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My Brazil Experience – A Reflection (by Andrea ‘Andie’ Krumrey, 2020)

Blake Parrish, January 18th, 2020

Howdy, everyone!

Just as everyone else on this blog site, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the beautiful and culturally rich country of Brazil over this past winter break. Before this study abroad, I had never travelled to South America so I had little knowledge of or experience with the culture. Being able to participate in a trip led by one of my favorite professors and native Brazilian, Dr. Araujo, gave me and all of the members of my group an extremely unique insight into the true way of life in Brazil, as we had the opportunity to do and see things that we would have never had access to on our own (or even with any other regular tourist group). Coming back to the States after this life-changing trip, I have a whole new appreciation for and much deeper understanding of the beautiful, lively Brazilian culture. Here are a few of the amazing experiences I had and what I learned from them:

Throughout our trip, we got to experience several different facets of Brazilian culture that helped us to appreciate what has shaped Brazil into the country it is today. One of these facets that we got to explore during our first day in São Paulo was Brazil’s history. We saw countless historical buildings and monuments that all reflect the origins of Brazilian culture. In São Paulo, we saw the first college ever established in Brazil, the first law school of Brazil, beautiful ancient cathedrals and monasteries (my favorite being the beautifully teal-topped Catedral da Se de São Paulo), museums and more. Although we did not spend a lot of time in this city, just being able to walk around and see these historically significant monuments gave me a deeper understanding of how this country began and how the Brazilian culture developed. While Brazil as a whole may still be considered a somewhat developing country and, unfortunately, many native Brazilians may not fully appreciate the significance of the history that surrounds them, there is a reason that Brazil was a part of the BRIC nations (an acronym given to signify the world’s up and coming economies.) The mere existence of these markers that we saw in Sao Paulo depicts the progressive, innovative, and forward-thinking qualities of the country’s founders — a spirit that is still very much alive in the Braizlian culture and was tangibly evident in many Brazilians that I had the pleasure of encountering while visiting their country.

Another facet of the Brazilian culture that we got to experience was their artistry and creativity — qualities that help to make Brazil known as the lively and vivacious country that it is. While still in Sao Paulo, we got the opportunity to visit Beco do Batman (or “Batman’s Alley”), an urban section of the city away from the bustle of downtown that has become a haven for graffiti artists of some of the highest quality I’ve ever witnessed. In fact, our professor told us that artists move to this community from all over the world, just so they can (quite literally) leave their mark in this booming art scene. Some of these artists’ paintings can be sold for over $500,000 USD, and we just got to casually walk through what was basically a free outdoor art gallery. It was truly breathtaking. The artistry displayed in this small community in southern Brazil was just a small snapshot of the overall expressiveness of the Brazilian people. This artistry was also echoed in a slightly different manner through the many grand and ornately decorated ancient cathedrals (gems that just happen to be ubiquitous throughout the entirety of the country.) And through yet another medium, this artistry was expressed through their bodies as well. We had the great fortune of attending a performance during a meal in which 4 beautifully talented Brazilian dancers performed traditional dances of the Serra Gauchan culture that have been preserved over hundreds of years. Through these experiences, we got to witness and further understand the heart that feeds the Brazilian spirit.

One last facet (though there were countless more that I won’t mention here) that we got to experience was the Brazilians’ centricity around the family unit. These deep-seated family values can be seen throughout every aspect of Brazilian life, from recreation all the way to the business environment. In every town we passed through, there was at least one, and usually multiple, parks with several jungle gyms for the families within those communities — and in every town we visited, those parks were full. Every day without fail families spend time outdoors, elderly and young alike, all playing , talking or doing whatever they may, just spending true quality time together. Every shopping mall we visited had several children’s stores and usually more than one play area for the kiddos (a noticeably larger amount than we have here in the United States). But probably the biggest surprise to me was that this family-centric lifestyle doesn’t only exist in recreation, it extends into the workplace as well. We had the opportunity to visit several highly-regarded companies during our time in Brazil and each one of them supported this collectivist lifestyle in their own unique way. For example, we can look to Tramontina, a Brazilian company that manufactures cookware, appliances and more. This company supports its employees like they are family by providing them with lifetime employment, overly-accommodating working environments (U.S., please take a view tips), onsite healthcare, continued secondary education, and so much more. This truly unique business model not only focuses on supporting and retaining the employee, but also on providing that employee’s family with support, financial and otherwise. Other companies we visited, such as Santa Clara (dairy cooperative) and Aurora (winery cooperative), operate within a business model called a “cooperative”. This means that it’s not one large company manufacturing all of the raw material and product. Instead, a cooperative is an association that is comprised of several members all united to accomplish common economic goals. These two companies basically serve as hubs for many small, family-owned businesses and farms to deliver and sell their product to. This kind of business structure keeps the focus on the families and their autonomy in their own livelihood — the opposite of what we see in capitalism where the larger companies  eventually squelch the smaller, family-based operations. 

All of these aforementioned facets (history, artistry, and family values) that I encountered during my time in Brazil all combined to reveal to me the true heart of the Brazilian people. Leaving this experience, I now feel as if I understand this culture on a much deeper and much more personal level, all the way from the home to the business environment. Brazil is full of passion, beauty, innovation, and life and I feel truly blessed to have been able to get to know Brazil and its people as I do sitting here writing this blog today.

If there is anything I would want our Mays faculty to know from my experience it would be this: Please always support the continued existence of this study abroad! The knowledge I feel I have gained about the Brazilian culture and business environment has been absolutely invaluable. For the rest of my career as a business professional, I feel that I will be so much more equipped to succeed in the international business environment, as I now have had true exposure to foreign economies and cultures. This trip truly changed my life, and I hope it will continue to do so for many students in the coming years!

Muito obrigada, Brazil. Tchau tchau, for now.

Andrea (Andie) Krumrey

Brazil, our home away from home for two weeks. Coming into the country I had no idea how much of a home it would become. From the moment we arrived in Brazil, Dr. A greeted us with open arms and said, “Welcome home.” This set the standard for our experience and how we were going to be treated and interacted with the entire trip. What laid ahead of us was two weeks of unforgettable adventures, delicious food, and friendships that will never be forgotten. Over the course of the trip, we were fortunate enough to have multiple cultural and corporate visits. In this blog, I will be going into depth about a few of them and how those visits impacted me.

The first experience that I had in Brazil that stood out to me was the time we spent in Barracao, which also happened to be only our third day of the trip. We woke up early that morning and traveled by bus to a small town tucked away in the mountains and eventually arrived at our destination which was a church with a large building attached to it. We then soon split up into teams and started to play soccer behind the complex and once we got tired, we piled up into tractors and went down to the waterfall where we cooled off. We then went back to the church and had an amazing meal full of Brazilian BBQ, fresh vegetables and bread. All of which were prepared by the locals that ran the establishment. Little did I know that this was going to be some of the best food we had all trip and it was all homemade by the locals in the back of the room. After we were done eating we got up and decided we wanted to play Futsal, a very popular variation of soccer that is played indoors in Brazil. What stood out to me about this experience was the warm and welcoming hospitality we were greeted with from the moment we walked into the door. They did not have to do all of that for us but they wanted us to feel welcome in their country and they did a fantastic job. They did everything that day from opening the fields, cooking the food, and even cheering us on while we were playing futsal. I am very happy that we did this at the beginning of the trip because it really set the standard for how the rest of the trip was going to go.

Not only did I go to Brazil to go on adventures and interact with the locals, but I also went to learn about some of their most dominant companies and how they function in other countries. The company that stood out the most to me was Tramontina. What stood out to me about them was how large their company was and how far of a reach their market was. From their headquarters in the small town of Carlos Barbosa, all the way to an Outback Steak house in College Station, Texas, they have hundreds of different products branching over many types of markets. From cookware to electrical, to automobile, and gardening, Tramontina really does it all. What was interesting to me about this was how prepared they were for changes in the market. By having so many different types of products, even if one market has a downturn, it will most likely have an increase in production in another market. The other thing that stood out to me about the company was how they cared for their employees. Dr. A told us about how Tramontina wants their employees to own their own house so what they will do is give their customers a loan and have them purchase their home and then just take the payments out of their paycheck. This, even after the employee leaves the company or retires, leaves them with an appreciating asset that will last for years and years to come. They also made huge efforts to make sure the workspace was as comfortable for the workers as possible. They had wood floors to keep the area warm as well as give it a home-like feel and also made sure machines were spaced out so there was plenty of room for employees to move around and be comfortable in their respective workspaces. Being able to visit this company was a true privilege and when you see it firsthand it shows you exactly why they are one of the largest and most popular companies in Brazil.

