Lead Story

Agua sem gas, por favor!

margaret.peterman, January 22nd, 2017

Out of all the Portuguese phrases I learned, I think that one, meaning water without carbonation, is definitely the one I used the most on the trip to the point that I almost asked for agua sem gas when returning back to America. Brazil challenged me and threw me far out of my comfort zone, especially with the language barrier, but I am so exceedingly glad I went on the trip due to the new business knowledge, cultural awareness, and friendships I gained.

The first company we visited in Brazil was Tramontina in Farroupilha, Rio Grande do Sul. One of the project groups had presented about Tramontina before we left, and because I am interested in their products, I looked them up myself. Because of this, I thought I would know a lot of what the presenter would say. However, though she did give us some numbers and facts about the company, I was pleasantly surprised to hear more about Tramontina’s culture and how they treat their employees. We learned that the company pays for about 70% of their employees’ children’s education, up to 50% to get an in-house MBA, and up to 35% for college tuition. In addition, Tramontina will give their employees a 0% interest loan to buy a house if the employee so desires. (Interest rates in Brazil are anywhere from 10-30%.) Finally, Tramontina provides both the government mandated “13th month’s wages” bonus as well as a “14th month’s wages” to their employees. After learning all this, I was shocked. An American would be hard-pressed to find such a company here. While the triple bottom line has gained more traction, it is still my opinion that American companies focus too much on profit and not on the welfare of their employees or the environment. I am grateful for the time we had to visit Tramontina, because it helped me realize that companies that value their employees’ welfare do exist, and it is my hope that I will find one for myself.

I think my favorite part of the trip was the time we spent in Bento Gonçalves, specifically the day we spent hiking to a waterfall and playing futsal and eating dinner with locals. Until this trip, I didn’t realize how much I appreciate being able to walk around in a foreign city, simply soaking it in. During our first night in Bento, a group of us left our hotel and started walking around, exploring the city. I loved how we walked aimlessly about, only looking to see where we were when we were ready to head back to the hotel. After we had spent a few days there and visited several companies, our group spent a day with locals, learning more about the culture through osmosis. We hiked down to a waterfall that was on the private property of Dr. A’s friends, and most of us were able to climb inside the waterfall and swim in a small lake. Because this area was on private property, we were only able to see it because Dr. A was friends with the owner. I really appreciated this, because if we had visited Brazil as a tour group, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to see the waterfall. After that, we played futsal (indoor soccer) with several locals. Even though a language divided us, I loved how we were still able to play together. Later, we ate dinner together and had churrasco, a type of Brazilian barbecue. The language barrier was definitely harder to manage at dinner, but we made do with using Google Translate on our phones. Throughout our time in Bento, I learned how Brazilians like to take it easy and relax, something I definitely could get behind on!

Even though it wasn’t on our itinerary until practically the night before we went, I really got a lot out of the elementary/high school visit in Farroupilha. We toured the school and learned more about what the children did on a daily basis. Education and learning in general is one of my passions. I have had friends tell me they wished they could simply take the college courses needed for their degree so they could get out faster and start working. I disagree. Last spring, I took a philosophy course and psychology course because they were mandated by the university. Even though both of those topics have nothing to do with my desired career path, I still went in with an open mind, hoping to learn something, and was rewarded. I think this may partially have to do with the fact that I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 5th grade, having a much higher responsibility for my learning than the average child. Because of this, I highly value learning, and hope to possibly be a teacher or professor in the future. This is why the visit to the school meant so much to me.

However, what really stuck out is the non-academic education the children are given. Our group learned that the children have money management classes, healthy eating seminars, and cultural awareness days, in addition to others. The kindergarteners go through a mock store setup, where they “purchase” goods. As the children get older, the education gets more relevant, such as tax education for the eighth graders. This is something far superior to the financial education American children receive. I believe all that I can remember I learned was how to write a check in the second grade. However, because the leaning wasn’t reinforced, when I wrote my first check a couple of years ago, I had to ask my mother how exactly to do it. Besides the money management, the children also have cultural awareness days. One of the teachers told us about a time where the children are blindfolded through the day to get a feel of what it would be like if they were blind. When we were in Sao Paolo riding the subway, I noticed an interesting pattern on the floor that had raised bumps. Looking around, I realized that the bumps were a type of “Braille” for the floor for blind individuals to walk around the subway as normally as possible. After seeing it in the subway, I began to notice the bumps everywhere in the country, most notably in airports. Brazilians are much more sensitive to those with disabilities than I believe Americans are, and in addition to public help, the children are taught more about what’s going on. I think one of the major problems with the American education system is that there’s too much of an emphasis on standardized tests and making sure students pass certain benchmarks. However, seeing the school in Brazil has given me hope that it’s possible for children to have a well-rounded education, and while I will most definitely try to do my part, it’s my hope that education in America will undergo reform to produce more cultural, well-versed citizens and leaders of tomorrow.

While Brazil has given me more of a varied knowledge of business in other countries and culture, I will forever be grateful for the friendships I cultivated while on the trip. Because I value deep friendships more than shallow acquaintances, I loved spending almost every waking minute with my 17 other classmates and Dr. A because we got to experience everything together and learn more about each other much more than the typical what’s your name / what’s your major / where are you from questions that dominate so much of college. Through the trip, I was able to become better friends with people I “sort-of” knew, and have forged closer friendships in two weeks than with some friendships I’ve had with other people for almost two years. If any of y’all are reading this, I’m so glad y’all went on the trip—Brazil 2018 anyone??


–Margaret Peterman

I still can’t believe that I have already been back from Brazil for over a week. Every day that we spent there was so unique and fun in it’s own way. I am so thankful that I chose to apply to the Brazil program because I am going to cherish those memories forever. This trip was truly an amazing experience and it really opened my eyes to different cultures, languages, business practices, lifestyles, and many other things.

We did a good number of corporate visits during our time in Brazil, but my personal favorite was at Santa Clara. Their building first off was cool because it had a huge Santa Clause sitting on the top of it, which I personally think is really cool. I enjoyed this visit because we first got to hear about their business at the Santa Clara building, and then afterwards we visited the ranch where the actual milk production takes place.

