By Special Correspondent to the Blog: Ben Kantner, A.C.E. Program Development Brazil
Earlier in March 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil to represent A.C.E. Language Institutes. Although I have spent considerable time in Brazil both as a student and for A.C.E., this trip gave me the opportunity to meet with students and partners in 2 new cities, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba, as well as return to São Paulo.
My trip began in Belo Horizonte, a city surrounded by beautiful green mountains in the famous mining state of Minas Gerais. The end of summer brings rains across the southeast of Brazil and I was greeted with an energetic mix of thunderstorms and sunshine. In Belo Horizonte, I was able to meet with one of our Brazilian partners as well as two former A.C.E. students: Ana Clara and Leandro. Both studied with A.C.E. as part of the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP); Ana Clara with A.C.E. at Montana State University location and Leandro with A.C.E. at the University of Rhode Island. These A.C.E. alumni really made me appreciate the impact our English programs have on students: these alumni spoke of both incredible cultural experiences in addition to excellent English classes.
Next I headed south to Curitiba. Curitiba has been compared to Seattle: environmentally-conscious, a comfortable quality of life, and even a cold climate, by Brazilian standards of course. Following a trip to the Atlantic Rainforest town of Morretes with Paula, a former student from A.C.E. at Seattle Pacific University, I met with over a hundred prospective students at a student fair in Curitiba. Paula joined me in talking with these students, as there is no better representative for A.C.E. than one of our former students! In talking with Paula about her time in Seattle studying with A.C.E., it reminded me much of my own experience studying abroad and of the perspective-changing benefits of engaging a different culture. Time spent in a new and distant culture seems to accelerate our own personal development. Both Paula and I felt that our time abroad expanded our awareness and cultural understanding. Lifelong connections with friends we would otherwise have never encountered was another result of our decision to study in a foreign country.
My final stop of the three weeks was São Paulo. The São Paulo metropolitan area is massive with a population of almost 20 million! It is a very intimidating place to visit for the first time, so thankfully I was familiar, having studied in the region previously. For me, returning to São Paulo is an opportunity to connect with my former host family, my study abroad university, and talk about A.C.E. with prospective students. In addition to meeting with old and new agency partners, I attended another student fair. This time, the fair lasted two days with close to 300 students visiting our booth—thankfully, I received a lot of help from some of our São Paulo alumni! I was accompanied by former A.C.E. students from Seattle Pacific University, Montana State University, and the University of Rhode Island. Once again, it was clear that studying English in the USA had impacted these alumni beyond improving language skills. Sabrina, Guilhereme, and Isabella each had excellent English, but it was even more exciting to hear about their overall cultural experience. In addition to gaining technical English skills, they had learned much about the culture of the United States, traveled to various cities and states, and developed friendships with both Americans and other A.C.E. students from around the world. Now, back in Seattle at A.C.E.’s Central Office, I continue to remind myself of our alumni whom I met in Brazil: we truly have a special impact on our students and are indeed fulfilling our mission of making the world your community.