Yale Students Spend a Summer in Brazil

September 26, 2014

“Study abroad in Brazil!” says Mitzi Unda-Sosa ’17, one of the 30 students who learned Portuguese and explored Brazil this summer through the Yale Summer Session program. “I had an amazing time living there, learning the language and making friends along the way.”

In its 10th year, Yale Summer Session in Brazil is one of the 37 international summer courses offered by Yale. Spanning 19 countries, they offer students an immersive learning environment and the opportunity to experience another culture first-hand.

Yale Summer Session in Brazil has two, eight-week programs. The beginner program offers daily language classes in Portuguese for Romance Language Speakers and a course of Brazilian cultural history. Students spend three weeks in New Haven before heading to the historic colonial town of Paraty. For their final four weeks, they move to Rio de Janeiro and live with a host family. The second program offers daily languages classes of intermediate Portuguese. Students live first in São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo with Brazilian undergraduates from Universidade Estadual de São Paulo (UNESP), before spending their last weeks in Rio.

“Initially, living with Brazilians after only four weeks of Portuguese seemed daunting. However, it motivated me to try my hardest and my conversation skills improved immensely as a result,” says Unda-Sosa. “Plus, I quickly made Brazilian friends, who introduced me to the city and culture from their perspective.”

Outside of class, the program organizes city tours, museum visits, and lectures by visiting Brazilian scholars. In Paraty, students took a cooking class with local master chefs and a class on the Brazilian martial art capoeira, which combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music.

This year’s World Cup games added an extra level of excitement, as students attended games or watched them on big screens at Copacabana Beach. “It was great to follow teams during the Cup,” says Visiting Assistant Professor of Portuguese Elizabeth Jackson. “And it wasn’t just about the US and Brazil. Our group had students from France, England, and Mexico, so we had plenty to celebrate.” She says even the student from Argentina enjoyed a little bit of friendly rivalry along the way.

According to K. David Jackson, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Portuguese, the program welcomes students of all majors. “While students come from various departments across campus, they finish the summer with a newfound appreciation for Brazilian language and culture,“ he says.

Once back on campus in the fall, students often continue to study Portuguese. Some eventually return to Brazil to volunteer, intern, or conduct research. Paul Elish ‘15, who participated in the program in 2013, returned to Rio de Janeiro this spring with the Yale International Relations Association (YIRA). He says his host mother, who embraced him as her filho americano during his stay, had the whole organization over for dinner.

Raul Monraz ’17 similarly hopes to return, saying, “I feel there is still a lot more to discover about Brazil.”

-By Isadora Italia