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Boa Vida – Life is Good (Taylor Wiest)

tw2015, January 21st, 2019

Written by Taylor Wiest

This trip has exceeded my expectations in every way. When I first got on the plane to Brazil, I was not expecting a country abundant in luscious greenery, blissful lives, and the kindest people. I experienced moments of light-hearted play and moments filled with wonder so palpable that it brought tears to my eyes. Between the company visits were times of friendship, sports, and places of awe. I didn’t have much time to cry when I left, but a piece of me will always be in Brazil because Brazil brought out a spirit within me that will continue to inspire for many years to come.

I’ll start this blog with some of my favorite memories. Starting with a day where we drove up into a mountain near Caxias do Sul. We were dropped off in the small community center which included a church, soccer fields, an indoor soccer field, and a vineyard all-in-one area. There were a few old men, and an older lady present to greet us and tell us where to go. They were very nice and happy looking.

We played outdoor soccer first.  It was very hot – 90゚F with strong humidity. After playing a couple of rounds of outdoor soccer, we took a break before playing rounds three and four. The ending of round four was the result of me kicking my foot full-force into my friend’s leg (unintentionally) and having the wind knocked out of me due to the pain. My foot immediately swelled, but I tried to walk it off and take it easy. On the bright side, we were the longest playing group Dr. A’s had, whoop!

After a little break – and a change into swimsuits – we were told to get into either a wagon & tractor or the back of a truck. We then went down the mountain road/cliffs and across a gorgeous river (still in the truck) in the jungle. We stopped and hiked down a path a bit more to get to the untouched, beautiful, and private waterfall. It was something straight to out of the movie Avatar! The waterfall spans a good several yards and featured a mini cave on the side. Above the middle of the cave/river, there was a mass of trees growing over the cliffside. It was an extraordinary place.

I later found out that the old men who greeted us were the owners of the land and normally didn’t allow tourists to come. They were so kind because they showed us their land, helped keep us safe, and gave tips on what to do. Their dog was cute too.

After a while of swimming, we went back to the trucks. Where my friend and I had a mini rollercoaster ride when the truck did a 3-point turn and almost went off a cliff! We rode up to the community center and saw a whole group of Brazilians waiting for us. Including Dr. A’s cute family and an intimidating group of women in soccer uniforms.

We proceeded to play with the local women’s soccer team in 10-minute increments where my team did pretty well thanks to my teammates. Once the soccer tournament was over, we went downstairs to have an authentic, home-made Brazilian BBQ. This was something they prepared well in advance since all the tables were set up and the meats were rotating beautifully in the ovens. I couldn’t even eat half of the food because they brought out so much! It was very good, and again, I couldn’t get over how nice and accommodating they were. It was truly a memorable day filled with kind-heartedness, adventure, wonder, and fun.

This day opened up my eyes to the misconceptions that people, especially Americans, can have about other places. Before I came to Brazil, I was warned by many to be on my guard because the country is ridden with crime. How little we knew. In Brazil, as in every country, there are far more nice people than bad. In fact, I would say the Brazilian southern hospitality beats ours by a mile! I don’t know any family who would prep for a whole day of hosting strangers; letting a whole group of foreigners onto their most prized land, creating a whole soccer tournament event (complete with game tables and convenience stand), and cooking all day long just so that everyone was beyond satisfied when the night was over. Several members of the community came to spend time with us. And the most extraordinary part is that this was just a typical day for them!

Americans can be so caught up in our own lives and we tend to ignore our neighbors, community, and world around us. In Brazil, if a neighbor were to call at midnight with an emergency they wouldn’t hesitate to wake the whole town up to help. These relationships are their foundation for life, and in the end, they are happier because of it. Every person I met seemed like they had lived a life full of laughter, joy, memories, and friendship. It is the kind of life I could only dream of growing up in. There is a kind of peace in having relationships with those around you; in having the innate ability to demonstrate sympathy without borders or reservations. It is something I believe Americans can learn from. Their hospitality inspires me to seek out others like that all across the world, and someday have the courage and confidence to be just like them.

Another impactful memory occurred on a different day when we went on a mini bus tour with Dr. A. The highlight of this tour was a small community church on top of a mountain that overlooked many farms and vineyards. This sanctuary brought tears to my eyes. There was an intense energy/spirit and peace that existed there. Sitting on a bench, I could look out to a valley of mountain tops, with birds chirping overhead and a farmer’s truck driving by below. It was quiet and it was breathtaking. I prayed for everything I was grateful for at that moment and just felt so humbled and blessed to be there.

There were several great companies we visited in Brazil. The company I found the most interesting was Santa Clara. Santa Clara’s business model is that of a cooperative. Cooperatives are uncommon in America; for Santa Clara, it entails different farmers in the area owning a share of the company and voting on a representative for their area. These 11 representatives are the “Directors” and share what their area wants/needs from Santa Clara. Everyone is an associate and have to give a 1,000 ml milk entry fee (and usually they give more over time) and are then able to gain the Santa Clara benefits and help run the cooperative.

The speaker for Santa Clara was very nice and she explained the several benefits, events, and practices the company holds for its farmers. They offer education, training, and advice to farmers on the latest technology and practices that could help them in the field. They also host conferences every year for women, children, the elderly, etc. that elicit thousands of participants every year. These events try to draw in the younger generations, which are a concern since many children are choosing to leave the farm, which means farms are disappearing. They are able to handle it for now since technology enables individual farmers to produce more than ever before, but it will get to a bad point should this trend continue. For now, they are trying to appeal to kids via the technology that can be used in the field.

Some other interesting facts about the company include their own financial institution and the process of collecting their products. Many major companies in Brazil have their own financial institutions to help employees fund various living necessities, Santa Clara included. For example, Santa Clara will by an associate’s new house, then set up a mortgage with lower interest rates and monthly payments than the associate would find elsewhere, which is very cool. For products, Santa Clara sends trucks to collect from the farmers every single day. For many products, they only have 24 to 48 hours from the time the milk is produced to have it on the shelf at a grocery store. Insanely fast inventory turnover and their positive profits show for it. They offered us a sampling of their products: milk (that tasted like Go-Gurt) and cheese tasted very good as well. If they were in the US, I would be a loyal customer.

Santa Clara surprised us with something even Dr. A didn’t expect. The speaker hopped onto our bus and took us to their packaging factory! When we got there, we had to put on these silly head to toe sanitary outfits and then we went in. We saw the boxed milk get sorted and shipped. Then we walked over to the cheese storage area which was huge! He kept opening doors that would lead to rows and rows of cheeses of all types and ages. The smell was quite strong, but I really enjoyed it.

A final note I would like to end on is something that has shifted my whole mindset. Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work.

I’m young – we are young – and will only have this passion, energy, inspiration, and naiveté for so long. I want to run on the tops of mountains, laugh aloud with strangers in Europe, practice the thousand-year-old traditions in Japan, and so much more! This trip helped me understand that there are different ways of viewing the world and finding satisfaction.

Brazilians have a simple, but fulfilling way of life. They don’t need mansions, designer clothes, or a job making millions – not if it comes at the cost of having no time for family, community, and loved ones. They take two-hour lunch breaks at home. They close shops early to see their children and play with their grandkids. They are able to enjoy the nature around them without building more garages, pools, houses, etc. They work to sustain themselves, and they leave when their hard work is done. They are able to work hard and work efficiently because they know when they are done, they have a whole life full of love and laughter waiting for them at home.

Though fifteen days is never enough time to fully experience an entirely new country, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be submerged into the environment and culture of beautiful Brazil. As I prepared for the trip, I had mixed feelings. I had heard of the beauty of the country, but I was anxious about safety. I had no idea what I was in store for, but as the two weeks unfolded, the beauty of not only the sights but also the culture and the people was revealed to me on a daily basis and reminded me of how much life exists beyond our realm of familiarity.