Santa Clara makes about three hundred items in its dairy and cold cut divisions. We learned a little bit about the company history as well and how it became the success that it is today. Our speaker also talked a little about how Santa Clara’s dairy production works and discussed specific products they sell in what stores. I got the chance to try some of their cheese and milk products after the lecture as a snack they were providing to us as. I had a bad experience with one specific type of cheese because the taste made me almost throw up. I did try some of their milk flavors though, and they were pretty fantastic if I do say so myself. I definitely recommend their milk but recommend staying cautious about the cheese.

Later in the day during this company visit we actually got to see first hand what type of work is done for Santa Clara on the farm. Even though it was a little smelly because of the cows, this part of the corporate visit was the most memorable for me. They had a few dozen cows there, and we got to check out where they do the milking and how they store it afterwards. The people that live on this land that do this everyday were the ones showing us around the farm. They were so nice to do this for us and were so knowledgeable about milk production. They feed the cows strategically and follow a lot of strict sanitary standards to produce the best possible products. I loved hearing about the farmers perspectives and seeing how they put their hearts into the work they do on the farm everyday. I oftentimes forget that there are still people doing hard labor like that everyday and it was really refreshing to see people that do this type of work all the time really value and enjoy what they do.

My favorite cultural visit was in Floripa when we went dune surfing. I didn’t even know that this was something that people did and it was such a unique experience. This opened my eyes to a new type of recreational activity, and I had so much fun going down these hills and getting sandy even though the walk back up to the top of the hill was pretty steep after going down. I think this is something that not a lot of people get the chance to ever do. The view from the sand dunes was also incredibly beautiful and you could see the beach from where we were standing on the top of the hills. When I think back to this day I can’t help but smile because it was one of my favorite things that I got to experience in Brazil.

Something that stood out to me about the Brazilian culture is how much they value their relationships and having fun over working. In America, it is encouraged to work as hard as you can and it’s also understood that work will oftentimes take you away from fun things. In all honesty, I think it’s pretty amazing that Brazilians everywhere take the time to stop working as often as they do to focus on the meaningful things in life for times like New Years celebrations. Not that Americans don’t take time off at all, but America is such a work-focused place. Ambitions a lot of times can get in the way of things we should be taking the time for or appreciating.

It really impressed me how Brazil shut down the entire city of Sao Paulo for several days when we were there for New Years. Barely anybody worked during those days because they were spending time with family and friends to celebrate and have a good time. Restaurants were not even open during this time so we ended up having to eat three meals at our hotel one day that we were in Sao Paulo. Shutting down cities in America for New Years would be a really weird concept to Americans. I really appreciated how welcoming, warm and friendly Brazilian’s spirits were.

It’s really hard for me to put into words everything that impacted me, impressed me, or touched me throughout my trip in Brazil. I just know that the experiences I had along with the friendships I was so lucky to make in Brazil will always hold a special place in my heart.

Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs


College Station is not the most exciting city in the world so after returning from my trip to Europe over the summer, I had been counting down the days till i could leave for my next international adventure. Applying to the trip, I didn’t know anyone else that planned on going, but after taking a class with Dr. A my first semester sophomore year, I was sold on the Brazil business trip. Brazil exceeded all my expectations and is by far my best college experience to date.

On the drive to Dr. A’s home town of Bento Goncalves, I was amazed at the scenery. We traversed through windy hills blanketed in lush, dense, green forests after landing in Porto Alegre. All I could think about was getting a chainsaw and a shovel to build some bike trails through the untouched terrain, but unfortunately even my thoughts were hampered by my surgically repaired pinky. However, this thought sparked my curiosity about the tourist industry in the region and the opportunities to build resort style attractions. To my surprise, the region of Rio Grande do Sul is one of the most popular travel destinations for Brazilians and as evidence by the brand new Super 8 Motel, many businesses were beginning to capitalize on this trend. I would gladly develop my Portuguese to work in the tourist industry where my English and Spanish skills would be highly valued.

One of the best things about traveling abroad for me is the opportunity to enhance my knowledge in a way that can only be done through experience. A book is a great way to start learning, but some things can only be learned through experience. I picked up a vast Portuguese vocabulary in the two weeks I spent in Brazil and one of my best moments was trying to communicate with some of the locals that joined us for soccer and futsal. Our conversations were kept at a pretty basic level with questions such as, “do you like pizza?”, “who are your favorite UFC fighters”, and “would you like a beer?”. It is amazing what can be communicated through basic Portuguese and mutual knowledge of Spanish. We eventually used Google Translate to have more extensive conversations comparing some of the differences in our cultures and US political system.

Of the many companies we were able to visit in Brazil, I thought the visit to Orquídea was particularly intriguing. I was in awe that the CEO of this multi billion dollar company took the time out of his day to walk us through the facilities. Although I couldn’t say much to him beyond my basic repertoire of Portuguese phrases, I did my best to just glance at him and smile because I knew that I wouldn’t have many opportunities to visit an international business of that scale any time soon. The most impressive part of the tour was watching the automated systems essentially run themselves as a few employees monitored. I assume the initial investment to build these systems was substantial, but the long term cost savings and speed of these processes would easily outweigh the initial cost. The snacks they made were not my favorite, but I enjoyed dressing up like a doctor to avoid contaminating any of the foods as we toured.

Just like the Brazilians, after a long week full of corporate and cultural visits, we were all ready to head to the beach in Florianopolis for a relaxing weekend. The warm beach climate was wonderful and Praia Joaquina was lovely, but one of my favorite activities came when we had the chance to go sand boarding. With my background in skateboarding and snowboarding, this was an easy sport to pick up. I tend to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie when it comes to action sports so I loved trying to speed down the dunes as fast as possible. On the walk to the beach after our sand boarding experience, Dr. A wanted to race so I showed him that I was also fast on my feet. To top off our adventurous morning, I enjoyed a refreshing Acai topped with granola and strawberries.