Something that stood out to me in my time in Brazil was the beauty of the country. Now, of course, places like Copacabana beach and Sugar Loaf are going to be beautiful but the thing that stood out the most to me was the art you would see all over the area. This was most prevalent at Beco do Batman. Beco do Batman was a street in Sao Paulo that was absolutely covered in beautiful graffiti and some real masterpieces. This was a place where friends and families gathered to show and enjoy some drinks and interact with the locals. This was something that was very common all throughout Brazil, the emphasis to spend time with one another. This could be on the beach, at a shopping mall, or on a street like Beco do Batman. All they wanted to do was spend time and invest in each other. That is something we can all take away from Brazil is the importance of spending time away from technology and the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just connect with the people around you.

When in Brazil, it is impossible to not experience the heartbeat of the country, soccer. In each city we went to, soccer played a large role in the culture and a central point for people to meet and join together as a family in support of their favorite club. The club that stood out to me the most was Internacional. We were fortunate enough to get a full tour of their facility and hearing about the history of their club showed me the true impact soccer has on their community. Internacional also goes by “Clube do Povo” or the people’s club, this stands true based on stories we heard about the club from their early years from being one of the first clubs in the region to allow African American players to play as well as having their own fans help them finish construction of their stadium in the ’50s. Seeing how much they care about their fan base and how they want to treat them more as a family rather than fans really shows how much of an impact they want to make on their community.

Lastly, I just wanted to write about the impact of going out of the country had on me as an individual who had never left North America. You cannot put a price on the experience you can have with different cultures. From the food to the people there is an endless number of things that you will learn just by traveling outside of the country. Being abroad will teach you how to adapt and allow you to learn how other people live. In Brazil, we were exposed to many different types of cuisine and were able to interact with many locals in each city we went into. Each person that you are going to meet is going to have a different story and a different way they are going to impact you. For me, my most impactful moment was late one night talking with a local who was pursuing a dream in music, specifically the guitar. After just one short conversation I was not only able to learn about his dreams and aspirations but also about things he was passionate about such as Quentin Tarantino and the English language. After talking for a little bit I was able to convince him to take a trip to Austin and perform on 6th street, one of the music capitals of the south. He promised he would try his best and I promised him a tour if he made his way to Texas. This was just one instance out of many that we had on the trip but each day was full of new adventures and opportunities for me to learn. The experience I had in Brazil is one that is very difficult to put into words and one that I am never going to forget. Thank you, Dr. A and Texas A&M University for giving me this once and a lifetime opportunity.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

Bom Dia! In English, this simply means good morning. Dr A began each day with these words, and it brings a lot of great memories to the forefront of my mind. Brazil was a trip of a lifetime – one that is extremely hard to explain to friends and family. This trip exposed my predispositions and forced me to learn more about myself and the world around me. Each day, our group did something that expanded our knowledge and enhanced our cultural competence. We even had beans, rice, and bread that will last us a lifetime. What I originally thought of Brazil does not compare to what it truly is. Brazil is so much more than Copacabana beach and endless açaí bowls (even though they are both phenomenal). The country is beautiful, the culture is unique, and there is an unfortunate amount of corruption and poverty.

Brazil is also a country full of bright thinkers and innovators. During our trip, we had the opportunity to visit a company known as FGV. This company is a think tank and a higher education institution dedicated to social and economic development. It was created in 1944 as a private entity and named after Getúlio Vargas. FGV is an extremely respected company, considering that the government collaborates with FGV to develop social and economic solutions for Brazil. Even interviewers look to get an FGV statement when there are stories regarding policy. This visit was particularly intriguing to me because there is nothing comparable to it in the United States. Think tanks in the United States do not additionally offer higher education. At FGV, their 11 schools are highly sought after. They provide undergraduate and graduate degrees in Public Administration, Business Administration, Law, Applied Mathematics, and so forth. These students then go on to become entrepreneurs, or work for companies like Ernst and Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Google, to name a few. According to 2017 Global Go To Think-Tanks, FGV is the 7th best think tank in the world. This company visit broadened my scope of higher education and private institutions that work with the government. 

We also embarked on many fun and engaging cultural events. One of my favorite events included a trip to Gramado, a German town in Rio Grande do Sul. This town was founded by German immigrants. The architecture, food, and even some employee attire was German. It was very interesting to see how diverse the culture is in Brazil. I never imagined I would be hearing German during my time in Brazil. A couple of friends and I had lunch at a very authentic German restaurant. It was my first time having German food, and I definitely prefer some rice and beans over Schnitzel. The atmosphere itself, however, was loads of fun. A German band played and captivated the attention of the whole place. After lunch, we walked around and saw all of the extravagant Christmas decorations throughout the town. Christmas is a huge holiday in Gramado along with the rest of the country. Brazil is heavily religious, especially Catholic. In light of that, we got to see many gorgeous and intricate cathedrals throughout our study abroad, including one in Gramado. In the evening, our group had the opportunity to see two Christmas shows. The first performance was a light show and numerous people gathered around to watch the entire city light up. There was some singing, dancing, and translating (thanks to Dr A). The second show was entertaining and unique. Singers placed themselves at the edges of a major platform that was surrounded by water. During the performance, fireworks erupted over the water and the story of Jesus Christ was told through song and dance. I personally enjoyed how some of the songs were partly in English and then in Portuguese, so I was able to understand the storyline. 

With all of these experiences in mind, it is rather hard to pin-point one thing and designated it as my favorite. A short two-weeks allowed for many life-long memories to be made. When I think about my time abroad, however, I continually remember Christ the Redeemer. The chance to see one of the seven wonders is truly indescribable. Dr A got us the fast pass and we headed up Corcovado Mountain. It was a great opportunity to see Rio from above and we watched as people anticipated reaching the top. Once we exited the rail car, it was difficult not to marvel at the sights. The infamous statue stands 125 feet tall and provides a 360 overlook of Rio de Janeiro. It was more prominent than I could have ever imagined it to be. People took numerous pictures and Dr A got a neat picture of Christ in the reflection of my sunglasses. While we also got a great group shot, the most memorable aspect of it was not the pictures or even the scenery. The reason as to why Christ the Redeemer remains one of my most treasured moments is because of the morning mass. Each morning, there is a service held on top of the mountain. I was able to witness bishops and other people on top of the mountain worship and sing Ave Maria right in front of the Christ statue. That kind of significant experience is something a picture or video simply cannot explain. 

On the other hand, I began to further understand Brazilian culture and how they treat each other. A company that we visited, Tramontina, is widely known in Brazil with over 18,000 products. What most stood out to me is how they treat their employees. Knowing how to retain people and working to build culture are invaluable assets for an organization. Tramontina will pay for employees to attain more education and they promote internally. The company also finances homes, healthcare, and many other essentials for their employees. On top of that, there is a company policy stating employees cannot work more than 6 consecutive hours. Their factories have open windows and wooden floors, resembling a home rather than a workplace. Tramontina essentially employs the entire town of Carlos Barbosa, which is a town in the south. Brazilian business is very personal and relationship-oriented. It is very common for employees to remain at one single company for their entire career. This cannot be said in the United States, as young employees switch jobs every 2-5 years. Most employees even plan to leave their job after a short period of time to pursue something else. I think this contrast is interesting and one MAYS students should consider when deciphering career paths. In Brazil, this idea of building relationships and developing camaraderie is not exclusive to business. Brazilian culture includes long meals with laughing, multiple conversations, and minimal technological distractions. One thing I immediately noticed is that no child is glued to an iPad during dinner. No parent is on their email. The dinner is about enjoying company and developing connections. I sincerely appreciated this aspect of Brazilian culture and I believe it would be a positive thing if more Americans ate dinner like Brazilians. 