After many hours of flying, we began our adventure in São Paulo. During our first full day there, we departed to Ibirapuera Park. This almost seemed to be the Central Park of São Paulo; there were so many locals who had come to spend their weekend jogging, biking, and visiting food vendors in the park. We rented bikes and got to explore around. We saw beautiful views of the city, ate ice cream, visited a skate park, drank coconut water, and ended the outing listening to a group of locals who were dressed in costumes, singing songs about loving life, and kicking around a soccer ball. They invited us to join in all their festivities. All of our interactions in the park demonstrated the friendly culture of Brazil. Everyone we interacted with was so friendly and welcoming. We saw so many people out with their families with smiles across their faces, and even interacted with a couple who spoke English and told us about their times visiting the United States. This was my first snapshot of Brazilian culture: relaxed, inviting, and active. Relationships (particularly within the family unit) are incredibly important to Brazilians, and it was definitely evident. I saw many high school aged teenagers who were spending their Saturday with their family in the park rather than out with their friends. This, combined with all the personal interactions we had, showed us the values Brazilians hold dear.

The first few days also showed me another important part of Brazilian culture – food! The diversity of the cuisine is a result of the diversity of ethnic backgrounds within Brazil. Our first meal abroad was “Brazilian barbecue,” which is not barbecue in the sense that a Texan may think it is, but actually along the line of a Brazilian steakhouse here in the US. While here it may seem like a luxurious meal, it is very common in Brazil, and we got to enjoy it a few times over the course of the trip. Staples in their diet include fresh fruits, rice, beans, beef, and sometimes fish and chicken. We’d always wash down our food with a delicious Guaraná, the #1 soda in Brazil.

Another important aspect of Brazilian culture is religion. We visited a church in almost every city we visited. Catholicism is definitely the largest religious affiliation, and you could tell how dedicated the locals were to their faith. We visited São Bento and entered two churches to see them filled beyond what the pews could hold. Though there was no air conditioning, people stayed and worshipped in the heat while dressed to the nines. We entered wearing shorts and t-shirts and definitely stood out against the rest. Nothing when it came to their church buildings was simply ordinary. There were tall beams and arches, stained glass from floor to ceiling, and ornate paintings across the walls and roof. They truly value building elaborate churches to demonstrate their emphasis on the importance of faith, because every church we entered was just as beautiful. Again, I saw many families together in the pews as well. These two things coming together showed what Brazilians hold dear – faith and family.

In Brazil, soccer is basically a second religion too. One of my favorite days of the trips was when we played futbol (outdoor) against one another, and then futsal (indoor) with a Brazilian women’s team. We played for hours through heat and sweat, and I enjoyed every second of it. We were in Bento Gonçalves, at the property of some of Dr. A’s friends. On the property, they had vineyards, beautiful mountain views, and a cascading waterfall that we were able to visit and swim beneath to retreat from the heat of the day. After playing soccer for many hours, we were treated to a home cooked meal and shared stories and laughter – again demonstrating the communal and welcoming aspect of Brazilian culture.

This experience also gave us insight to the business environment of Brazil. We had several corporate and one academic visit over the course of the two weeks – Marcopolo, Santa Clara, Tramontina, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), and Aurora and Salton wineries. One that stood out to me most was Tramontina. They manufacture various household items, like kitchen utensils, furniture, appliances, electric plugs, and various other housewares. We visited the manufacturing facility for Tramontina Electrik, where they assembled electric plugs, switches, and showerheads. One of the first things we noticed upon arriving is how professional it was. When we entered, we also noticed that it did not look like a typical manufacturing facility. The floors were hardwood (later explained as a method to regulate temperature in the facility), there were atriums with windows scattered throughout, and it was incredibly clean and spotless. We learned that they treat their employees incredibly well. They have a no-fire policy, so once you are employed by Tramontina, you are basically employed for life if you desire. They provide daycare for children, pay for their education, and pay for half of their university. In addition, if an employee wants to purchase a house, Tramontina will purchase it so the employee can finance their home through Tramontina rather than a bank. All of these things prove how they value their employees and hope to increase their commitment to the organization.

As we saw with most of our corporate visits, the business environment of Brazil values relationships as well. Before getting into business discussions, the company representatives would always try to establish a friendly relationship with us, by asking where we were from, how long we had been in Brazil, how we were enjoying it, and so on. I cannot say this enough – Brazilians are so friendly and welcoming, whether in a personal or business setting.

Toward the end of our trip, we took a flight to Rio de Janeiro. Safety is more of a concern here, but it has the most beautiful sights. As we travelled through Rio, we saw the sharp economic contrast that exists in the city. We would travel past very poor areas of small houses and shacks very close to each other – called favelas – and then just a few minutes later see huge, high-rise complexes where the very wealthy lived, which were heavily guarded. In Rio de Janeiro, we visited Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, and Sugar Loaf Mountain, which all had beautiful views of the city. Pictures can’t do this city justice – watching the sun set on Sugar Loaf Mountain with a view of Christ the Redeemer looking over the city as it lit up in the night was something you would have to see in person to understand the magnitude of its beauty.

For anyone who is hesitant on attending a study abroad trip, or on the Brazil winter trip in particular, just GO! It is an experience like none other. Dr. A knows the sights and the country extremely well, and is an amazing tour guide. He ensures students are safe, learning a lot, and having a ton of fun. Brazil in particular is such a unique experience that can’t be done justice by just words and pictures, so you must see for yourself. Though safety was initially a concern of mine when embarking on this trip, there were no times on the trip when I felt unsafe. Dr. A takes extreme precautions to ensure students gain the full experience in Brazil without anything negative happening, and he continues to succeed in this every single year.

Lastly, I think everyone should have an international experience to pair with their business education. It is vital to experience how other countries conduct business as we prepare to enter the global environment in which corporations operate. And from a personal standpoint, it made me realize how easily we take things for granted here at home. In Brazil, cars are easily double the price as they are here at home, so even a modest car here is considered a luxury to Brazilians. At times, it is easy to forget how different the world around us is. Going to another country and not being able to communicate and understand well definitely reminds you of this fact too.

All in all, my fifteen days in Brazil opened my eyes to lots of life beyond what we know so well here. I can only hope that others will be able to experience the same beauty and appreciation of life that exists in Brazil, and that these experiences will better equip us for the global business environment we will soon enter when we graduate.

Categories: 2019 Blogs

Studying abroad had always been a dream of mine. Ever since I started college it is something that I told myself I would do before I graduated. However, it always felt like a goal that was just out of reach. I had applied for a couple of study abroad programs through out my time here at A&M but was never able to go due to financial aspect of it. I had given up hope until one afternoon in my ISTM 420 class Dr. A came in and announced he had one spot open for a girl on his study abroad trip to Brazil. I sat through the entire class internally debating if I should tell him I was interested. I finally decided to push my anxieties about traveling and financing the program to the side and told him I wanted to go, and that was one of the best decisions I could have ever made.

This trip to Brazil was full of many firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever been out of the country, the first time I had ever been on a plane for more than a few hours, the first time I had ever been on a trip alone without family or friends, so many things that never thought I would get to experience while I was still in college. Not only did I get to mark some of these things off my bucket list but also got to go on a trip that I will remember for the rest of my life.

While we were in Brazil we visited several companies in a number of cities. My favorite of which to visit was Tramontina. We visited Tramontina Eletrik, which is the facility where they manufacture items such as, outlets, switches, circuit breakers, etc. When I think of a factory that produces electrical things I tend to think of a somewhat dark warehouse with lots of large machines making loud noises. This, however, was not at all what we saw when we visited Tramontina. This factory did have large machines but they were not loud, it also had a very pleasant atmosphere. There were wood floors through out; they explained to us that the wood helps keep the building insulated in the winter since it can be cooler in the south. Also, there were several gardens in the factories that were open to the sky to let in natural light. The whole place felt more like a home to me than a production facility. Another thing I found really interesting is that 70% of their workforce in that facility is made up of women. That is something that would be extremely uncommon in America. They also explained to us that their workers never work on one task for more than 6 hours. They do this to help prevent injuries. While we were on this tour they let us get very close to some of the machines to actually see and understand what each part of the process was doing and producing. One of the coolest things we got to see was aluminum that was so hot it was melted into a liquid. It was so weird to watch this machine scoop it up and pour it out like it was water. After our tour we got the opportunity to visit one of their stores. It reminded me of IKEA in the sense that it was only for their products and there were such a wide variety of them. I liked getting to see all of the products they produced it was really impressive. After we visited Tramontina every time we would go places whether it was a hotel or restaurant it was fun to try and find Tramontina products since they were so commonly used there. Once I returned to America I noticed my boyfriend even had a Tramontina mini-fridge! It was really cool to notice that since I had gotten to visit a place where their products were produced.