When my two week excursion to Brazil came to a close, I was not ready to leave! I just wanted to continue to soak in the culture, practice my Portuguese, and hang out on the beach with our group. This was certainly a unique experience and one that I won’t ever forget. Although I didn’t really buy many souvenirs, my new friendships, and memories will last a lifetime. And best of all they’re free (except for the glasses I lost in the ocean). This was truly a magical experience and one that I will cherish forever. Obrigado to Dr. A for planning the trip, translating, and keeping everyone’s spirits high during the early mornings. Obrigado to my new friends for the funny moments, great company, and memorable adventures. Obrigado to the friendly people of Brazil, I will be back for more wonderful trips.


Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

Oi! Tudo bem?

It has been over a week now since the group has returned from Brazil, and I still find myself reminiscing about the times abroad. The people, the sights, the ViaggioTur7000, all still fresh in mind. The two weeks just flew by, and if I were to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Among all of companies that we were able to visit during our time in Brazil, Tramontina was my personal favorite. Well known around the world for their top quality steel, Tramontina has been providing durable steel products for over 100 years now. Walk into many well known American restaurants across the US, and you can see Tramontina silverware in use. A company that has had this much success both domestically and internationally has to be doing the right things, and after spending a day touring their facility, it was clear this company has found the keys to success.

One thing that really stuck out to me was that Tramontina invests a ton in their employees, and the families of their employees. For example, the company will pay for 70% of the primary education fees for each worker’s children. Secondary education? They also cover 35% of that. Does the employee want to go back to school and get their MBA? Yes, Tramontina will cover that also. In addition, Tramontina will provide loans to their employees, free of interest! Down payments for new cars or new homes can be covered by your company at no additional cost, how cool! Tramontina has understood that keeping your workers happy and healthy is a key to making a great product, and this is why they have been doing so well for so long.

The cultural visits throughout the trip also were amazing sights to behold. Ibirapuera Park was one of the earliest visits we did, but remained my favorite throughout the trip. I loved the genuine Brazilian vibe that I got while at the park. We did not feel like tourists at all, but simply blended in with the crowd of people. No one was on their phones in the park or taking tons of pictures, but instead we all just enjoyed the moment and simplicity of the park. People were playing soccer, roller blading, working out on the equipment, and just enjoying life without any distractions. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature with the company of close friends really embodies the laid back Brazilian culture, and I would love to visit that park again in the future.

Being able to converse with the locals, to the best of my ability, also showed me a lot about Brazilian culture and the lifestyle in the country. One major aspect of the culture is the fact that all Brazilians love to live in the moment, and it is truly a beautiful thing. They are very good at cherishing the moments of fun they have, and they do not look back to worry about the small things.

When the weekend comes, they book it for the beach, enjoy the time they have, and get back to their hardworking attitude on Monday morning. Brazilians never leave anyone feeling left out, and will never be hesitant to spend their money on you. They are a passionate group of people that love to be around each other and laugh, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Two weeks in Brazil flew by, and I could not be more satisfied with the outcome. There was not a single dull moment on the trip, and I truly believe that was because of the extensive planning and dedication from Dr. A. He was an amazing guide, and allowed us to really experience Brazilian culture first hand. I cannot thank him and his amazing family enough for the hospitality they provided while abroad. Brazil, you were amazing, and I will definitely be back sooner rather than later.


Até logo!

Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

When sifting through notes I took in Brazil, it was almost impossible to choose a favorite corporate trip or cultural visit. The entire two-week trip was a blast, and at each stop I learned something new and interesting about Brazil, its personality, and its people.

A corporate visit that sticks out to me especially was the visit to Tramontina in Farroupilha. We met with them on January 6th, and they still had not resumed operations from the New Year celebrations. However, the Director of Human Resources was kind enough to meet with us, give us a lecture on their business philosophy, and tour of the manufacturing facility. We learned that Tramontina has a fantastic employee development program, paying for employee’s schooling and the schooling of young people who hope to one day work at Tramontina. They also carry heavy responsibility to their environment by applying to the strictest standards of environmental protection in their manufacturing processes. The company has been centered on the ideas of protecting and improving their staff and their environment since they were founded in 1911 by a family of Italian immigrants. After we learned about the business philosophy, we were able to tour the office building where we saw the accounting, marketing, and human resources department. On the top floor of the office building there was a showroom that had their silverware, cookware and ceramics on display with a big table in the middle – they use the table for negotiations with other companies that want Tramontina to supply them with cookware. Lastly, we toured the manufacturing plant next to the office building. One unique thing about Tramontina is that peacocks roam the property because one of the old CEO’s really liked peacocks! Another unique thing about them is their manufacturing facility – differing from the manufacturing plants I’ve seen back home in Houston, their facility was extremely modern and pretty. There was landscaping in the front, a seating area outside of the main floor, and a beautiful test kitchen inside, in addition to the manufacturing floor itself. After we left the manufacturing facility, we left the Tramontina corporate headquarters and drove up the road to the Tramontina T-Store, the retail storefront where you can buy all of their products. It was a massive stand-alone building that was super modern, much like their office and manufacturing plant. The inside was very open and bright, similar to Ikea. We were able to buy some of the same products we saw in their showroom, and were able to watch an employee etch our names into their knives with a laser. I remember leaving Tramontina and thinking that, if I spoke Portuguese, I would love to work there!

I also enjoyed the visit to Santa Clara, where we got to visit a farm that had 38 dairy cows that contributed milk to the cooperative every day. It was interesting to hear about the process of a cooperative collecting milk from small family farms, and then actually getting to witness the beginning of that process. It was also neat to visit Santa Clara, and continually see their products at restaurants and hotels for the rest of our time in Brazil. Similarly, I enjoyed the tour of Marcopolo, the tour bus manufacturer, since we used a Marcopolo tour bus for our trip. It was fun to see the process of the busses being made and to hear all of the engineering and thought that went into making our bus, and being able to ride around in it for the next two weeks.

The Floripa beaches were one of my favorite cultural visits. My family and I have vacationed at beaches my whole life, so I was very excited to visit the beaches in Brazil. The beaches in Floripa were so different from any beach I have ever been to, with big cliffs and rocks enclosing the beaches. It was beautiful! Joaquina Beach was probably the most crowded beach I have ever seen, but we could see the more relaxed side of Brazilian culture there, opposed to the fast-paced urban lifestyle we saw in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. The vendors on the beaches had some of my favorite food on the entire trip. At Mole Beach we had caramel and chocolate filled churros and fresh coconut water from beach vendors and it was so much fun to sit on the beach and have food brought right up to your umbrella! We also had acai bowls a couple of times on the beach and that was probably my favorite thing to eat in all of Brazil.