This trip was much more than seeing famous things or eating at an authentic Brazilian steakhouse. It brought a group of Aggies together and it showed us what the world has to offer. Often times, I find myself being too comfortable. This study abroad helped me step out of my comfort zone and truly learn in a completely different manner. I learned about Latin American companies and how they differ from the United States. My ability to understand and embrace other cultures developed in light of this opportunity. Most importantly, I learned how invaluable it is to divulge into new things. While I am working towards a great degree in College Station, important people skills and EQ is often acquired through living experiences. Thanks to this trip, I feel much more confident in my personal and professional capabilities to be successful. I am now more appreciative of diversity and the value it can bring to relationships and the workplace. I would encourage all MAYS students to apply to Study Abroad. The insight one gains from a unique trip like Brazil is impossible to replicate in the classroom. With the cultural events, the company visits, and the friendships made, studying abroad provides a return that greatly exceeds the cost.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

When I left the United States, I thought I had an idea of what Brazil would be like. I imagined beautiful beaches covered with people playing soccer. Part of my vision was right, but Brazil is so much more than the stereotypical image that most Americans have in their minds. During our trip, we saw sprawling cities much larger than even New York. We saw mountain vistas covered with vineyards. We experienced the architecture of Germans and Italians throughout the southern part of the country. Then, as we arrived in Rio de Janeiro, our eyes finally met the image of Brazil that was in my head before the trip. All of these visions are locked in my head, but the trip would not have made the impact it made on me if it wasn’t for the wonderful friendships I made with both Mays Business School students and locals in Brazil.

Through our corporate visits, I learned quite a bit about the way Brazilians do business. The most impactful corporate visit for me was Tramontina. While this is a multinational company, the warehouse we visited operated in a manner that was very Brazilian to me. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that the floors in the warehouse were made of wood. This was incredibly strange to me as there was heavy machinery that could damage the floors everywhere. Later, our guide explained to us that Tramontina has wood floors for two main reasons: to control temperature in the winter to make employees more comfortable and to make it feel like home for the employees. This floor was just an introduction to how much Tramontina cared for their employees. Other features for employees in the warehouse included a green space in the middle and onsite doctors and counselors. I learned that the company also provides housing and deducts the payments from one’s paycheck. For these reasons, employees rarely leave Tramontina and many spend their entire working lives at that company.

On New Year’s Eve, we had the opportunity to experience an event that the average traveler would not be able to – a mini-marathon and community lunch. We arrived in Carlos Barbosa early in the morning and could feel the energy of Brazilians preparing for the race. After checking in and a brief news interview (yes, our group made it on the news), we lined up for the race. As we waited to start, I saw strangers joking and laughing with one another and caught a glimpse into the friendliness and outgoingness of this community. Then, the race began and we were on our way through beautiful countryside. We ran (read: walked) through rolling hills with farmland on either side. This scenery was not the highlight of the run, though. As we traveled through, the streets were lined with Carlos Barbosa citizens cheering us along the way. It seemed as though the whole town was either running the race or encouraging those who were. I have never seen anything like this in the United States and, unfortunately, I worry that I never will. As we approached the finish, I was exhausted, but there was more to do. What seemed like the entire town gathered in the community center and shared a buffet lunch. A few of our group were lucky enough to sit next to some locals who spoke quite a bit of English and we spent much of our meal visiting with them about the differences between the places we live. Finally, after plenty of good conversation and entirely too much food, we went back to downtown and rested for an evening filled with many white clothes (a Brazilian New Year tradition) and great fireworks.

Some of my favorite moments during the trip were spent with our group in Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Playing volleyball and football was a ton of fun, but my favorite part was paddle boarding with a small group. As we started paddling away from shore, the views began to become even more stunning than those on land. From about 100 yards out, we were able to see the entire beach covered with people enjoying their time in the sun. From about 200 yards away from shore, we had a great view of Forte de Copacabana and the canons lining the beach. When we reached about 250 yards from the shore, we saw my favorite view in all of Brazil. While sitting on my paddle board, I looked back and saw the entire beach, with a city of skyscrapers behind it. Behind that, was a favela rising up on the side of a mountain. It was unbelievable to see how the wealthy and those with nothing live almost side-by-side in Rio, with the beach being the common ground where everyone plays. I will never forget that view looking back, surrounded by water, with just the small group looking with me.

On this trip, I was able to see my courses in corporate finance come to life. In Rio de Janeiro, I was able to get an up close look at a negative NPV project when our group had the opportunity to explore the Olympic Village from the 2016 Olympics. The place looked like a ghost town. Walking through the abandoned village was a surreal experience when I realized that just over three years ago those stadiums were the hub of humanity. Later, I found out that the 2016 Olympics cost over $13 billion USD. I also found out that the government was paying $2 million USD a year for air conditioning in a stadium that was only used by one or two athletes to train. Yes, this is in a country with some of the worst inequality in the world. Yes, this is in a city that is unable to pay its public employees on time. The sickest I felt on the entire trip was when Dr. A told us about what he and the security guards at the Olympic Village discussed while we were touring. Those security guards were not paid on time for what they were doing, yet they didn’t quit their jobs. That job gave them a place to be, and they believed that one day they would be paid. Besides, even though they weren’t paid on time, they believed it was a secure job. One of American economy’s greatest strengths is that much of the workforce has options when it comes to their careers. We should be grateful.

Two weeks is much too short of a time to get to know a place. However, it is the perfect amount of time for an introduction to its culture. For any student looking to study abroad, I would highly recommend Brazil. Dr. A is a fantastic asset to the group, as he has lived in the places we visit and speaks the language fluently. He has friends throughout the areas we visit that welcomed us as family. For example, one day of the trip, our group went to a small farm community in the south of the country. We stopped at a community center that was surrounded by vineyards. Upon arrival, we were met by two of Dr. A’s friends. We started the day by playing soccer for a couple of hours on a field surrounded by grape vines. Then, we loaded up in a Jeep for the real treat of the day. We rode down a mountain until we were met by a shallow river, which we easily drove across. Right after crossing, we got out of the vehicles and began a hike down a mountain. When we reached the bottom, we saw one of the most stunning sites of the entire trip: a private waterfall with a natural swimming pool just underneath. Our group climbed under the waterfall and then slid off of the rocks to enjoy a refreshing swim. I could have stayed under that waterfall for days! After the waterfall, Dr. A’s friends made us a buffet of Brazilian barbecue (delicious!) and invited us upstairs for a match of futsol (similar to indoor soccer). I wouldn’t have experienced any of this day if it wasn’t for Dr. A’s friends. Additionally, Dr. A understands which areas are safe and which areas one needs to be cautious. On this trip, I was never concerned about safety – something I could not say if I would have gone to Brazil alone. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. A can give insights into the lives of the people we were surrounded by. Much of what I learned was from Dr. A, as he explained why the architecture was the way it was, why Carnival is so important, and what the food we ate was made of. After experiencing Brazil the way I did, I hope to go back at some point. It is a country rich in beautiful scenery, great food, and unbelievable people.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

As my college career entered its final chapter, I realized that I had never gotten to experience an academic study abroad. While in my undergraduate studies, the opportunities to learn abroad did not necessarily appeal to me. I did not necessarily wish to go on a study abroad that was relatively engineering focused. As I began selecting my coursework for my graduate program, the chance to visit Brazil stuck out to me. I saw it as an opportunity to learn about a new culture and economy before I started my professional career. Though I did become uneasy about leaving my family right after Christmas, I would not have traded this experience for the world. I not only got to experience the sights, wonders, and culture of Brazil, but I was also fortunate enough to experience it with an amazing group of Aggies and a great professor.