One of my absolute favorite cultural visits we did was to see Christ the Redeemer. It was such a cool experience. I will say it was massive. Even the journey to get up to where Christ the Redeemer is physically located was beautiful. There were gorgeous views of the city. You could see several houses in favelas stacked on top of each other over looking the water and city. It was so pretty and looked almost peaceful from where we were. Once we got up to the top you could see even more of the city and the mountains all around. I truly believe that Christ the Redeemer has one of the incredible views in the world. In the base of the statue there is a little chapel that we saw some people praying in. I’m not entirely sure what you needed to do to be able to go in there but I could imagine how sacred of a space that would be for several people. I mean could you imagine praying in a chapel that was physically located in Christ the Redeemer? That would be so cool. I was completely unaware that was even there and probably would never have known about it if I hadn’t gotten to visit.

Another cultural activity we did that I really enjoyed were the Christmas shows we were able to attend in Gramado. We attended two; the first was a smaller show that took place in the street. There were several elves that were attempting to save Christmas. They needed three things to be able to light up the town for Christmas. The first thing they needed was love; this came from us all giving each other hugs. Second, they needed hope. The hope came from the children. Third, they needed faith. The faith came from Santa or as they called him, Papa Noel. He came out and started talking to us. The second show we saw was a much larger production. This one involved hundreds of performers and fireworks. This show told the story of a family who had been separated for the holidays. The grandparents really wanted them to come visit for Christmas but they all said they were too busy. So the grandfather wrote them every day asking if they could come because they didn’t know how many more Christmas’s they would have together. They ended up all coming and spending the holidays together. This show was fun because they sang songs I recognized so we were able to sing along (even if we were not singing it in the same language haha). This show reminded me of the live version of a Hallmark movie. It was cheesy but in the best way.

One of my favorite days of the whole trip happened very soon after we first got there. Dr. A took us out to go and play soccer on the land of some of his friends. Upon arrival, some very friendly faces and sprawling vineyards greeted us. The views surrounding this place were gorgeous. There were mountains and hills all around us. Even though it was a blisteringly hot day none of us seemed to mind spending most of the day outside. We not only got to play soccer with a stunning backdrop but we also got to play and swim around in a waterfall. After a long day of playing soccer (both inside and outside) and swimming around in the waterfall his friends prepared a lovely meal for us that consisted of traditional Brazilian Barbeque. This was a day (and a meal) that I will never forget.

I have now been back in The United States for about a week and already miss Brazil so much. Words cannot describe how thankful and happy I am that I was able to participate in this study abroad program. I made friends and memories that I will never forget.

Obrigada por tudo Brasil!

Categories: 2019 Blogs

“Oi, tudo bem?” was the warm Portuguese greeting that Dr. Araujo would use from the first pre-departure meeting through our return to the United States during this trip of a lifetime to the beautiful land of Brazil. Little did we know, this greeting would be quite helpful to us to start a conversation with any Brazilian since I came to realize how friendly, kind, and joyful these South Americans could be. Coming from a Hispanic background, I had some preconceived notions on what I thought was in Brazil; energetic music, delectable food, and a big passion for soccer. Nonetheless, Brazil far surpassed my expectations, with breathtaking landscapes, an exemplary workforce, and some of the most efficient business operations I have seen. Brazil, the land of Carnaval, the beautiful game, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World changed my perspective on multiple dimensions for the better. From the learning about charming traditions like wearing white on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck into the following year, to the personal interactions I had with locals, my experience in here will be one I will never forget.

During one of our many corporate visits, in the southernmost state of the country, Rio Grande do Sul, we got to visit a very highly-regarded and well-known bus and coach maker, Marco Polo S.A. The company manufactures and exports its coaches to more than 60 countries around the world, with both public government and private industry clients. Focusing on customization, Marco Polo specializes in delivering high-quality bus bodies to some of the biggest organizations, including federal and state entities, FIFA during the World Cup, and even a roofless bus to a client in the Middle East. Not only did we get a full tour of the factory, its operations processes, and their bus warehouse, but we also got to ride on a bus that was being tested for rain protection. Additionally, we were welcomed by a group of high school-aged interns that were on a rotational program at the firm. They were able to answer most of our questions and even taught us some of their popular songs with line dancing. In return, we taught them the Fightin’ Texas Aggie War Hymn! It was all truly a fascinating and memorable experience.

One of our cultural visits included a trip to the quaint city of Gramado, a town founded by German immigrants. During this day, we got to learn about the cultural diversity that exists in Brazil, since we got to eat authentic German food and I even got to speak German to some of the local Brazilians—it was a little better than my broken Portuguese. To my surprise, we were able to communicate clearly. Gramado was also filled with chocolate stores, was decorated with European architecture, and had an aura of a small town in northern Germany, indeed there was not a one-size-fits-all description for Brazilians. In the evening our group watched a spectacular street performance of dancers, singers, and actors that told a story behind the meaning of Christmas, lighting up the entire city in the end. Immediately afterward, we walked over to a lake to watch another Disney-like performance of a Brazilian family spread around the world coming together for the holidays; it included fireworks, over two hundred performers, and several magnificent musical pieces.

Undoubtedly, my favorite part of the trip was our visit to the Tijuca Forest National Park, where at the top of Corcovado Mountain we saw the magnificent statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. We rode up the mountain in a red rack railway and got to interact with other foreigners, excitedly waiting and enjoying the scenic ride. Standing at an astounding 98 feet high and 92 feet wide, the statue has become an incomparable cultural icon of Brazil and a symbol of Christianity across the world. Furthermore, it is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The signature white soapstone was a clear contrast with the clear green background of the mountain and added to the scenery of the city on the horizon. Shortly after our arrival, the group gathered together to take an iconic picture and several of us went off on our own to explore the different remarkable sights this place offered. A picturesque chapel was located on the back side of the statue, where a few parishioners were praying in unison, reminding me of the importance of religion and identity in the faith of this region.

The Brazilian personality, the brightness, the laughter, the dancing, and authentic joy showed me what ‘boa vida’ is all about. Even on our first day eating endless steaks at a Churrascaria, I noticed how everyone treated each other as if they were family. Whether it was visiting a rural church in the south or walking through the busy Avenida Paulista business district of São Paulo, I was constantly being amazed by the country’s distinct energy and beauty. Thanks to the precautions that Dr. Araujo took for our safety, we were able to truly enjoy the cities the way local people do, both the old and the modern. Playing futsal with an official team, walking alongside Copacabana Beach, visiting the Olympic Village, learning about the different business supply chain operations, all in 15 days, 3 states, 12 cities, 10 flights, and with 20 amazing people. All I can say is ‘Obrigado Brasil’! Anytime I pass by Dr. Araujo now I make sure to greet him, not with a friendly Howdy, as I do with all my fellow Aggies, but in the spirit of the Brazilian culture, with which he graciously shared with us—a warm “Oi! Tudo bem?”.

Categories: 2019 Blogs

The only quote that I believe is fitting to Brazil is the quote frequently used to explain Texas A&M, “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” The breathtaking scenery, mouth-watering food, and kind-hearted people will not be given justice by just showing pictures. One must go and experience the one of a kind, life-changing culture of Brazil. Seen majorly in the South of Brazil just as Aggies do, Brazilians care for one another and want the best for their community.