The most exciting cultural visit in terms of crowds and activity was the Sao Paolo New Year celebration. There were thousands of people there and it was so loud and fun! The host of the show was a well known Brazilian Carnival dancer and singer, so everybody around us was dancing and singing along. Even though we didn’t know the words, we were all having a blast! It was also fun to see how other cultures celebrate the new year. For example, Brazilians wear white for good luck in the new year, so we were surrounded by a sea of white clothes and I felt out of place in my black dress!

I was also super excited to see the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Ever since I can remember, I have associated Rio with the Christ Redeemer, and it is one of the Seven Man-made Wonders of the world. It was almost surreal to see it in person. The park was crowded with tourists taking pictures, but nonetheless it was breathtaking to get to the top of the mountain and see the Christ Redeemer for the first time. We were lucky to get up to the top early, before the clouds rolled in and covered the statue or the view of the city of Rio. I also really enjoyed going to Sugarloaf that evening for dinner and waiting until the sun set to see the Christ Redeemer from across the city. Once you see it up close it’s hard to believe how big it is from far away! We found out the last night we were in Rio that you could also see it from the top of our hotel, so we were all really excited to leave Rio after seeing it one last time.

I think one of the best things about this trip was how much of Brazil we got to see. We visited so many different cities and could see some sharp contrasts between the city and the country, the islands and the vineyards. Sao Paolo, Floripa, and Rio de Janeiro were all very urban cities, like what we think of when we think of New York City or downtown Houston. In those areas, there were more people out always, and there were a lot of recognizable American chains like McDonalds and Subway. However in Bento Goncalves, life was much slower paced and relaxed. There were less people roaming the streets and restaurants and stores closed much earlier in the day. There was also a lot of undeveloped countryside in Bento, because there is a lot of farming and vineyards there. We were lucky to see as much of the country as we did and I think that really enhanced our understanding of the country’s culture and also the culture of the different states and cities we visited.

Another thing that made this trip so special is that we could visit the country and live like locals for two weeks. Dr. A did a great job of making sure that we experienced the country the way a Brazilian would. For example, when we went to Floripa we drove throughout the morning and spent the whole day on the beach, just like Dr. A and his friends did when he was in school. We ate at local restaurants, visited local parks, and played futsal with locals. This also gives us a unique perspective on Brazil because we were not limited to what we learned at museums or tourist attractions, we truly got to experience Brazil in an uncensored manner. This trip was so much fun, but also such an incredible learning experience. Visiting another country always changes the way you view the world and definitely puts into perspective the effect that the US has on other countries, especially emerging economies like Brazil. I know this trip was a once in a lifetime experience for me, but I would jump at the opportunity to go again! I made so many awesome memories and new friends, and grew so much as a person. I truly feel like I left a piece of my heart in Brazil.

Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

Traveling to Brazil was an amazing once in a life time experience! Its beautiful geography, people, and culture make Brazil the unique country that it is. Studying abroad opened my eyes in many aspects. It isn’t until you step foot into another country that you become aware of all of our differences and similarities. It is very different to read about a country than to actually be there and see things for your own. Brazil made me realize how I can appreciate life more through enjoying the beauty in the simple things in life. Community and service to others were prevalent themes throughout the trip.

Our first real taste of Brazil was New Year’s Eve! This was the first time I did not spend New Year’s with my family, however, I spent it with my awesome Aggie family. We were advised, both by Dr. A and the people from the hotel, to not take any valuables for the celebration or anytime we were outside of the hotel. Avenida Paulista was set up with a grand stage and many screens. There was a lot of security to keep the peace during the event. Before actually walking in Avenida Paulista, we had to be patted down by officers. Most of the people were dressed in white or yellow for good luck. There was live music with Daniela being one of the performers. Very popular Brazilian songs were being performed and everyone around us was singing along and dancing. People were having the time of their lives! It was at this event that I truly realized how liberal Brazil is. People were very open about their sexuality and those around us were drinking and smoking marijuana. It was a unique experience to stand there in the middle of so many Brazilians watching how they interacted with each other, danced, and enjoyed the last minutes of 2016 and the start of 2017. Even though I did not understand the music, it was great! Once we rang in the New Year, there were was a firework show. The fireworks illuminated the end of Avenida Paulista with beautiful colors. We spent a few more minutes into the new year and then headed back to the hotel since we were still tired from all our traveling that day. Spending New Year’s Eve in Avenida Paulista in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, is an amazing thing. It was the best way to start out our study abroad trip and learn about the Brazilian culture. We were just like locals, enjoying the music and waiting for the new year in one of the most important streets of São Paulo.

In addition to many cultural visits, we also visited companies from a diverse range of industries. One of the companies we visited, and one of my favorites, was Marcopolo. We visited their plant in Farroupilha, Rio Grande do Sul, and were able to view their training center, manufacturing plant, and museum. We first watched a presentation on the different kinds of buses Marcopolo produces and its global reach. We were given coffee and cookies between the presentation and the tour. The coffee was black with sugar and there were no creamers available. We would be given little plastic cups and the coffee would always be boiling hot. This was done in every company we visited.

On our tour of the company, our first stop was the training center. Just like many other manufacturing plants in Brazil, Marcopolo hires young people, starting at age 16, as an apprentice. These people learn their trade, such as welding or industrial painting, and go on to work for the company in that area. Most people work for one company for the rest of their lives. In the training center, just like all other departments, they have charts with the pictures and names of all the employees organized by the shift they worked. As the employee arrive, they place a magnet with a color on their picture depicting how they felt that day. A green magnet meant they were feeling great, orange was neutral, and a red magnet meant they were having a bad day. The reason behind this chart is that the emotional condition of an employee will affect the quality of their work. As we walked around the training center, they had one section where they had disabled workers putting parts together. They might not be the most efficient employees, but they contribute to the greatness of the company.

