to work and live in Brazil for a semester,” Dopler said.

As part of the pro­gram, stu­dents pair up with their Brazilian coun­ter­parts at Centro Uni­ver­sitário UNA in Belo Hor­i­zonte. Dia­logue teaching assis­tant Allana Leigh, who par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram last year, noted that face-​​to-​​face inter­ac­tion rein­forces the lessons learned in the class­room and on the site visits.

“It gives you a new per­spec­tive,” added Dopler. “It’s one thing to learn about a country from the United States, but it’s another thing to live and learn side-​​by-​​side with people in their own country.”

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