From a professional perspective, the dominant companies of Brazil strive to ensure each employee and stakeholder is cared for and accounted for in their company model. For example, as a company driven to supply their top brand to over 120 countries, Tramontina focuses on future technological innovations to improve their processes on the over 18,000 products they produce. However, as many companies work to reduce human capital to increase efficiency, Tramontina uses a one-of-a-kind business model and mission to never lay off an employee. Instead, as more machines and robots are added to their operations, the employees with manual labor positions are incentivised to obtain higher leadership positions. Furthermore, Tramontina promotes and assists those employees to take classes and increase their education to support their future roles in leadership. In addition, Tramontina promotes women’s empowerment as they employ more women than men in their facilities by humbly admitting a woman’s ability to work better with refined detail processes. Overall, Tramontina is just one Brazilian company that exhibits true Brazilian culture in their business model as do Marco Polo and Santa Clara.

In addition to Brazilians strongly caring for one another, they also place a lot of care for their religion and this is shown in many ways. First, some of the most beautiful places of Brazil were the cathedrals and churches we visited. The colored glass windows, beautifully decorated altars, and ornate designs throughout the churches were breathtaking. Starting with the Monteserio Sao Bento, I saw a ceiling painted and designed more beautiful than the Vatican. Second, equally as impressive to me was how full the church was with people shoulder to shoulder all in their “Sunday Best.” Throughout Sao Paulo, we saw people dressed in plain, worn clothes. However, at church, everyone dressed in what seemed to be their nicest clothes and set aside all cares of their poverty or concern for their safety and just basked in their love for their Lord and their religion. Even though each church was designed differently, they all shared the commonality of being filled with people who care for their Lord and care for the ones and their community.

Second, as the pastime of America is baseball, Brazil’s passion for soccer was ingrained in their culture. As a kid, going to the Astros games with my family was a tradition and activity for each of us to enjoy. However, Brazilians don’t just see soccer as an activity, it is a time to bond with friends and family. Soccer takes the contribution of each team member to win. Our class was able to experience the “Brazilian pastime” when we visited Bento Goncalves. As our class split into two teams, we each worked hard in the hot Brazilian sun to communicate and strategize with one another to achieve the common goal. Just like the soccer game required the contribution from everyone,  the community requires the involvement of everyone to thrive as well. The traditional New Year dinner served was beautifully prepared by the men and women of the community. The selfless love and hours of work taken to prepare the dinner was obvious. The quaint Brazilian town graciously accepted and served us American students with open arms. The experience was unlike any other I have had in America. Even though I do many activities to give back to my community, I learned from the Brazilians to have truly selfless heart when serving others.

I went to Brazil to increase my perspectives on culture and my worldly experience on both a professional and personal level. However, I went to Brazil and left with a life-changing experience. The common college student’s travel to Europe doesn’t light a candle next to the life and world found in Brazil. The warmth of the people impacted me to be a more selfless person in America and shift from my driven focus on monetary and professional gain to a true love and passion for my work and the people around me. Mays Business School does an amazing job instilling drive and competition throughout their students to increase their success in the real business world. So, needless to say, each student graduates from Mays with a future professional life full of success. However, the Brazil Study Abroad gives a competitive advantage to students that cannot be found inside the Wehner classrooms. The perspective to truly have passion for your career and the people you work with and for is not found in every course at Mays. Without care for one’s work, the best product will never truly be produced throughout any industry. Personally, I chose the route of consulting due to my pursuit of operations knowledge in my Supply Chain undergraduate degree heightened with my M.S. Finance – Analytics Track graduate degree curriculum in Finance and Technology. In addition, throughout my organization involvement, I found consulting to match my love for helping others. Through my recruitment and internship, I believed I was en route to a successful career as a consultant. However, I was lacking essential life knowledge I gained on the trip from Dr. A. As he produced brilliant work as an IT consultant in Brazil for over 20 years, Dr. A passed on his insight to us that the key to success in consulting is to be happy and passionate in every project. Even though that advice seems simple, it is often overlooked when one is solely focused on the end product. However, seeing the love Dr. A has for everyone in his Brazilian network and the love they have for him shows he did more than just complete projects as a consultant. He truly bettered the lives of the ones he worked for and worked with through those years.

As I approach graduation to begin my career as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I believe I am now fully equipped with infinite success due to all of the opportunities to learn at Mays Business School. From the rigorous Core Business Knowledge classes, to my undergraduate upper level classes, and now my highly ranked graduate-level classes, I have gained the technical skills. In addition, I have the well-known soft skills acquired at Mays and Texas A&M. Except,  I believe to fully equip the “Tool Belt of Career Success” is to gain worldly experience from a study abroad and if best, from the uncomparable study abroad in Brazil. The insight gained through the two weeks in Brazil will prepare me for the rest of my life to be more selfless to the ones around me and to put my full heart in everything I do, but most importantly always be happy in everything I am doing. I will forever be thankful to Dr. A for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and a life-changing experience. I hope many others have the same ability to go forth and forge the best education possible at Mays Business School.

Categories: 2019 Blogs

I made my decision to apply to the Brazil study abroad kind of on a whim. It sounded like it would be fun.  Of course, I was excited as the trip approached, but I never thought it would be as impactful and amazing as it was. I’ve done a lot of traveling in my life, but I can confidently say the Brazil study abroad is the best trip I’ve ever been on. This trip is one I will never forget and opened my eyes to a new part of the world I had never experienced.

Traveling to Brazil took a long time, but it didn’t feel as long because we were all so excited. It’s funny now looking back on the day we left Texas because none of us knew what we had in store for the next two weeks. Dr. A greeted us as the airport with a huge smile on his face, as usual, and we headed to our first of many barbecue meals in Brazil.

Speaking of barbecue, I absolutely loved the food in Brazil. The buffets had anything you could imagine, there was always some good steak, and the dessert bar was full of cakes, arroz com leite, and fresh fruit. The breakfasts were also so good – trays of fresh cut fruit, breads, different types of jams, and of course, cafe. Something I really enjoyed about the way Brazilians eat is that when you go to a restaurant its a very social time. Also, at the end of most meals, you get a cafezinho, or a small coffee.

The first city we spent time in was Sao Paulo and had our first taste of Brazil. While in Sao Paulo, we went to Ibirapuera Park, the soccer stadium Maracana, the MASP, multiple cathedrals, and a beautiful graffiti park. Ibirapuera Park was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. We all rented bikes and spent the morning biking around the park, eating popsicles and drinking coconut water, got to dance and sing with a Brazilian band of clowns, and played a little soccer. It was such a relaxing time and it felt like we were living just a normal morning in Brazil. I also really enjoyed getting to see the MASP and the graffiti park. Brazil has so much beautiful art, whether it is found in a museum or art covering the streets of a random neighborhood.

After Sao Paulo, we went to the South to Serra Gaucha. When we were in Sao Paulo, I thought that was as good as it would get, but the South was even better. The vibe in the southern region is much different than in the city. Dr. A compared the southern region to “Texas”, and after experiencing it, he was definitely right. A difference in the South that stood out to me was safety. In the cities, there were times that we could not even bring our phones in our pockets because they may get stolen. We had to be very careful and vigilant at all times in the city, which is different than our lives in the safety of College Station. However, in the South we didn’t have to worry as much. We could walk around outside after dark, we could carry our phones with us anywhere, and we could dress however we wanted. Although the cities of Brazil are vibrant, beautiful, and exciting, I preferred the South.

My favorite day in Brazil was in Bento Goncalves, a southern town where Dr. A grew up. We went to a community center and started the day playing outdoor soccer. The field was settled next to a vineyard, and the view was absolutely amazing. I love to play soccer, and getting to play it in Brazil was an amazing experience. I also don’t think I have ever sweat more than that day; it was ridiculously hot. After playing outdoor soccer for a couple of hours, we took a short break. We got to meet a few of Dr. A’s friends, who were so generous and made sure we had plenty of water. After the short break, we loaded up in some old trucks and drove down into the jungle, across the river, and went on a short hike to a waterfall. That was my first time swimming in a waterfall and it is definitely something I want to do again. After the waterfall, we returned to the community center to play futsal indoor with a Brazilian club women’s team.
After that day, I definitely enjoy playing futsal, which is slightly different from soccer, more than soccer. It was so cool to get to play with Brazilian women. They were crazy good at futsal, but were also so welcoming and wanted to play with us. Although there was a language barrier, it didn’t feel like an issue. After playing for what felt like an entire day, we got to eat a home cooked barbecue meal. I still think about how delicious that barbecue chicken, or frango, was. That day was my favorite day, not only because we got to play soccer and swim in a waterfall, but because we got to truly experience the Brazilian way of life and were so warmly welcomed.