Next, we walked over to the manufacturing plant where the bodies of the buses were built, painted, and placed on the chassis. Marcopolo buys the chassis from different companies, such as Mercedes and Volk Wagon, depending on the specifications of the customer. On our way there, our guide pointed out their water treatment plant. Since the manufacturing plant is big and the company employs many people, they take care of treating all of the dirt water they produce. In addition, they have their own firemen in the plant. Even though the firemen are Marcopolo employees, if the city needs help putting out a fire, they will go out to the community. In the factory, depending on the color of the employee’s uniform was their job in the company. As we walked through the plant, there were many quality control and production charts in every step of the creation of the bus. After this, we went to the museum where we learned more about the evolution of Marcopolo. It was amazing to see the whole process of a bus being built. One of my favorite things about visiting Marcopolo was the fact we were actually driving around in a bus produced by them during half of our time in Brazil!

One of the most important and interesting things for me wherever we went was the food. I find it interesting to see the different influences that have contributed to the cuisine. It is also very interesting to pick up on the types of condiments that people use to cook their dishes. As we soon figured out, pepper is not as common in Brazil as it is in the United States. Our days usually started with breakfast which was my favorite part. There was always a great variety of fresh fruit, bread, and pastries. They also had freshly squeezed juices with the orange juice being my favorite. The pineapple, my favorite fruit option, was different than the one in the United States. It was closer to white than yellow and it was not as sour. It was the perfect taste for me. The bread and pastries were new to my breakfast menu. The hotel had many options and I tried to choose three different kinds each day. In addition to Bento Gonçalves, the city we stayed during half of the trip, being a wine region, they also raise lots of sheep. Therefore, they had many sheep products such as their yogurt. It was definitely nothing like the yogurt I am used to. It was pretty sour even if you got the one with fruits. In addition to all this food, there were some hotels that had pancakes. They were not our typical pancakes, however. They were a mixture of crepes and American pancakes. They rarely had syrup for them but you could find honey. They also had a chocolate spread and other fruit spreads. My favorite was the chocolate, of course!

Lunch and dinner were different than breakfast. While our time in Brazil, we went to several restaurants set up in a buffet style. They were similar to those in America but instead of using a new plate every time, they used the same plate. In these restaurants, they would always start out with fruit. As I learned, fruit is a big deal in Brazil. There was always some type of pasta, rice, and potato salad. Each restaurant gave it its special touch. There were chicken, pork, and beef as the main dishes. They also had many different types of desserts. My favorite was pudim, or flan. There was another kind of buffet style restaurant where the waiters come out with the food and you would ask for them to serve you if you wanted that dish. DiPaolo was one of the restaurants we went to that used that style. My favorite soup from the whole trip was cappelletti soup from DiPaolo. One of my other favorite dishes was their chicken. The chicken pieces in Brazil are much smaller than those we have in the United States. We did go to some fast food restaurants such as Bob’s Burgers and McDonald while in Floripa. One thing that surprised me was that they rarely had one patty burgers. Also, the fries did not have much salt and ketchup was a limited resource. I could go on forever talking about the food but the bottom line is that even though it was really different than in the United States, it was delicious (except the yogurt)!

Visiting Brazil was wonderful. To be honest, there were times that I questioned why we were traveling to certain cities even though we knew they were very dangerous. However, I am thankful for being able to visit cities of different sizes and see the different way people lived. One thing that was repeated all the time by Dr. A was “life is simple.” People in Brazil surely do live a simple life. They take joy and appreciate the simple things. The appeared to be more humble from the way they dressed to their houses. Some of us noticed that even the CEO of Orquidea, a multimillionaire, did not have the newest iPhone. His life was simpler than we expected. In America, we get caught up with all of the material things. We are always wanting the newest phone or the next big thing in the fashion world. Our lives begin to revolve around this and we tend to forget about the beauty in the little things. The beauty of watching the evening turn into night while you sit on your front porch. The beauty of being surrounded with your friends without being distracted by your phone. The simple beauty of life sometimes seems to be forgotten. This trip to Brazil made me more aware of myself, the country I live in, and the way we treat life. We have to enjoy the simple things and make the best out of our time on this earth because our lives flash before our eyes.

Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

In the short time we spent in Brazil we saw and did so much the trip felt like much longer than 2 weeks. From the different towns and cities we went to, beaches, historical sites, and the variety of food we enjoyed, the trip allowed us to see everything Brazil has to offer. From one of the wonders of the world to wineries in Bento, we were fortunate experience a range of Brazilian culture. The trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I was able to share with new friends.

Once we arrived in Bento, we began our company visits. Tramontina was the first of our visits. They are a large company that produces silver; ranging from silverware and coffee cups, to large appliance as well. As soon as we arrived on their campus I was immediately impressed with their building aesthetic as well as the grounds. We went inside and an employee explained the structure of the company, their products, as well as employee treatment. Upon hearing the benefits they enjoy, I was astounded. It would be almost unheard of for American companies to provide some of the same services for their employees such as: offering them a 0% interest loan to buy a house, paying in part for them to further their education, and providing a 13th and 14th month wage. After hearing the company information, we were given a tour of their accounting, finance, and marketing departments as well as an upstairs showroom. In this room, they had many of their most popular, as well as expensive, products on display. The company as a whole impressed me the most on all fronts. They had very high employee standards as well as a highly desired product.

Our very last stop on the trip, Rio, was also my favorite. Even though this city is notorious for being extremely dangerous, it’s beauty was overwhelming. On our first cultural visit in the city, we woke early to make it up to Christ the Redeemer. The statue itself was beautiful, but the best part was the view on the way up and from the top of the mountain. It was amazing to know how close to the ocean we were at such a high altitude. We looked down at planes flying in the airspace below us as we were surrounded by clouds. The entire experience at the top of the mountain was unreal. Later the same day we took a gondola lift up to the top of Sugarloaf mountain. Though we were not nearly as high up as we had been earlier in the day, the panoramic views of the city were astounding. We were able to relax at the top for a few hours and take in the best sights that Rio had to offer.