Overall the experience of traveling to Brazil on study abroad was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Dr. A’s knowledge of the country and culture made for an unforgettable journey. When we ran (walked) in the mini-marathon on New Year’s Eve, we not only go to experience the close knit feeling of the town of Carlos Barbados but also the amazing landscapes just outside of the town. These types of experiences were ones that could only be had if you were being guided by someone like Dr. A 

One corporate visit that we made was of particular interest to me due to my work background. The Tramontina manufacturing plant we visited focused mainly on injection molding and assembly of electrical components. During my undergraduate time at A&M, I worked two summers at a company that focused on plastic and rubber product design and manufacturing. Due to the nature of the products we designed, much of our work was in blow molding or rotational molding. The injection molding we did was relatively small in comparison. Tramontina’s injection molding operation, on the other hand, was technologically advanced and immense. We started our plant tour in a section designed for the maintenance, manufacturing, and storage of injection molds for their products. We then got to see their injection molding machines and assembly. I found the massive amount of automation incredible. Human contact was limited to quality assurance and final packing. I also found the cleanliness and brightness of the warehouses very interesting. Most of the warehouses I have worked in have been dull, old, and covered in an inch of dust, metal shavings, and grease. After visiting their factory, we went to the Tramontina store. When looking at many of their product offerings, it was apparent that the brand name of Tramontina carries weight with the Brazillian consumer. Breville, a higher end small appliance manufacturer, even had items that were private labeled for Tramontina.

We also were able to visit a dairy cooperative while in Carlos Barbados. Santa Clara is one of many cooperatives that work with small dairy farmers in the Rio Grande de Sul state. Having grown up in the suburbs of New York City, the concept of a cooperative was very foreign to me. I never put much thought into how certain foods made it into the grocery store and eventually on to our kitchen table. As they presented their business model to us though, it made sense why a company structure like this is needed. Many dairy farmers in the state could be multi-generational, but they may not have the logistics and training to bring their product to market. Santa Clara fills many roles including training, testing, and pricing. The training helps farmers using older techniques realize potentially higher quality and yields from their herds. The testing helps to ensure a minimum quality and fills a hole as a quality regulator that is not actively filled by the Brazillian government. Pricing also allows farmers to better forecast what they believe they will make off of their product that year. The structure of the cooperative also allows for long time members to gain equity interests in the company. This incentivizes farmers to remain in the cooperative. 

While we were in Rio de Janeiro, we were treated to an incredible experience of visiting the Olympic Park. The guards at the facilities allowed us to roam around and take in the sights of the once populated stadiums. It demonstrated to me the burden of hosting the Olympics can have on a country. None of the facilities were in regular use, and the area was patrolled by a skeleton crew of guards. We were shown the basketball stadium along with a cycling track. After we had finished exploring, Dr. A told us what he had learned from one of the guards. The cycling track was the only facility that was being used. It was used by a single cyclist for training. The government spends over six figures monthly just to air condition the track. If they were to stop air conditioning the facility, the wooden track would degrade due to the heat and humidity. Dr. A was correct in describing the Olympic Games as a white elephant to the people of Brazil.

We were also given the opportunity to have a day of soccer and good food in the south of Brazil. We showed up in the early morning and right away got to playing soccer on a small field in the back of the complex. I am not the most coordinated with my feet, but I had a lot of fun trying to steal the ball away from Dr. A whenever he had it. After playing a couple games with plenty of water breaks, we rode in Dr. A’s friends’ farm trucks down to a waterfall and pond. Going for a swim after playing soccer for a few hours was extremely refreshing. Immediately after that we were able to enjoy a wonderful lunch prepared by Dr. A’s friends. The meats and sides were amazing and made the day one of the most memorable of the trip.  

One topic I would wish to touch on as I wrap up this blog post is the power of communication. In my sales focused classes when I was in Industrial Distribution, they touched on how simple miscommunication can lead to a breakdown in business relationships or assumptions of malice. The importance of communication was proven in our trip. When I had the opportunity to travel in Europe, many of the people in the areas I traveled spoke English as a second language. In the regions we traveled in Brazil, it was far more common for people to speak Spanish as a second language. This makes sense since interactions with English-only speakers are probably minimal. As we tried to get by with a few Portuguese phrases and gesturing, I noticed something interesting about what we do when we realize the other person did not understand us. The first thing we would do was start talking faster and over explaining. This obviously did not help the situation. The second thing we would do would be to become slightly frustrated at the situation. I think this greatly reflects how we sometimes behave even when there is a miscommunication in our native language.

Having the opportunity to experience Brazilian culture, business, and cuisine during my winter break was an unforgettable experience that will go down as a highlight of my college career. I am so glad I chose to apply and commit to this trip. Thank you Dr. A for an amazing two weeks in Brazil!

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

My time in Brazil was an absolutely unforgettable experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Through both the cultural and corporate visits, I learned much more than I could have ever imagined. Beyond this, I was able to take away so much by simply interacting with the locals and observing their day-to-day lifestyle. The contrast between Brazilian ideals and those found in America were shockingly different. 

Once we arrived in Sao Paolo, we were quite honestly exhausted from our travel day. However, this did not stop us from exploring the city and making the most of our every moment in Brazil. We embarked on a tour of the entire city and were able to see such beautiful sights, including the Catedral da Sé and the Banespa Building. After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed out again to Ibirapuera Park. We rented bicycles to look around the park and although these moments were simple, they were some of my favorites. The slight breeze and beautiful sights around us made me feel a sense of fulfillment. Then, we were off again to the Paulista Avenue. The twinkling lights lit up the city in a way that reminded me of New York City. I was interested in seeing how the two cities could be so similar. The next day, we were able to explore Beco de Batman. The graffiti walls were all unique from one another and created a colorful paradise around us. I really enjoyed interacting with the local vendors here, as they were all incredibly friendly and promoting their products.

With no time to waste, we boarded our flight to Porto Alegre and arrived in no time. From there, we departed on an hour-long bus ride to Caxias do Sul. This city was where we spent the majority of the trip. One of my favorite days was when we spent our afternoon at Bento Goncalves with many of Dr. A’s close friends. We were able to compete with one another in both soccer and futsal. Although I had never played either of these sports before, it was still a fun opportunity to play with the group. Then, we faced some unreal waterfalls. The journey down there was beautiful, as we rode down the hills and took a hike through the wilderness. Once we reached the waterfall, I was completely in awe. Quickly, we had to cross through the cascades through slippery rocks and harsh waters. Once we made it to the other side, though, we all felt a sense of pride. We spent a significant amount of time simply relaxing in the water and laughing with each other. These were some really great moments where we could just take in the beauty of our surroundings. We then hiked back up and were ready to indulge in some delicious Brazilian barbecue that Dr. A’s friends had so generously made for us. There was a variety of meat and, of course, potato salad that we were able to enjoy. This was such a special day for me because I was able to experience this Brazilian kindness first-hand.

Eventually, it was time to depart for Rio. Upon arriving, I was immediately mesmerized by the beauty in this city. We went to Copacabana Beach and spent the rest of the afternoon there. With not a phone in sight, we were simply living in the moment. We had some delicious acai bowls and quickly ran into the ocean. As the waves knocked us over, we looked above us and noticed the double rainbow in the sky with the mountains behind us. It’s hard to describe the beauty we experienced in that moment, but I know none of us will ever forget it. Another fascinating sight in Rio was Christ the Redeemer. As I stood in front of this statue, I really couldn’t believe what was in front of me. The blue sky and rolling mountains added even more beauty to this moment. We then visited the Olympic Village and were lucky enough to tour the facilities inside. It’s always been my dream to work for the Olympics, so this truly was a special moment. To see the Olympic gymnastics gym, basketball courts, tennis courts, and bicycle track was beyond words. The security guards there were incredibly friendly and were quick to welcome us to the village. As the sun was coming down, we went to Sugarloaf Mountain. Looking from above over the beautiful city of Rio was unbelievable. 

Our corporate visits to Santa Clara, Tramontina, Aurora, and FGV all provided insight to Brazilian business culture that will benefit me when considering international business as a whole. Jessica at Santa Clara allowed us to see their dairy products and truly understand the entire process behind creating their products. She explained that farmers who have been members for over 25 years begin to receive back membership fees. As a result, Santa Clara has consistent membership numbers. Technological innovation, such as robotic milking, has increased amount of litres produced for the company. At Aurora, we were able to fully immerse into the wine tasting and see their many barrels of wine. FGV gave us a different perspective on universities in Brazil because the size of this school was significantly smaller than universities we were accustomed to. Tramontina really captured my attention because they produce a wide array of home appliances, ranging from outlets to knives. They have a global impact, serving in 121 countries with 17 units abroad and 18,000 international products. We were given the opportunity to look around the factory and I was amazed by how spacious it was. The workers seemed productive and invested in their work. We were able to observe the process of how so many products are mass produced through robotics. I was interested in finding out their emphasis on solid waste management, with only less than one percent of waste. They also use rainwater for bathrooms and machines. Everyone at the company welcomed us with open arms, which I really appreciated. Each and every one of these companies opened my eyes to an entirely new world of business.