Although it sometimes felt like it, we did more in Brazil than just have fun. One of my favorite company visits was Marcopolo. Marcopolo is a bus company that operates all over Brazil, and worldwide. The company culture felt very laid back, in the same way that the Brazilian culture in general did. What really made the visit impactful for me was getting to meet the interns. It’s so cool that such young students had the opportunity to be interns at Marcopolo. They told us how they get to do a sort of job rotation to figure out which role is best for them at the company. At the end of our visit, they showed us some Brazilian music and taught us a dance to song. After that, we taught them the Aggie War Hymn and the line dance to Cotton Eye Joe. I really enjoyed the way that everyone was so personable, friendly, and welcoming… and the cafezinho, of course!

After being in the southern region for the first time, we flew to Rio for a few days. Rio is an incredible city. Getting to see Christ the Redeemer, go to Copacabana beach and eat acai, and see the sunset from the Pao do Acucar is something I’ll never forget. Although Rio is the 3rd most dangerous city in the world, it didn’t feel that way. We were always careful, but the fact that it was dangerous didn’t take away from us experiencing the city.

I feel that I’ve only touched on a small part of the trip, but to write every detail would take days. The Brazil study abroad trip gave me memories that I’ll cherish forever. In Brazil, I got to see a culture that I had never experienced. Brazil has a certain chill vibe to it, and you can see that whether you’re at the beach, at a restaurant, or at a company. I have come out of the Brazil trip with an appreciation for that vibe, and would love to work for a company with that type of feeling one day. I have also come out of Brazil with a need to travel, to continue seeing more of the world and experiencing other countries in the way I experienced Brazil. I’d like to thank the incredible Dr. A for making this trip so life-changing. I miss it already! 

Categories: 2019 Blogs

Brazil is not only home to one of the seven wonders of the world, but is a wonder itself. Traveling to Brazil has been on my bucket list since the first time I saw footage of Christ the Redeemer. I was in awe of Him. I knew one day that I would have to make the trip to see Him. Through the years, going to Brazil became much more than that. From hearing from locals that described their beautiful hometowns to seeing all of the events that Brazil has hosted, the desire only grew. Now that I have seen what Brazil has to offer, I cannot wait to go back. While I don’t think my words could do justice to describe how aMAYSing my travel abroad was, I am going to try.

Our first stop was São Paulo, the financial center of Brazil. We landed just in time for lunch and we got our first taste of the Brazilian steak that I had heard so much about. It was one of many great meals that we had! After all of the travel, we got to relax the rest of the night! The next morning we go to take a bike ride and explore one of the biggest parks in Brazil. Being back in summer weather was awesome! While it was hot, the park was designed with a lot of shade. It was easy to see why it was so popular. We even ended up kicking around a ball with several locals. It was the first of many times we got to see how friendly Brazilians are and how much soccer is a part of their world. We got another gorgeous view of the park when they hosted a small light show over the fountains and lighting up several trees, including a giant Christmas tree. We had the opportunity to visit the famous São Paulo Museum of Art that is in the heart of the financial center on Paulista Avenue. The museum featured both world-famous artists along with top Brazilian artists! The architecture of the building was just as beautiful as the art within in. Although we got to see some famous artists at the museum, the real treasure was going to see all of the graffiti in the art district.

Next we flew into Porto Alegre to travel to Serra Gaúcha, which was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! This is where we celebrated the New Year. New Years Day was ended up being one of my favorite days on the trip. We spent the day at a local vineyard, which overlooked the mountains. The view was breathtaking. We split into teams and hit the soccer field. It was a scorching hot day but we able to make it through the game with enough sunscreen and water.During halftime, I was able to watch the inauguration of the new president. Luckily after we finished the game, we went for a swim to cool down. We all piled in a truck and tractor and headed down the mountain. It was just a short walk down to a hidden waterfall and swimming hole. I can only describe it as a magical experience. When we returned to the complex, the soccer game was moved inside and done tournament style and local players were mixed into our teams. They were amazing players and great fun to play with, even though some of us took a beating on the court. The female team that we were playing with had an exhibition match with another local male team, it was intense. We worked up quite the appetite just in time to enjoy a traditional Brazilian steak dinner! It was by far the best food I ate on the trip and thus bringing in the New Year right. I will miss the friends I made there the most.

Christmas came back to life again in Gramado and Canela, our next adventure in Brazil, although it felt like we were in an entire new country. The German influence was seen in every experience from talking to the locals to the architecture of the town! This was the home of all things Christmas from October to mid-January and looked like a movie set. We were able to see two different shows that day, one outside the theatre on the street and one built on the lake which included fireworks, singing, and dancing. Both were quite lively and deeply sentimental. It was a truly special experience.

While we visited several companies in Brazil, Tramontina was my favorite to learn about. The culture there was incredible. As a manufacturing company, they developed their own way to produce high quality products in a way that works best for them instead of trying to fit other practices to their needs. As a supply chain major, I have a lot of respect for how time consuming that process is and how hard it is to do it successfully. It is a very innovative brand that has built quite an empire, which they are continually trying to grow. They had a majority of female workers in the plant we were able to visit and spoke highly of the value that women have on their product and further than that, every one looked happy to be there. The happiness in their employees is reflected in the fact that 20% of their employees work for the company for over 20 years. To top that off, they have never fired an employee. It is their most respected goal. If an employee wants to work for them, they will keep working with the employee to find the right job fit. It was such a powerful message and had a profound impact on me. Their store and showroom quality matched that of their manufacturing. Overall it was a great experience.

Just like that it was time to work on that bucket list I hold so dear and I said “Hello” to Rio De Janeiro, finally! The tour of Rio had a few surprises in it! We were able to explore the Olympic Village. The whole village was really a spectacular view. They had all of the medal winners on a wall and incorporated some really modern architecture. We were also able to see the street where Carnival takes place, which we were later able to visit and dress up for a small dance lesson. It was a lot of fun and I have a newfound respect for the dancers and the production of everything. Learning about the flavellas and their place in society was one of the most shocking things I learned in Brazil. The power that can be held by even the poorest of communities is mind-blowing. They are definitely the rulers of their own worlds. My dream came true the next morning. Bright and early we headed off to the train that runs all the way up the mountain to see one of the seven wonders of the world, Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer. It was easy to see why they call Him a wonder. The moment that I was finally able to stand in front of Him and see Him with my own eyes was so surreal that it was hard to even process. He was magnificent in all his glory. I am still humbled and forever grateful for that unforgettable moment. That afternoon continued in its infamous glory as we got to spend time at Copacabana Beach. It lived up to its reputation and I did not want to leave, although the sunburn I still have serves as a reminder.

Leaving Rio was a lot harder than I thought it would be but I was excited to get back to the mountains one last time before I had to say goodbye to Brazil. We were treated to my favorite show of the trip, the mountain men. Between the dancing, drums, and other tricks they had, they really knew how to put on a show. You could see that it took decades of training to be as skilled as they were. The last day of the trip was spent touring the vineyards that the region is famous for, thanks to Italian immigrants. It was a great way to close out the trip.

Brazil was a trip like no other. From the moment we landed to the time we left, we were able to experience so many incredible things that I am not able to mention them all. I can not put into words how I have been changed by what I saw and what I learned thanks to our amazing guide, Dr. Andre Araujo. His hard work to plan out the entire trip was really the key to packing in everything we did into two weeks. I am grateful to him and all of his many friends for making the trip truly unforgettable. I hope to see some of them again soon! Until then, tudo bem!