One thing I greatly enjoyed from the trip, was the feeling that we were living more locally than most tourists do. Dr. A pointed out that on day we had gone to corporate visits all day then spent the entire weekend at the beach, just as Brazilians work all week and use their weekend as a mini beach vacation. We spent about a week total time in Bento as well. Here, we were practically the only tourists and were given the opportunity to see the true Brazilian way of life. There was no pressure in the small town and we felt greatly at ease our entire stay there; especially in contrast to Rio and Sao Paulo. We experienced the Brazilian way; a life of carefree enjoyment coupled with hard work when it was necessary. This attitude gave me perspective on the American way of life, which can be a stark contrast. I am thankful we had the chance to see quieter side of Brazil that many tourists do not. Dr. A gave us the opportunity to hang out with locals, enjoy their barbecue, and even play a game of futsal with his Brazilian friends!

One of my favorite days was spent in Bento with Dr. A and his friends. We drove out to an outside soccer field and played futsal with our group for the first couple of hours before we took cart down the mountain to go on a hike to see a waterfall, as Dr A. had informed us. The way down on the cart was precarious as we were jolted around and had to cross a very wide river on the journey. Nevertheless, the trip down was beautiful as we were surrounded by the forest. After getting out of the cart we walked the rest of the way down to see the waterfall. It was an incredible sight. The waterfall itself was about 20 feet high but spanned 50 feet. Secluded in the depth of the woods, it was a hidden treasure. Having come prepared with swimsuits and a change of clothes, we were able to walk underneath the waterfall with the water coming down over our heads. After we made it, we turned back and waded out to a rock to take in all of the sights. This day stands out because of the serenity of the trees in contrast with the crashing waves of the water. It was hard to believe that the property was only accessible by Dr. A’s friends and guests that they allowed in.

Overall, the trip was a life-changing experience. I would have no hesitation in recommending it to a friend. The last week I have had time to reflect heavily on the trip and am wishing to do it all over again. I am so grateful to Dr. A who gave us the chance to experience “the Brazilian way” and for carefully planning each step of our journey.

Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

Obrigada; The first word that comes to mind when I think of my time abroad in Brazil. Obrigada translates to thank you, and no matter where you are or what you’re doing, saying thank you to someone goes a long way and saying it to them in their own language goes even further. I knew it would be difficult to communicate with Brazilians, but I had no idea it would be as difficult as it was. Not knowing a bit of Portuguese and going to a completely Portuguese speaking country was not an easy task. However, I made it through with a few hand gestures, a lot of pointing at things, and multiple cries for help from Dr. A. No matter which way the conversation went and what method I had to use, I always ended it with Obrigada. Whether they knew it or not I was always thanking them for helping me and for being patient with the foreigner that was visiting their country. Everyone I encountered during my time abroad, whether it be the bell hop at the hotels, waiters at the restaurants, or CEOs of the companies, was very nice and welcoming to us. The least I could do was say thank you.

Due to my obsession with kitchen gadgets, it is no surprise that my favorite company visit was Tramontina. Although the assembly line was not running while we were there because the whole country was pretty much on holiday break the first week of January, I still enjoyed learning about their company and walking through their show room. Valentin Tramontina, a son of Italian immigrants, founded Tramontina in 1911 in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Over 100 years later the company has more than 7,000 employees and makes over 18,000 different items, some of which we were able to see and buy. A little fun fact that we learned while visiting the company was the latest’s CEO of Tramontina loved peacocks. He brought two peacocks to the headquarters to walk around a few years back and they have now multiplied into about 60 that wonder around the property. We ended our company tour with a trip to their retail store, which I was super excited about. I walked in and did not even know where to start. It was a huge building full of kitchen gadgets, gardening equipment, electrical hardware, and even some furniture. I could have spent the rest of the day and the rest of my reais in that store, however we had a time limit and I needed money for the rest of the trip so I did not go too crazy with my purchase.

After going on the India trip last year with Mays and seeing the Taj Mahal, I decided that a dream of mine would be to see all seven Wonders of the World. Therefore, seeing Christ the Redeemer was probably one of my favorite cultural visits. I say ‘one of’ because there were so many amazing things we saw while in Brazil it is hard to pick just one. For instance, getting to walk under/in a 30-40 feet waterfall was a once in a lifetime experience, as was going on top of the Sugarloaf and seeing Rio de Janeiro from 1300 feet above sea level. Christ the Redeemer also looks over Rio, however it is so high up that you are above or in the clouds which makes it hard to see the city. As I imagined, the Christ the Redeemer Monument was vast and beautiful. I am always intrigued by how these monuments are built. It is especially fascinating to me that they were built without all the technology we have now. Christ the Redeemer is located on the peak of the Corcovado mountain, 2300 ft in the air. Construction of this Art Deco statue started in 1922 and was completed in 1931.

Brazil was my eighth foreign country to visit and had by far, the prettiest landscape compared to the other seven countries. In the South, the mountains and canyons were breathtaking, and because it is located in a wine belt of the world, there were vineyards all along the mountain sides that were beautiful. It was Summer while we were there, so the weather was perfect too and the beaches were relaxing. Sao Paulo was also incredible, not due to its beauty, but due to how massive it is. It was really amazing to see a city that big, especially from the airplane. I really enjoyed my time in Brazil and am so thankful that I had this opportunity. I am confident when I say that I enjoyed the trip so much because of the friendships I established and the awesome tour guide we had the whole time, Dr. A. He made sure our experience in Brazil was done the ‘Brazilian way’ so that we knew what it was like to be a Brazilian. I would definitely recommend this trip to any of my classmates and who knows, maybe one day in the future I’ll find myself back in Brazil showing my family what I got to see.


Obrigada Brazil!


Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

What’s said to have been one of the largest Brazilian recessions to date, could be dated back as far as 12 years, there could not have been a better time to visit this country than now while there was full transparent exposure to many things. The main cause of this according to one of the cities governor from the municipal hall we visited can be attributed to over-consumption, spending more than what’s actually possible. People don’t believe in saving and so there is no buffer zone where the country can at least dig them self’s out of turmoil by using their savings. Other smaller contributions may include from the tax system complexity, lack of confidence such as no trust, and probably the biggest would be their political mess.