I was definitely nervous to go on this trip at first. The idea of spending two weeks in a new country with a group of people I barely knew had me feeling a little hesitant. I sought the comfort of home and questioned if I had made the right decision. However, the moment I arrived at the airport all of my worries were eased. I realized these “strangers” were an incredibly friendly group of students and many had the same concerns I did. Over the course of the next two weeks, we spent day in and day out with each other. We’ve definitely built a bond that’s hard to build in such a short period of time. Together, we experienced endless buffets with potato salad, shopping malls, caipirinhas, and long bus rides. We will always have this trip to look back on and I now have 17 more friendly faces to see when walking around the halls of Mays Business School.

If any student is ever given the opportunity to Study Abroad, I without a doubt recommend the experience. Being back in the United States for only a few days, I already wish I could go back to Brazil. Every time someone asks me how the trip was, I find it hard to express how much I enjoyed my time there. After all, It’s difficult to put into words that I had the time of my life and made some close friendships that I know will continue with me. Studying abroad is simply something one must experience for themselves to realize how impactful it can be, especially with Dr. A.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

Prior to the trip, I spent a combined five hours researching and trying to find out what I was getting myself into. I quickly realized that there are no words that can describe the beautiful landscapes, unique cultures, and amazing foods that Brazil has to offer. Every day was a new experience and every location we stayed was extremely different from the last. Aside from enjoying Brazil from a tourists perspective, I learned many things about doing business internationally and made lifelong friends. 

     My favorite company to visit by far was Tramontina, a Brazilian company headquartered in Carlos Barbosa, a city within Rio Grande do Sol. Tramontina is very similar to Ikea in the sense that it manufactures a huge quantity of relatively inexpensive medium quality goods. However, Tramontina is well known for making extremely high quality knives, which you can most likely find at your nearby steakhouse here in Texas. The employees are split into different departments based on what type of products they manufacture (i.e Lighting, Furniture, and Cutlery). There is friendly competition between each department to create the most profit for the company. Our group visited the headquarters, which specializes in Lighting and Fixtures. Our guide was able to show us the marketing process, RND, the actual manufacturing of the products, and how the products were stored and shipped. It was amazing to see the scale and efficiency of the plant/warehouse. The atmosphere within the company was extremely family centric and every single employee we talked to was genuinely happy to be working at Tramontina. The staff was extremely welcoming and accommodating to our group. Anyone above the age of 40 had at least 20 years experience with the company, and those younger employees had been working there since they left grade school. Nearly 40 percent of the town Tramontina is headquartered in (Carlos Barbosa) worked there. Once you worked at Tramontina, you did not leave. Tramontina also had its own store near the plant where you could buy any of its items (discounted for employees). Overall, Tramontina was extremely family oriented, had employees that had been working there since their teens, and was very welcoming to outsiders. 

     Culturally, Brazil is very different depending on the state you are in. During the trip we visited the states of São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sol and Rio de Janeiro. We only spent 2 days in São Paulo, so I will do my best to talk about my experiences within the other two states. The difference between the states of Rio Grande do Sol and Rio de Janeiro is similar to the difference between Texas and New York (each state is extremely different). In reality, it’s very hard to make a comparison that makes sense in the scope of the United States due to Brazil’s uniqueness, so take my analogy with a grain of salt. 

     While in Rio Grande do Sul, I found that most people liked Americans and wanted to talk about the differences between our two countries. People in the cities we stayed in were more worried about their personal business and did not seem to even notice our existence, but when we visited the mountainous region of Serra Guacha, in every place we stopped the people were extremely friendly. My favorite cultural visit while in Rio Grande do Sol was to a church on the countryside. Dr.A setup this visit with some of his close friends. We started the morning by playing soccer for nearly two hours! Soccer feels different in Brazil, and I had much more fun on Brazilian grass than I did on American soil. The time just flew by and I enjoyed playing on the field because I could see the beautiful landscape all around me. After soccer, we changed into our swimsuits and packed all twenty of us on extremely small jeeps that were designed to carry 4 people at max (this was part of the fun). We were then driven from the church to a waterfall and swimming hole about two miles away. We spent 2 hours enjoying the waterhole and were driven all the way back to the church thereafter. After nearly 4 hours of physical activity, our hosts served us our first taste of Brazilian BBQ. The quality of the meat is indescribable, and the food was endless. After eating for an hour, we went into the Church’s gym and played Futsal (basically soccer indoors) for another two hours. Throughout the entire day, I was extremely present and enjoying every moment unknowingly. All my worries about life ceased to exist and I just experienced everything. When I later asked Dr.A where he would stay if he could only pick one place to be for the rest of his life and he answered with that church on the countryside, I was not surprised.  

     Another equally unique place to be was Rio de Janeiro, a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro (confusing right?). Dr.A spent the entire day before we flew into Rio warning us about how dangerous the place was and all the necessary precautions we had to take. Upon leaving the airport and cramming into our extremely tiny unassuming bus, I realized why. People were staring at us constantly from the moment we stepped outside as if trying to figure out how to rob us. Dr.A told us to do the “Rio Cleanse” and get rid of any and all jewelry as well as leave anything of value (phones, wallets, headphones) at the hotel. We drove in a very small bus in an attempt to draw less attention to ourselves, and we had a very detailed plan everywhere we went. Every single building we went into had a security guard posted outside and we were not allowed to go anywhere the second it got dark. As bad as it sounds, it was extremely eye-opening to have this experience and made me realize I take simple safety for granted every single day. The world is not just the United States, and going through that experience really brought that idea home for me. I also reflected on the fact that there are parts of the U.S similar in danger to Rio, and I should not take my blessings for granted. With all that being said, Rio de Janeiro was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The view from the Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer cannot be described, and the unique architecture paired with the huge scale of the city cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The mix of Ocean, Mountains, Forests, Urban Buildings, and Favelas creates an environment unlike anything else in the world. If I were to go to Brazil again, I would have to stay in Rio for at least a week in order to spend more time at the Beach and take it all in. For the rest of my life I will never forget the view of Rio at night from the Sugar Loaf. 

     All in all, the value of this trip cannot be stated. I saw so many places that are unlike anything else in the world, and was able to go into places tourists are unable to go due to the expertise of Dr.A. I learned so much about business while in Brazil, but learned even more about life. I can’t recommend this trip enough, and if you are even remotely thinking about going, stop what you are doing and sign up.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

When I signed up for this trip, I began by viewing this as a senior trip with four of my best friends. I had a mindset that this was going to be a trip filled with as many company visits as slums, and there may some beautiful sights to makeup for the “boring” parts of the trip. But I could not have been more wrong; the four best friends I had going in turned into eighteen of my best friends, (yes, I got to spend some QUALITY time with Dr. A, too!) and some of the highlights of the trip happened to be company visits (and buffets, of course!)


Going into the trip, I knew we were going to a company that produced cheese – and that’s all I needed to know to be assured that I would love it. Santa Clara was absolutely one of the many highlights of the trip. For the first time, I had the opportunity to see the cultural differences between something I consume daily but don’t even think about – dairy products. Before this trip, milk was just an easy source of calcium and a beverage whose expiration date always arrived before I could finish the product. Now, however, I know that there is a magical milk that has a shelf life of two months. Although this thought is alarming to me, the shelf-life of milk was one of the first and most simple cultural differences I realized. Another interesting aspect of Santa Clara is the fact it’s a cooperative. (The oldest running cooperative in Brazil’s dairy segment, in fact.) I was not too familiar with what a cooperative was pre-Brazil, but I find the idea of many different groups of people coming together to excel a company is refreshing. Another aspect of Santa Clara I greatly appreciated was the salient care of its members. The company is aware that farmers are highly sought after; farmers are checked on a monthly basis by representatives of the company. Every company we visited brought a new perspective to how successful industries outside the US function, from manufacturing to education.