Categories: 2019 Blogs

Oi, tudo bem? Just one of the many phrases that was heard on our trip to Brazil. Brazil is a country full of the most loving and charismatic people you can find. Not knowing what to expect during predeparture meetings and before taking off, I quickly realized that I had made the best decision of my life once stepping on to Brazilian soil. I had never been out of the country, besides a small trip to Mexico, and was excited to see how the culture and country was different than that of the United States. And let me tell you what, it was a culture shock to say the least. Brazil is one of the most beautiful and unique places you can find. Now before sharing too much information about the trip, let me give a little background about predeparture.

It all started when I was sitting with a group of friends pondering on what I was going to do with my winter break, whether it be go on a family trip, take classes, or just chill at home. But when we found out about the study abroad opportunities there were, we quickly started doing some research. I had always been told that before I graduate college, I need to do at least one study abroad if I can, and here was my opportunity to do so. One of my friends mentioned to me about the Brazil study abroad and I wanted to do it as well, so we signed up, and both got in. But for extenuating circumstances, they had to drop, and I was the only one of my friend group going to Brazil, so I was pretty nervous and scared. But that quickly changed when I began to meet the people that would be going and interacting with Dr. A. From that point on, I knew I had made a smart decision. Who knew that this trip would provide me with some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, friendships that will last a life time, and memories that can’t be touched. Some of the memories that stuck out to me included our day trip to Bento Gonçalves at one of Dr. A’s lifelong friends’ property, as well as the beginning of our trip to Rio de Janeiro.

It was on day 5 where one of the greatest memories of the trip had taken place. We were in Southern Brazil in the Serra Gaúcha and were on our way to a farm/vineyard near the area of Bento Gonçalves. It was New Year’s Day so we were in a very festive spirit and ready to take on the new year. We arrived at the farm/vineyard and were super excited because we knew that this was where we would be playing soccer and spending most of our time outdoors. But there were many surprises throughout the day that made the day unforgettable.

The first task at hand when we arrived was making sure everyone had sunscreen on, but we didn’t want anybody looking like a red lobster at the end of the day. We all filled up on water and headed outside to take part in the first activity, soccer!! It was one of the most beautiful settings I had ever seen, there were soccer fields in the vineyards with the mountains and hills surrounding us. Then to think, we would be playing soccer in this setting, when would this opportunity ever arise again! We began to play soccer and had the best time ever. It was so hot, we had to take a couple of breaks because we were so tired. My luck, Dr. A was on the other team and was so good, we had no chance. But who cares about winning, it was the most fun I had had in a long time. When we were done playing soccer, we came inside and rehydrated for the next adventure, this adventure being an experience of a lifetime. We were about to trek to a waterfall and see a hidden beauty on the property.

Little did we realize, we would be riding in vehicles down the mountain and over a river to find this waterfall. But once we arrived, our mouths dropped, and we were all in awe of what we were seeing. I had never seen a waterfall in person before so I couldn’t imagine what I had been seeing. Then, who would’ve thought we would walk underneath the falling water, and then jump in…I wouldn’t have. We spent about an hour or two soaking in the waterfall and relaxing before it was time to head back to where all of our stuff was for our next endeavor.

We were about to play futsal with a professional women’s futsal team. We were a tad scared because we had never played the sport before, and here we were getting ready to play against a professional team. But our nervousness didn’t last long, we quickly learned how to play and it became one of our favorite sports. We didn’t want to stop playing and that hasn’t changed since we have returned to the states. We played for a while, and then it was time for dinner, a Brazilian barbecue. One of the best meals I have had in a long time. They kept bringing different types of meats out and eventually we were so full, and they were still bringing out meat. Even though I was full, I just kept on eating because I know I probably would never get this type of food ever again. So, I soaked in the experience and tried to eat the most I could. Needless to say, we all passed out on the ride back to the hotel.

This day was definitely one of my favorites because it was a day where all of the students came together and didn’t care about how they looked, didn’t care about their phones, didn’t care how hot it was, but just a time to enjoy what they were getting to experience. I had done things that I would have never imagined would be possible. With me being an outdoorsy sporty person, this was a day that put a smile on my face, and it never turned down. The next best part of the trip for me was a small part of a long day in Rio de Janeiro.

We had just arrived in Rio de Janeiro and we were driving around looking at many of the tourist destinations around the city. One of those destinations stuck out the most to me! When we were landing in Rio, I could see out the window, the Olympic Park. It has always been a dream to see and experience what the Olympic park is like on the inside and that dream would finally be seen in real life on this trip. As we pulled up to the gates of the park, I was so excited because this was a rare opportunity that I would have. As we stepped out of the bus and walked towards the entrance gates, I couldn’t believe how massive the complex was, and just how clean the area was. The buildings were beautiful, the decorations and art around the park were stunning. I could only imagine what the place looked like when so many different people were there for the Rio Olympic games. We stayed there for a good hour probably and there was one part of the park that stuck out to me the most. There was a structure in the walkway that had replica medals for every single gold, silver, and bronze medals that had been won at the games. Of course, I went straight to Michael Phelps’s medal. This had to been one of the coolest experiences on the trip experiencing a place where one of the Olympics was held recently. These were the two cultural visits that stuck out to me, but there was a corporate business that was an amazing experience as well.

When we were in the Serra Gaúcha, we got the opportunity to tour Marcopolo, the largest bus company in Brazil. I didn’t know what to expect when we were first driving up, how cool could a bus factory be and their headquarters, but I was so wrong. We got name tags for special access in to the headquarters and went to a classroom where we began to learn about the history of the company, as well as the things Marcopolo does. They had several students there as well that were learning to work for the company. We then got headphones and safety glasses and got ready to go tour the factory of the company. I couldn’t believe how large the factory was and how many busses I had seen. There were so many different stations that the busses had to go through, and so many different styles of the busses as well. The coolest part of the corporate visit was about to happen though. We hopped on to a finished bus to go through the last phase of making sure the bus was complete. It was the rain test. We got on to a double decker bus and got ready to experience something that nobody else had done. I got the front seat and had a view of a lifetime. The bus drove around and went in to this garage type thing and water began to spray on the bus as if it was raining. We were checking to make sure there were no leaks in the bus and no water getting inside. The bus was perfect, no leaks or water inside at all. So, they drove it out and it was ready to be delivered to its final destination. This was such a cool experience with this company, something I won’t ever forget.

These adventures were just a couple of experiences out of the many that we had that stuck out. While we experienced so many different areas of Brazil, there was one thing that stuck out, the culture of Brazil is so unique and different than that of the United States. The way business is done in Brazil is different, family is such a major focus of the companies and just in everyday lives as well. After returning from Brazil to the states, I couldn’t help but reflect on the experiences of Brazil and realize that I just got an experience that might never happen again. How did I get so lucky to get accepted to go on this trip of a lifetime? With being back in Texas, we are in the midst of writing a research paper on how the Olympics affected Brazil and the impact it had on the people in Brazil, as well as the increasing amount of violence and construction of Favelas. After being on the trip, I really look forward to doing more in-depth research to come up with a conclusion for the research topic at hand.

Lastly, I would like to thank my classmates who have become some of my best friends, and most importantly, Dr. A. I don’t think my experience would be the same if he wasn’t there with us. He was so informative about the culture, the cities, and made sure we were safe at all times. He knew how to make us laugh and make every adventure an enjoyable one. To my classmates, thank you for making this trip a trip of a lifetime. We had so much fun together and I laughed so much, so I thank y’all for that!


Obrigado Brazil!

Categories: 2019 Blogs

When I applied to the May’s Brazil Study Abroad Program, I did not know much about Brazil. I knew about Copacabana Beach, that Brazil hosted the Olympics, and that Brazilians love their soccer, but not much else. It was not until I exited the airport in São Paulo that I began to grasp what I had gotten myself into.

During our time in Brazil, we visited several companies. The first company was Marcopolo, a bus manufacturing company. During this visit, we were able to learn about the manufacturing plant and all of the tests to ensure quality products. We were even able to socialize with some Brazilian students working at the plant.