Something interesting is that the location of this region is so crucial that there are literally never any natural disasters but an abundant amount of natural resources. While inflation here maybe “low”, in Brazil it’s twice as more and considered to be normal, just as how their mortgage interest rate are, a round figure of about 20%. A country that can be witnessed as one that has very high potential to make investments in, but due to the risks that are contributed, interests and commitment are low in order for the country to continue to develop and become one of the most powerful emerging economies in addition to India and China. For a developing nation they are modestly technological advanced as many houses use solar panels, which has been a thing since the past 25 years. In addition, the very first restaurant we went to they were taking orders not through a pen and paper but through a small hand held machine. When we first landed in Sao Paulo, the financial hub for brazil, I took many notes while making observation of the Airport, such as minimal amount of electricity usage as there is way more natural solar energy consumption, which also carries out to other production plants for larger companies. Something interesting to note was that the very high-level income producing people would mainly all travel by helicopters as they would just have helipads on top of their company building as this was the best means of transportation in terms of safety and time. From a holistic point of view, as described in my management book, Strategic Management: Concepts: Competitiveness and Globalization, “The emergences of a global economy and technology, specifically rapid technological change are the two primary drivers of a hyper competitive environment and the nature of today’s competitive landscape.” This is what was witnessed in Brazil and it is a huge contributor towards the interdependence and globalization of this country in the coming years.

As a person that has been to India, it wasn’t the greatest culture shock as it was to others however as far as local community structure and insecurity goes it definitely was a mindset and a perspective shift to begin with. What I mean by this is that just like in many other high populous metropolitan like are there tends to be a high economic disparity between different variations of class in regards to the level of income. All in all, Brazil is a place that has a lot to offer especially at the current state it is in as its future is looking bright to do much research and development for.

Just an interesting statement to think about that I love was when during our visit at one of the more premier universities in the country located in Rio, FGV, the person in charge International Relations described Brazil as “Belindia”, economy like Belgium and size like India.

A few company visits that we met were Tramontina, Santa Clara, Marco Polo, Orquidea, and Sazi Laser. In addition to the many sightseeing of vineyards along the mountains, we also visited two wineries, which were Aurora and Salton and then sat in the City Municipal Hall and had a brief dialogue discussion meeting with the head of the treasury department. In a belief that you shall serve your guests in a welcoming way, a neat takeaway was that no matter where we went as far as a cultural or a corporate visit, their hospitality and greeting was definitely a satisfaction guarantee, with hot coffee and delicious snack to compliment it. Even though parts of the country, mainly along the coastlines, are alarmed to be insecure or at high-risk which are mainly concentrated in the slums, there is still a primary layer for sense of care when it comes with face-to-face encountering towards tourists.

Getting an email a week before our departure from our professor saying that we will be extending a day to spend New Years in Brazil was simply unbelievable as the hype had exponentially increased. What is known to be the Wall Street of Brazil, Avenue Paulista in Sao Paulo, because that is where their vibrant financial district is located, is where we were during New Years. This avenue that stretched for about 5-7 miles long, was the prime venue to be at as there were a mixture of thousands of rowdy and joyful individuals just having the time of their life while dancing to the tunes of the concert. Despite all of the colorful vibes, on the other hand this was also the time where people took great advantage of the scene in terms of looting the public with many tourists and people just dancing around making it hard to tell if you had gotten robbed. You can tell that most people had trained quite some time for this day to happen and even some educate their children in order to start them at an early age to become experts when they grow up and possibly go to places like Rio and get a greater advantage. As far as the city goes, Sao Paulo is one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world, just after Mexico City, Mexico with an abundant of cultural institutions and a rich architectural tradition such as the cathedrals. Generally the folks in Brazil, especially during this time of the year, they really love to enjoy their celebrations and in fact take a few days off, as Dr.A would always tell us “it’s the holidays”, signifying that everything was practically closed even after new years.

My favorite and probably one of the most people caring oriented companies I have ever visited has their headquarter in RS, called Tramontina, leading manufacturer of high-quality cookware and housewares products supplied to national and international retailers. Within the state of Texas there is even offices and distributions centers in Sugarland. They produce over 18,000 different items and has presence in over 120 countries. What made our trip special was the fact that previously they have never stopped production for more than two weeks long but during our visit it was their first time doing so due to a recession-like economy. Even though with this much downside and setbacks, what make this company so prosperous and resilient is how they manage their operation. For example, most of their departments are in-housed not outsourced such as the IT system, health insurance, housing loans with no interest, and even educational units, which is why the retention rate for their employees is 12 years because they are more or less subsidized for the workers and have pure control over their employees. On top of all this, their benefits and compensation is truly one that goes beyond anything unheard of such as having two extra months of salary. In Brazil, it is a federal law for any employee to be given a 13th payment, however Tramontina goes beyond that and offers an extra month. They also have a very high commitment to give back to local communities in helping that gives them a huge branding benefit towards their social corporate responsibility. In addition, as part of their business, they have their own store, called the T-store, for showcasing and to compete with other retailers around the city similar to Santa Clara.

Just after two days in the trip, the way our group had opened up was simply amazing and from the outside it felt as if we had lived with each other for years. The reason why I say this is because I have been on three additional study abroad trips prior to this one, but the diversity and perspective everyone brought to the group made this trip special from the start. From getting stuck on an elevator, for almost five whole minutes, our “friend” (professor) making an effort to portray the Hulk our “tour guide” had to open the door of the subway while it was closing, as it almost left half the group behind, fearlessly running after the luxurious bus to get Wi-Fi (was only limited to 5 people at a time), learning useful hand signals in Portuguese, having 24 different types of dessert pizza, starting “death plates” at every restaurant, to the difficult communication times at Floripa beach. You certainly cannot exchange these moments, comradery, and battle scars that some of us brought back, for anything else.

Tchau Tchau,

-Shivam Vakil (Shi-shi)

Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs


I’ve never benefitted so much from a single trip than I did on this study abroad trip. Brazil was truly a magical place and being back for only a couple weeks has already gotten me searching for my next opportunity to visit a new country. Being abroad allowed me to learn so many new things about Brazil and about myself, and I believe the corporate and cultural visits we did were very exciting and educational. I was very nervous to spend the money on a study abroad trip like this, but believe the friendships and memories I made on this trip were well worth my investment.

