My Brazil Experience – A Reflection (by Andrea ‘Andie’ Krumrey, 2020)
Blake Parrish, January 18th, 2020
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