Next, we visited Tramontina. I think of this company as a high-end IKEA. Tramontina has an amazing manufacturing facility with wood floors and natural light flooding through it. The employees really enjoyed the home-like environment and they all had smiles on their faces. Tramontina had amazing machines, which shortened their production time immensely. Something I found incredibly interesting is that Tramontina does not fire employees. This standard has led to remarkable employee loyalty.

The third company we visited was Santa Clara, a cooperative that produces dairy products. While at Santa Clara, I learned a lot about cooperatives and even got to taste some of their products. At the end of the company visit, we were able to see the process of packaging milk. The most interesting fact I learned from Santa Clara was how all of the farmers worked together in the cooperative to ensure the success of Santa Clara.

On the final day of the trip, we were able to visit Aurora and Salton. These are two premier wineries in Brazil. We were able to tour both of their facilities. The containers used to process the wine were enormous, and were a testament to the massive volume the two companies are able to produce and sell.

During the trip, we also had the opportunity to visit FGV. FGV is a premier school in Brazil—I thought of it as the ivy league of Brazil. We toured one of FGV’s buildings. The classrooms echoed their teaching method, which is a hands-on, conversational style. FGV believes this is the best way for students to learn. At FGV, students are required to speak English, as this is the language of business.

There were two unforgettable days during the trip that completely captivated me. The first of which was when we visited a community called Santo Antoninho. The drive down to the community was absolutely stunning, filled with rolling mountains covered in greenery. Once we arrived at the community, there were four older men there to welcome us with warm smiles. We immediately walked out to the outdoor soccer field. The view from the field was absolutely stunning, with vineyards and mountains surrounding it. We played soccer for a few hours before heading down the mountain on a tractor (it was as crazy as it sounds). We took a small hike down to a spectacular waterfall. We had a few hours to climb the waterfall and swim. Floating in the small lake while looking up at the waterfall was one of the most memorable and peaceful experiences of the trip. After visiting the waterfall, we traveled back to the community center for a futsal tournament. The community’s women fustal team joined us for the tournament and helped us learn how to play. It was during this time that I truly felt immersed in Brazilian culture. After we finished the tournament, we moved to the cafeteria where some of the families from the community cooked us dinner. They made a traditional barbecue meal for us – it was amazing. We may have been completely exhausted by the end of the day, but we all still had massive smiles stuck on our faces. We were all totally amazed by the sight of the waterfall and the hospitality of the people of Santo Antoninho.

The second unforgettable day was in Rio de Janeiro. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach as this was the day we would visit Christ the Redeemer. We rode a train through a forest and up the mountain. After about twenty minutes, Christ the Redeemer emerged. At 98 feet tall, the statue did not disappoint. The detail on the statue was amazing and the view from the platform was even more impressive. Standing on the base of Christ the Redeemer was an absolute dream. After savoring the view for over an hour, we all left and headed to Copacabana Beach. The beach was absolutely packed with vendors, Brazilians laying out, and groups of people playing soccer. Our group ended up playing both soccer and volleyball for most of the time, and even had Brazilians come join us. While we were on the beach, I truly felt like a Brazilian. We stayed at the beach for several hours, but I could have stayed for so much longer. After the beach, we dried off and headed straight to Sugar Loaf Mountain. It took two cable car rides to get to the top of the mountain. Once we were there, the view was breathtaking. We could see Rio de Janeiro in its entirety: the beaches, the buildings, the mountains, and the forests. We watched the sun set over Rio and saw the colors of the city completely change. It was such a beautiful and peaceful moment. This was my absolute favorite time during my time in Brazil.

Now that I am back in the United States, I have been reflecting on my time in Brazil. One of the most impactful moments for me was just driving throughout Rio de Janeiro. The city is absolutely gorgeous, but tainted by poverty. Homeless people line the streets, favelas plague most of the hilltops, and graffiti tarnish majestic buildings. Once the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro has faded to the third most dangerous city in the world.

Throughout this semester, my teammate and I are conducting our research paper on the fall of Rio. We plan to conduct research on the extreme corruption taking place and the extreme economic discrepancy the city faces. Through this paper, we hope to uncover the true causes of Rio’s decline and find possible solutions to the restore Rio to the prestigious city it once was.

While I have only been back in the US for less than a week, I already miss living in Brazil. The 14 days I spent there were completely life changing. I was able to immerse myself in the culture just by observing the people and following Dr. A’s lead. I will never forget how truly beautiful the country of Brazil is.

Obrigada Dr. A and Brazil!!!

Categories: 2019 Blogs

Brazil is an absolutely beautiful country, period. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty of the country with a group of peers and the best Brazilian tour guide, Dr. A. I originally choose to study abroad in Brazil because the country is located on a continent I had never been to, is known for their large celebrations, and is a country I am not sure I would ever feel comfortable traveling alone to in the future.

After studying the general culture for a few days, we began attending the corporate tours Dr. A set up for us. Every tour was made special and each had very interesting aspects. By far, the tour that I found most fascinating was the tour of Tramontina. Tramontina manufactures cookware, cutlery, home appliances, and electrical outlets. The company designs, creates, and builds T-stores to sell their products. Tramontina takes great care of their employees by making sure they are working in a comfortable, clean environment. The factories are swept often, have multiple gardens, windows for natural light, wood floors, multiple recycle bins, and soft paint colors to accommodate a nice environment for the employees. 70% of the employees are women. The employees are only allowed to work in one location for a maximum of six hours to avoid fatigue and monotony. I found this to be a very cool feature as someone who often has data entry projects at work and understands how boring the work can become after a while. Like the other corporations in Brazil, Tramontina goes above and beyond to provide for their employees, much like the Brazilian government provides welfare to its the citizens. For example, Tramontina never fires an employee. If there ever is an issue with an employee, they do their best to accommodate and work with that employee to find a place where the employee will enjoy and thrive. Governments are created for their people. The Brazilian government has numerous welfare programs to ensure its citizens are taken care of. Like the government, Tramotina similarly attempts to make sure no employee falls through the cracks either. Lastly, my favorite part of the visit was watching aluminum bars be melted down into liquid aluminum, poured into a machine, that then heats the aluminum to such a high temperature that it turns from silver to red. The red-silver liquid aluminum is then molded into a frame by the machine to create an electrical socket. The tour guide said the steps followed by each machine are process, produce, and package. Once the socket was made, it was immediately placed in a bin in such a manner to be packaged promptly. The technology and process of watching raw material turn into a final product was incredible.

Our group was also lucky enough to be able to visit FGV, a top their university and think-tank in Brazil. Our tour guide, Monica, introduced us to some of the current events affecting the country and ways the school is training their students to tackle the issues surrounding these events. She also gave us a physical tour of the school. The university has many similarities to universities in the Unites States; however, FGV is structured a bit differently. The school’s academic structure is made to be constantly adapted to fit the needs of the surrounding environment. Many high level individuals and politicians come to the university for seminars and think-tanks sessions to find solutions and ways to problem-solve some of the issues the country may be facing at the time. Another noteworthy quality of FGV is that it is a non-profit university. FGV is doing great things in Brazil and has already made helpful changes in the country.

Although I loved the south, my favorite city was Rio de Janeiro. The city encompassed the Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, and Carnival remnants. The city had a much livelier atmosphere than the south. We took a tram to the top of the mountain to see Christ the Redeemer, a magnificent statue that is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was definitely an astonishing sight. The shadow of the statue, the breeze up on the mountain, the breath-taking view of the city, and having the opportunity to pray was a truly moving, spiritual experience.

Soccer, or as the Brazilians call it, Futbol , is huge in Brazil. I would even argue it is bigger than football is in America. Any time the agenda allowed for free time, members of our group would find somewhere to play, and would almost always be joined by locals.