My favorite corporate visit was the City Hall visit. We were able to sit down with the financial manager of the city and pick his brain regarding the economy of Brazil and how the tax system affects their city’s revenues. He was very candid in his responses and did not sugarcoat it to make it positive. I believe his honesty made it much easier to learn from him and gain a better grasp on the reasons Brazil is currently in a recession. Additionally, he talked about what steps they must take to help avoid corruption scandals in the future which I found very interesting. I also enjoyed hearing about the tax system of Brazil, as I plan on starting my career as a tax accountant. Maybe my career will take me back to Brazil one day!

The most exciting cultural visit for me was visiting Rio de Janeiro. While it is infamous for being dangerous in many ways, it was the most beautiful city I have ever visited. The mix of mountain terrain, developed city, and beach was breathtaking, especially when seen from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Visiting Christ Redeemer was very interesting, and well worth the trip up the mountain. I also loved seeing locals playing foot volleyball and really wish we could have spent more time at the beach so I could have joined in on the fun. I would love to visit Rio again one day to spend more time in the beautiful city and on Copacabana Beach.

Another visit I really enjoyed was our trip to Floripa. The beach was great and we were lucky enough to have some great weather. We were able to climb on rocks by the beach, enjoy a great view of the ocean, fall over many times while sandsurfing and to enjoy the warm days on the beach. We lost a few items on the beach, but overall these couple days brought our group close together and gave us some much-needed relaxation from lots of travelling and corporate visits.

Bento Gonçalves was a very great part of the trip and somewhere I could see myself living long-term. It was full of beautiful houses and people who were probably enjoying their retirement living in luxury. It seemed like a great lifestyle as this area of Brazil had a great climate and was extremely safe. It was fun to explore this smaller town with friends, play soccer in the parks, and enjoy winery visits. We also got to see a very hidden waterfall in this area, which was one of my favorite parts of this trip. I will definitely visit Bento again in the future.

While it’s great to get back to Texas and start school again, I already miss many parts of Brazil. I’m sure that I will take another trip to Brazil in the future and hope it’s sooner rather than later. For anyone reading this who is unconvinced on whether they should go on this study abroad trip, I urge you to take a risk and go on it. I was in your shoes just a year ago, and decided to apply for the trip after seeing last year’s pictures and hearing from some friend’s experiences. I didn’t tell anyone I was applying and while I knew a couple other people on the trip, I was able to make brand new friendships and explore a country that I will not have many opportunities to do ever again. A vida é boa!



Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs

Oi! Tudo bem?

During the winter break, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Brazil for two weeks with a great group of people. It was a wonderful and eye opening, and I definitely hope to visit again one day. While there, we had the opportunity to visit various companies, historical places, interact with locals, and take in a beautiful culture.

I learned so much from the many companies we visited, which all seem like great companies to be a part of. A company that stood out to me during our corporate visits in Brazil was the one with Tramontina. Tramontina manufactures cookware and cutlery as well as some home appliances, they are known for their steel and its quality. Founded in 1911, they have a huge presence all over Brazil and all over the world in many industries and one can find their products everywhere. From visiting the location in Farroupilha, I learned a lot of very interesting information I did not expect for a company as such to have. This is a great company to work for in my opinion because they invest a lot in their employees and their families. From listening to their presentation I learned about great benefits they offer. They pay part of the school fees for employees to send their children to school. If employees ever decide to pursue their MBA or higher education, Tramontina also provides them with aid by paying for a percentage of the tuition. In Brazil, interest rates on mortgage loans are quite high, but another benefit offered by Tramontina is the ability to get a loan from the company in order to purchase a home, interest free. Overall, Tramontina really cherishes its employees and they show that with how well they take care of them and their families.

Throughout the whole time in Brazil, I always looked forward to the cultural visits. One of my favorites and something that I will always remember was seeing Christ the Redeemer. This is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and being able to see it in person did not disappoint me. It was surreal in the moment knowing I was standing right in front of this beautiful creation, even more amazing in person. This visit was on one of the very last days of the trip, and it lifted my spirits greatly when I was getting home sick. Christ the Redeemer is a tourist must-see, and I understand why. It is a beauty like no other that one must see in person if ever given the opportunity.

Having the opportunity to travel to Brazil and reflecting upon my experience there was a lot that I was expecting to see, and I did. However, I was also surprised by many of my experiences there. I have visited a few countries since I started my college career, and Brazil is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. This country is filled with so much diversity and character not only its people, but its food, architecture, lifestyles, and way of living. During the two weeks in Brazil we visited various cities including Sao Paolo, Bento Goncalves, Floripa, Canela, Rio de Janeiro and many more. I was greatly surprised at how different or similar some cities were compared to others. For example, Sao Paulo and Rio were very urban and heavily populated. In these cities poverty was more apparent as well as crime. During my time there, I felt a sense of urgency and alertness. Going more south to Bento Goncalves and Canela, these cities were very different. If felt a lot safer and calm, and one was more relaxed and at ease in the streets. Architecture varied from industrialized to more immigrant styles such as German, Italian, and Dutch. Brazil is filled with a big gap between the rich and poor. While there, I saw beautiful, million dollar homes and then there are areas like the slums.

One thing that will always be memorable is the “Brazilian way” Dr.A always talked about and the food. The people there are always so relaxed, happy, and at ease, something I wish I saw more of in the U.S. Our diners always lasted three to four hours and the whole time was spent just talking and spending time together, something we should practice more here! Although I am the type of person that always has to be on the go and doing something, I loved the relaxed and stress-free atmosphere Brazilians had. Brazil is such a wonderful country, and I am so excited to see its future. As an emerging economy, it has so much potential! Even though they are in a rough patch while going through a recession and having a new president put into office, I definitely see them coming out strong and doing wonderful things as a country.

I can’t wait to go back and learn even more about this country.

Obrigada, Brazil!

-Olympia Paredes


Categories: 2017 Brazil On-site blogs