Although the companies were enlightening, the culture of Brazil itself taught me an endless amount. During the trip I unfortunately slipped and fell on my elbow, allowing me to see two different hospitals in Brazil. The first, and most unique experience, happened to be the free, public hospital. I went over a week ago and it still shocks me every single time I think about it; the entire visit, from seeing an orthopedic doctor to getting x-rays, didn’t cost me a penny. Although it wasn’t the highest quality hospital, it was quick. The public hospital gave me weak medicine and gauze as a sling; it was evident their focus was on helping as many people as possible, and their resources were not abundant. Another interesting aspect of the public hospital was the country-wide initiatives they are allowed to have. The most prominent and highly-advertised was HIV prevention. Every public hospital has free contraceptive and educational signs about the virus. From a doctor’s perspective, working at a public hospital in Brazil would give you the opportunity to see many different types of patients; the experience you’d gain would be unparalleled. The private hospital I went to was very comparable to a hospital experience in America; it was updated and tested my patience. The main difference, however, was the cost. The visit and CAT scan I had done were less than 100 USD combined. (The national average for a CAT scan in America is over 3,000 USD.) There was a nice pharmacy attached, where I was able to buy a better sling. After the trip, I went to an American physician assistant, who completely contradicted what both Brazilian doctors said. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and unfortunately my arm is nowhere near healed, so I am intrigued on who is right. Both hospitals had competent and caring staffs, just different resources. Entering the trip, I obviously didn’t know I would get to see the medical culture of Brazil, and I am fortunate I did.


One of the most tantalizing sites we went to was Rio’s Olympic Village. Walking into the village, I imagined myself in Simone Biles’ shoes, just three years before. We had the opportunity to go inside: the basketball court, the cycling gym, and the gymnasium, each one more curious than the last. Although this was a stellar site, I couldn’t help but be angered. Rio is bankrupt, yet this village is one of the priorities of the city. The last three governors are in prison, there are barely any functioning hospitals, and most employees that work for the government are not sure when they will receive their next paycheck. Yet, Rio’s Olympic Village has ample security and spends 500,000 USD a month air conditioning a single building in the village. As you can imagine, the village covers a vast space. The entire time we kept brainstorming the perspective businesses that could come out of the village, from amusement parks to schools to shopping malls. We were puzzled about how a government could neglect its people and value a building that two athletes train in. Overall, it was life-changing. We got to see the vast array of medals Americans won and experience first-hand how a developing country prioritizes its spending.


Although we ended the trip as a family, one of the most integral experiences on our first step towards getting there was the adventure of Bento Goncalves. On this day, I learned that I actually enjoy cardio if it’s with great friends and in beautiful scenery, and most important of all – head-butting a futsal ball is more painful than a regular soccer ball. Nonetheless, learning a new sport (especially one indoors) was incredibly fun. There were too many highlights to narrow down just one, so here they are: 1) THE COOKIE CAKE. Although the chicken Dr. A’s friends made was the best I’ve ever had, so was the dessert that followed. I had to lay down for twenty minutes to reflect on that life changing meal that I inhaled so quickly. 2) The grapes from vineyards. I could’ve sat all day looking at the Italian-style homes and wandering through the many rows of the vineyards eating those grapes. 3) THE WATERFALL. This was the most magical experience on the trip. This was the place where I knew my life would be changed for the better as a result of this trip. I didn’t know something that beautiful existed in real life. Although this day was early on, it was one that is etched into my memory forever.


I have had the pleasure of getting to travel to Europe multiple times, and I made the mistake of assuming Brazil would be comparable. I assumed that everyone in Brazil would know enough English for us to be able to communicate, and I met less than fifteen people the entire trip that could hold a conversation in English. Although most locals we encountered were friendly, the language barrier was more intense than I ever could have imagined. One of the best parts of going abroad is getting to know people who live where you are and hearing their stories, as well as sharing yours, but that can get difficult very quickly. If I have a piece of advice to students who have the pleasure on attending this trip in the future, learn some Portuguese. Brazilians want to hear your stories and about America and our culture (maybe you’ll convince them that Apple is better than Huawei!) Not being able to communicate put new perspective in my life. I now have a new patience with people who do not know my native tongue; it may be their first week in a new country too.


I am beyond lucky to have been able to attend the Brazil study abroad through Mays. From safety to tap water, I have taken many things for granted in my life that I will now think about more often. I would like to thank Dr. A, especially. Instead of shopping for Tramontina knives he was assisting me in multiple hospital visits, constantly asking me how I was doing, and being my personal translator.


I hope that anyone who is on the fence about going will take the chance; there are only so many times in your life you will get to see Holy Water dispensers, eat your heart out at authentic Brazilian barbeque, and make memories and friends that will surpass your time in college.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

Approaching the last few days before my trip to Brazil, I was becoming worried about being with 17 people I did not know much at all. However, within the second day after bonding through a 30-hour travel day, not being able to shower, not changing our clothes, and being completely exhausted touring Sao Paulo, everyone was instantly closer. Now that the trip is over, I am extremely glad that I went into this study abroad not knowing anyone, as this was such a great experience to get close with such an amazing group of people.

There are three words I would use to describe this study abroad: Buffet, Holiday, and Shopping Mall. Now let me explain these to give you a better understanding. I never had an appreciation for buffets, but after this trip my mindset is completely changed. The buffets in Brazil are nowhere near comparable to America, as there is always potato salad and cheese balls that were to die for. We mostly went to buffets, as this was the fastest and easiest for a group our size, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because it allowed me to get to try different meats and side dishes. During the time we were on the trip, it was holiday season, meaning less traffic, less people and less stores being open which was a win- lose situation. As far as shopping malls go, I do not remember the last time I went into that many malls, but this was honestly where most fun was made. We even went ice skating and I got too many scoops of Ferrero Rocher gelato, but the fun didn’t stop there.

Santa Clara was the first corporate visit we went on and it was amazing. All the way from dressing up head to toe in white coats, hair nets, and shoe covers, it was definitely an experience. Going from a room where it was hotter than a sauna, to a room where it was cold really put into perspective the type of work conditions their employees undergo daily. It was neat being able to see a milk truck deliver to Santa Clara. We watched an employee get on top of the truck to test the milks. I vividly remember how we were told that Brazil does not have many regulations, but Santa Clara themselves have many in order to assure the best quality. Not only did we get to tour the milk factory, but we also got to see the cheese. I am a cheese lover; therefore, getting to step into a room with thousands of cheeses was heaven for me. However, it was very tempting to not grab up the cheese and try a few. I had to grasp my hands tightly together to prevent me from doing so. We also got to see cheddar cheese that Santa Clara had ready to launch in January from America to see if Brazil has the same want for this type of cheese. The Santa Clara employee who was giving us the tour even allowed our group to hold a huge cheese slice and take a photo inside of the factory with it. Getting to sit down and learn about Santa Clara as a company was beneficial but getting the privilege to tour inside the factory was the cherry on top.

I knew going into this trip that Gramado would be one of my favorite aspects and I was not wrong. Gramado was one of our cultural visits that did not disappoint. Even though some shops were closed because it was a holiday, there was still so much to do and let me tell you about the German food. I thought all the barbeque was amazing, which it was, but the meal I had in Gramado was truly an authentic German meal that came with a whole experience. The town was beautiful in itself, but all the Christmas decorations made it even more magical. I wish towns similar to Gramado existed in the United States, as the German culture radiated once we drove up to the entrance and began to give off such a positive and happy environment. There was an abundance of shops that sold cute souvenirs and the best part was the fact that Gramado is known for their chocolatiers. Every corner you turned and just about every other shop there was a chocolatier like no others you have seen. There was one shop where you could get a chocolate bowl, scoop your ice cream, add toppings and then dip from a chocolate fountain to add onto your bowl. It was truly an experience. At that same chocolate shop, you could choose between milk or white chocolate and then you could personalize chocolate bar wrappers with your name on it. I got a handful of these to take back home to friends and family as a small souvenir. To top of the day here, we got to watch a Christmas show in downtown. Although it was in Portuguese, Dr. A was translating everything as best as he could. During the show, the town lit up and it even snowed! After this show, we headed to a seated show filled with fireworks, cannons, dancers, opera singers, and much more while telling the story of Christ and then tying in Santa Clause at the end. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Another cultural event that really stood out to me was Beco Do Batman. I had googled pictures of this area prior to the trip and I thought it was merely just walls with graffiti on it, but boy was I wrong. I was definitely not expecting this cultural event to be as amazing as it was. There were numerous streets that were filled with graffiti, but not the graffiti you think of when you hear that word. This graffiti was beautiful art that covered the walls leaving numerous photo opportunities. Along with the artwork throughout the streets, there were tons of vendors selling unique items. These were not your average tourist souvenirs; it was authentic items hand made in Brazil. I got a reversible headband and a few tops that you would not be able to find in the United States. We did not have as much time as I would have wanted in this area, but I am grateful for the time that I did get. We even went to a convenient store a few streets down where we spent quite a while going up and down the candy and chocolate isle, as foreign candy is always such a huge interest for me. It was extremely eye opening to see how streets with graffiti were transformed into a mini market full of locals and smiling people, whereas in the states I would not have thought an area like Beco Do Batman would’ve thrived like it does in Brazil.