Another remarkable memory I will cherish from Brazil was the visit to the farm and vineyard community center. As the old men that welcomed us onto their property sat, shared a beer, and chatted about politics, we played soccer on a fenced in field overlooking parts of the vineyard. I had never played soccer previously and actually really liked playing. I was not as bad as I thought I would be either. I will definitely continue playing the sport. The entire group was surprisingly competitive and skillful. After two rounds of soccer in the heat, the old men showed us a hidden gem of their community. We piled into the back of two trucks and drove through wooded areas, past family homes, and across a river to a private waterfall. The view was amazing and the water felt great after having played soccer in the sun. I wish I had such a magnificent natural feature so close to my home. After we were done swimming, taking photos to remember the sights, and cooling off a bit, we returned to the community center for an indoor tournament of soccer. A few members from the professional teams came by and intermingled with our teams to really make things exciting. After the tournament, the family that welcomed us into their community also prepared and served us dinner. The men served the meats in a traditional Brazilian fashion and the women served the beverages and side dishes. The kindness of the people in the community is what I will remember forever.

The art was the most profound aspect of the culture to me without a doubt. Brazilians have a very colorful culture. The architecture of the buildings, the graffiti fenced neighborhoods, the favelas, the clothing, cathedrals, and museums were all beautiful sights. Overall, I would say the country is not far off from no longer being a developing country. I am excited to see the country grow into an established country. I think they have a beautiful culture the terrain has a lot to offer, and the people can spread the captivating culture elsewhere. Next stop Carnival and hopefully the Amazon. I’ll be back South America!

Categories: 2019 Blogs

As I begin my final semester at Texas A&M, I find myself reminiscing on the wonderful experience I had in Brazil. Although it has not even been two full weeks since I arrived back in the states, I am already having withdrawals. My winter break trip was absolutely amazing and far exceeded my expectations. I was able to do so many fun and unique things, which I would have never had the opportunity to experience had I gone alone. Dr. A sets up the trip in such a way that you are able to get a taste of almost every part of Brazil, which is not an easy thing to do in a two-week period. I feel so incredibly blessed to have gone on this trip and will forever cherish the memories and friendships I made during my time in Brazil.

While I enjoyed all of our corporate and academic visits, one of my favorite corporate visits was Marcopolo. Marcopolo is a Brazilian bus and coach manufacturer founded in 1949 in Caxias do Sul. Today, they are one of the largest bus body manufacturers in the world, offering 1,640 different bus body designs. Upon our arrival to Marcopolo, we went to a training room where we were shown a short video and presentation that detailed all about the company and its history. We then started the tour of the factory which involved walking to all of the different parts of the factory and seeing the different processes that go into manufacturing a bus. Marcopolo prides itself on the customization options they offer to their customers. Our tour guide even mentioned how Saudi Arabia once made a special request to have gold features added in their busses. I can only imagine how much those busses cost! One of the coolest parts of the visit was taking a short bus ride to the water testing station in a newly finished double decker bus. During the inspection, we sat in the bus watching water spray from all directions while a man walked up and down the aisle, checking for any signs of a water leak. We were told that each bus has to go through and pass a water test, which is a 10-minute long process. After seeing this process, walking through the entire factory and getting an inside look into their daily operations, it was evident that much care and detail goes into making only the highest quality busses for their customers.

One of my favorite cultural visits occurred on New Year’s Day, where we spent the day on a farm. The morning started off a little later than usual, as Dr. A let us sleep in to recover from the previous night’s celebration. After loading up the bus, we headed to a region near Bento Gonçalves to spend the day outdoors. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a few older men and an older lady. We wasted no time in setting down our belongings inside the community center before heading outside to the soccer field. It was pretty warm outside, but that did not stop us from playing several rounds of soccer. Although it was my first time playing soccer, I was pleasantly surprised at my soccer skills. Honestly, everyone played great and really got into the games which made the experience that much better. I think it’s safe to say that we were all pretty exhausted by the time we finished playing (and it wasn’t even noon yet!).

After a short break, everyone changed into their swimsuits and loaded up into either the bed of a truck or a tractor pulling a wagon that drove us down to the river. On the way there, we passed by some vineyards and were able to see some amazing views of the mountains in the distance. Once we made it to the river, everyone jumped out and took a short hike down a path that led straight to the waterfall. The waterfall itself was absolutely breathtaking and truly a hidden treasure. Dr. A told us that the name of the waterfall was Cascata do Amor, which translates to Waterfall of Love. Several of us climbed across the rock wall to stand directly under the waterfall. It was honestly so relaxing, as it was like a mini massage on my back. After jumping into the water to swim for a bit, I made my way to the shore to sit back and bask in all of its beauty. There was a brief moment when I closed my eyes, leaned my head back, and found that the only sound I could hear was the waterfall. I remember feeling this sense of peace like I had never felt before. For those few seconds, I had absolutely no worries in the world. It was a euphoric moment for me and definitely one that I will never forget. Eventually, we left the waterfall and made our way back up the path so we could head back to the community center. We were met by Dr. A’s sweet family and a group of Brazilians, including several women in soccer uniforms.

After quickly changing into some dry clothes, we went upstairs to find an indoor soccer court. We formed several groups with the local women’s soccer team and played a Futsal tournament consisting of 10-minute games. We were all pretty worn out by the time the tournament started, as it was getting late in the day, but we somehow managed to muster up the energy to put forth our best effort. I think it was the fact that we all knew we would never have an opportunity like this again. By the time the soccer tournament finished (which by the way, I think my team won, whoop!), we all headed downstairs for a homemade Brazilian barbecue. The food was magnificent and the perfect end to an energetic, fun-filled, and unforgettable day.

While I assumed there would be some culture shock when I arrived in Brazil, I expected it would be a result of the language barrier or slower pace of life. Therefore, I was shocked when I finally arrived and found that one of the hardest things for me to get used to was having to pay for drinking water. While access to drinking water has certainly increased in recent years, Brazil still struggles with water shortages in many areas. As a result, people have to pay every time they want safe, clean drinking water. For someone like me who is constantly refilling my water bottle at the fountains in Wehner and ordering water at the restaurant (because it’s free!), it was really difficult for me to swallow that I had to pay to stay hydrated. While that did not stop me from drinking water, I made sure to fill up my reusable water bottle any chance I got.

The most meaningful part of the trip for me personally was the chance to reconnect with my Brazilian foreign exchange sister, Vivien, whom we hosted fourteen years earlier. When I initially found out that I was accepted into the Brazil Business program, one of the first things that came to my mind was Vivien. However, having not really spoken to her much in several years and not yet knowing the itinerary, I decided to wait to reach out to her. Closer to our departure date, I sent her a message telling her I would be coming to Brazil on a study abroad and mentioning that we should try to meet up. Her response was an enthusiastic “OMG!!!! Cant believe this!!!!” and immediately trying to make plans to meet. Nonetheless, I was still unsure if it would actually happen, so I hesitated to get my hopes up in case it did not work out.

Once in Brazil, I spoke with Dr. A who told me that the best option for her and I to meet up would be in Rio. Luckily, Vivien happened to have a friend who lived near Copacabana Beach (where we were scheduled to be going the day we arrived in Rio) so she bought her tickets and told me she would be arriving the same morning as us. Upon our arrival in Rio, we discovered there was rain in the forecast, so Dr. A thought it would be best if rescheduled the beach for the next day. I was super bummed when I had to tell Vivien of the change in our plans, but she assured me that we would still make it work out. We spent the entire day sightseeing and arrived back at the hotel late that evening. Although we had an early morning the next day, Vivien and I made plans to meet up. She met me in the hotel lobby and we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, where we spent several hours catching up on each other’s lives and reminiscing on the time we spent sharing a room together all those years ago. It was so special seeing her and hearing how well she and her family are doing. She told me that she now works as a lawyer with her father and hopes to become a judge one day. Although she does not speak English on a regular basis, we had absolutely no problem understanding each other, which I found pretty amazing. I still find it so awesome how we were able to pick up right where we left off fourteen years ago. It was definitely meant to be that I should be chosen for this trip, as I do not know if I would have ever gone to Brazil and had the chance to see her again.

Overall, the trip was a life-changing and unforgettable experience. I am so thankful to Dr. A for taking me on such an incredible journey to so many different parts of Brazil. For anyone reading this who is considering studying abroad, my suggestion is to do it! You will learn so much about yourself and come back with a new perspective on life.

Categories: 2019 Blogs