An experience that I won’t forget in Brazil was Tramontina’s T-Store. The corporate visit was very educating and eye-opening to how their factory runs, as I got to see the machines working right in front of me. However, I was not expecting their T-Stores to be as fun as it was. Dr. A hyped their stores up for sure, but I really did not know what to expect until I stepped foot into the store myself. Turns out, I got five engraved knives from here and did not want to leave the robot. You got to choose the knife, type out anything that you wanted engraved on it, and then got to watch the engraving happen right in front of you. Something that stood out to me was how they allowed you to pick up your knife once it was engraved and walk it back to the employee where they cleaned it. This was a culture shock to me because in the United States I feel as though not many stores would be that trustworthy for safety precautions.

A day that really shocked me in all aspects was when we went and played futsal, soccer, and went into a waterfall. I played soccer when I was around five years old, but never had a passion for it; therefore, I did not think this day would be of much interest for me. However, with that being said, I had so much fun playing soccer and futsal. Even though some say it was an illegally done, I scored a goal in futsal! I never realized how verbal I could be until I got on the field playing futsal scared that I was going to be trampled over by some of the taller guys, but I just tried to maintain confidence. I actually wanted to continue playing more games, but everyone else was ready to leave. During this same day we all plied into two small jeeps. I don’t think I would have ever done anything like this in America because I would have been worried with it flipping over. We took about a 10-minute scenic drive across water, through trees and up and down hills to get to a beautiful waterfall. Once at the location of the waterfall, we hiked down for about five minutes until we could see and hear the water. We all linked arms, fully trusting each other, and began to trek across the freezing waterfall. I was near the end of the group and after a few seconds of being under the water, I started to have a panic attack from the shock of the water, and I could barely catch my breath. After holding up the whole group, it was decided that the water was too rough, so we all swam in the calmer parts instead. After we were exhausted from the waterfall, we trekked back and got to stop at a vineyard along the way where we could pick the grapes and eat them, as well as getting to see a hot pink Volkswagen. Once we returned, we were treated so kindly by Dr. A’s friends. They served us all sorts of barbeque, just as if we were at a fancy restaurant. They had potato salad (of course), bread and other sides and drinks already on the table. They would come around minute after minute graciously trying to feed us more! These were some of the nicest people I have come encounter with!

On a more serious note, on one of our last days in Rio we got to go to the Olympic Village where security guards allowed us to walk through and explore. The guards even let us get water from inside and took us on our own private tour. These men were extremely nice, more than happy to show us around, and always had a smile on their face. Come to find out, they were not getting paid; however, they still show up every day to work on time and in their uniform in hopes that they will eventually get paid. As we were leaving the village, I sat back in my seat of the bus and thought quietly to myself. I realized how much is taken for granted in America, such as jobs. Also, most Americans would not accept that situation nor continue to go to work knowing they were not getting paid and most definitely not do it happily. I felt all sorts of emotions for these men and I was truly inspired. Inspired by such positivity that was radiated off from them, as if you saw these security guards, you would never have thought that they weren’t getting paid to do their job.

All the way from flooding my bathroom on the first night from not unplugging the drain, to using too much electricity causing the converter to spark and electricity to go out, all the way to hearing your neighbors sing loudly each morning while I was also getting ready, this is a trip I will never forget. I will say that being back in the states, it is weird not being able to speak my mind knowing the person next to me can’t understand my language, being able to flush toilet paper again, and not always having an abundance of meat in front of me. Two weeks was too short of a trip for me. I would go back in a heartbeat, but only with Dr. A.

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

As I applied to the program, I had no idea what to expect, this trip was about to become my second time abroad so you can say I was excited and nervous all at the same time. I was basing my ideologies of this country on the Disney movie Rio, you know the one with the birds. Brazil proved to be that and much more with it’s beautiful beaches, delicious food, exotic fruits, and humble citizens. 


After our long trip from Houston we were finally here and I couldn’t be more amazed. I don’t think I have ever seen so much green like I did in Brazil. The first city we hit was São Paulo here we visited a couple banks, got some ice cream to cool off, and had our first Brazilian buffet, one of many! In the evening Dr.A took us down to Ibirapuera Park were we rented bikes and zoomed through the bike lanes passing so many dedicated families with their children enjoying a nice day out. While my time in the park I noticed Brazilians are very family oriented and enjoy different outdoor activities. Day 1 in São Paulo was over and couldn’t wait to see what Dr.A had planned for us. By the way, if you ever find yourself in Brazil and don’t know where to go or what to do, call this man he will keep you busy! Our second day in São Paulo was even more amazing than the first, in the morning Dr.A drove us to see some murals, we were fascinated by the different colors and patterns these artists used. 


It was only Day 3 and I thought I had seen it all, of course, I was wrong. We were now in a new city, Bento Goncalves, here Dr.A introduced us to some childhood friends of his. They invited us to their community center where they had 2 huge Futbol fields, a small chapel, and an event room for the residents to spend time together. We split into groups and had an intense match against each other lucky for me, Dr.A was in my team. By the second game we were all tired and drained little did we know there was a surprise waiting. 2 of the residents came down with tractors and took us down the hill into a river. We made a small hike and that’s when I saw it, my first waterfall it was an amazing view, trees surrounding it, big rocks around the river I was mesmerized with the view. We walked alongside the rocks and behind the waterfalls, soon after we jumped and swam on what felt like heaven. On our way back to the community center we stopped to grab some grapes, hands down best grapes I’ve ever eaten. Once in the community center the residents had an amazing lunch for us: BBQ and not you regular Texas BBQ this was more Brazilian Steakhouse BBQ. It was a day of laughter, fun, and games. 


It was New Year’s Eve and we started the year on a good note, we ran a 4 mile marathon with the Carlos Barbosa community. We saw kids, teens, adults, and senior citizens all coming together for this marathon, it was definitely worth it. We received a participation medals and we couldn’t feel more welcome by the community. After the last person crossed the finish line we had a champion lunch with the rest of the community in a big hall as always, the food never disappointed. While in Carlos Barbosa we were also given the opportunity to visit Tramontina’s headquarters. Tramontina is one of the dominant companies of Brazil and it manufactures almost everything from kitchen supplies to home appliances. One of the employees explained how Tramontina is a big technological company and this was proven during our tour they had hundreds of robots working different tasks to manufacture one item. They explained that they have these robots so their employees could focus on more complex positions that will further help the company accomplish its goal. 


We visited a very peculiar city, Gramado. This city has a strong German influence and this was reflected in the building’s architecture, food, and cyti’s vibe. We saw multiple chocolate factories and stores. The scenery this city gave off was one for the books. While my time in Gramado I earned that Brazilias are very big on Christmas and New Year’s, Dr.A explained that a lot of businesses close for long periods of time to fully celebrate this holiday. While in Gramado we were able to experience a Christmas performance.  This performance wasn’t only amazing it shared a beautiful message about the true meaning of Christmas. We saw fire, fireworks, and heard some beautiful singers sing Christmas carols. We had one more stop before heading to Rio de Janeiro, in the morning Dr.A took us to a private catholic school, here we were greeted by the school’s principal and had our questions answered. It was fascinating to see the difference in education systems, after a tour of the school we headed to some vineyards. As we drove into the region you could see the acres and acres of grapes perfectly lined up. We visited and toured Aurora a famous and huge winery, during our tour we were walked through the process of producing wine, from the picking of the grapes to packaging the finished product. 


It was finally happening, we were headed to Rio de Janeiro. From the plane I was able to spot Christ the Redeemer and even though it was in the distance it was beautiful. We headed to the hotel to put on our beach gear on and we were on our way to Copacabana Beach. The view from the beach was breathtaking, you could see buildings followed by beautiful mountains around it nothing I had even seen before, nothing like Galveston. There were so many people around with their chairs and big umbrellas, there were vendors who were selling just about anything, and families simply having fun. I got a taste of açai for the first time and it doesn’t compare to any dessert in the states. I made sure my time at Copacabana was well spent and I did so by jumping into the strong waves submerging myself into the water. After we captured our pictures, had açai, and swam Dr.A decided to take us to another beach a couple blocks away, we missed the sunset but we still had a beautiful view of the sky. Day 2 in Rio was also magical, we started off our day by visiting Christ the Redeemer. The statue stands tall and proud looking down at the city it takes care of so much. Pictures could not do justice to what my eyes were experiencing at that moment but I still got some nice shots.  


I am grateful for the day I decided to submit my application to this program. I started 2020 with a new global experience and an amazing group of friends. Dr.A, thank you for all those hours you took to plan this trip, thank you for always caring for us throughout the trip, and thank you for all the memories created here, you are the best! Obrigada Dr.Andre Araujo!

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection

Whether you are looking for a place to visit for vacation or study abroad you have come to the right place to read first-hand experience from the best study abroad I have ever had. Personally, when I signed up for the Brazil study abroad program, I knew I wanted to travel to South America and let’s be honest, the idea of having two summer vacations sounded like a fantastic deal. Furthermore, throughout the fall semester, before the trip, our group spent time preparing for our study abroad through presentations and research. Every meeting we learned about various businesses and cultures in Brazil which made me so excited to finally experience everything first-hand. Not to mention, Dr. A is originally from Brazil and I was able to personally observe his love and passion for his home which radiated to all of us. I can say with a full heart my experience in Brazil with Dr. A and the friends I traveled with was an adventure I encourage everyone to embark on!    


Everything I saw and witnessed in Brazil is extremely challenging to put into words and no matter how much imagery or analogies I use, one will never be able to understand the breathtaking view of the striking colors of hydrangeas, walking the vibrant stairs of Selaron, or experiencing the heart-wrenching feeling of standing five feet away from Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil. Personally, I want you to get the most out of this blog and what you can expect if you do the Brazil Study Abroad Program. Most importantly, I hope you are able to feel my new found love for Brazil, their culture, and life as I try and articulate my words to convey the beauty that is Brazil. 


We landed in Sao Paulo on December 27, 2019, exhausted from the plane ride, but my adrenaline was pumping because of my excitement to finally be in Brazil. My first impression of Brazil was motorcycles. Yes, you read right, motorcycles. As we were driving to our hotel in Sao Paulo I saw a motorcycle zip in and out of cars on a highway, and the first thought that came to my mind was, “well, that’s not very safe or considerate.” Then, the next thing I know I see about 20 other motorcycles doing the same thing.  I was in astonishment. I don’t know why this particular experience stands out to me so much, I suppose it’s because I have never seen anything like it and I know in Texas you would get a mighty hefty fine for the same action. The next thing that stood out to me the most was their eating regiments and concept of time. Let me tell you, Brazilians eat a lot, but they are also always outside and exercising, rather than sitting on the couch watching Netflix like most Americans do during our Summer. Furthermore, it was challenging to adapt from a culture in the realm of business which is constantly working and going 90 to nothing, to a culture that takes time to build personal relationships rather than chasing money and success. Brazilians take the time to get to know one another on a deeper level.  They desire to know you as an individual not just qualifications that can be met with a few weeks of training. This is a characteristic I thoroughly enjoyed getting to observe and I hope to take back to use it personally as I begin my own career. As I stayed longer in Brazil, I slowly started to become adapted to the differences in lifestyles and found myself immersed in the culture. 


One of my favorite things about Brazil is the peace and serenity you feel from looking at the breathtaking landscaping, vibrant greenery, and picturesque towns/villages. A place that encompassed all of these is the State of Rio Grande Do Sul, the cowboy state, in which we arrived on December 28, 2019. In this state we stayed in Caxias do Sul and went to various surrounding towns such as Carlos Barbosa, Farroupilha, Garibaldi, and Gramado. My favorite thing we did there was when we went to Bento Gonçalves and played soccer with an unbelievable mountain view. After playing soccer for a while, some of Dr. A’s friends drove us in the bed of trucks and jeeps to a hidden swimming hole with a waterfall. The scenery itself was enough to make my jaw drop. If you have ever been to any swimming holes in Texas like, Jacobs Well, Hamilton Pool Reserve, or Krause Spring, it somewhat resembles these, but not the surrounding mountain terrain or rushing waterfall. The waterfall and swimming hole was my favorite experience I had while studying abroad. Personally, I love being in nature and experiencing this miraculous place is something I will never forget. 


We spent ten days in the cowboy state in which we were able to do multiple corporate visits such as Santa Clara, Tramontina, Sagrado, and Aurora. My favorite company visit while in the State of Rio Grande Do Sul was Tramontina, located in Carlos Barbosa. Tramontina is a well known Brazillian company that produces cookware, home appliances, and culinary utensils. Even Tramontina knives are used at Texas Roadhouses, so the quality of the products are pristine. Tramontina is well known for being a family company founded in 1911. There were a few things about this company which really stood out to me. For example, 20% of the population in Carlos Barbosa works for Tramontina and it is a life-long career. Another thing that stood out to me was the manufacturing building itself.  The floors were all wooden were the employees worked to give them a sense of feeling at home. Not to mention, the manufacturing facility we walked through was constructing electrical appliances and the facility was almost flawlessly clean. To try and put it in perspective for you, the Tramontina manufacturing facility is like the equivalent to the cleanliness and luxury of a Buc-ee’s bathroom. Just from these visual characteristics, I was truly able to sense the family-oriented atmosphere Tramontina strives to achieve. Another thing I found impressive was how Tramontina marketed their products to the public. Instead of placing billboards and banners along highways advertising their products, they built their own malls called T-Stores where they only sell Tramontina products. Tramontina is overcoming barriers in production with robotic production, and reusing waste allotting for only a 1% waste loss margin. It has a growth of 20% a year and is expected to be the most profitable unit next year. Tramontina was a very fascinating company to learn about and I am excited to see where they go in the future. 


From the State of Rio Grande Do Sul, we flew to Rio de Janeiro on January 6, 2020. Here we went to the famous Copacabana beach, ate Acai bowls and watched two gorgeous rainbows appear with a scenic view of mountains and Sugarloaf. We also went to see Christ the Redeemer, and I was in awe of the view of the ocean, mountains, and statue of Jesus Christ. Standing before an enormous statue of my personal savior, Jesus Christ was extremely humbling for me. The massive size of it was humbling and really conveyed how much religion really means to Brazilians. 


On our last day, we did a corporate visit at FGV, which is a think-tank located in the heart of Rio with an interest in collecting some of the brightest minds and molding them in order to make Brazil a better place. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the education system in Brazil, especially with regard to higher education. FGV is a well respected higher education institution all throughout Brazil and is the 7th best think tank in the world. FGV is technically not a university, which I thought was really interesting. It is more of a think-tank where intellectual individuals collaborate and brainstorm solutions to pressing problems. Furthermore, FGV’s main objective is not about making a profit, the think-tank generates money from their consulting, economics, press, and education. The atmosphere of the school was exceptionally unique due to its mission, buildings, and purpose as a whole.  


Overall, everything I experienced in Brazil was beyond remarkable.  I am so thankful for Dr. A and the Mays Business School for allowing all of us to embark on this adventure together. There are definitely some characteristics of the Brazillian lifestyle I am taking back to Texas with me. I’ve packed lifelong memories of their lively personalities, personability, love for one another, and of course, the five extra pounds from all the Brazillian BBQ. I hope to encourage anyone who is looking into Study Abroad programs at Mays to apply for this one!

Categories: 2020 On-site Blogs: Reflection