Over 30 Brazilian exchange students have swapped Brazil’s warm sunshine for the bitter Canberra cold.
Brazil’s new Science Without Borders program aims to send Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students overseas for a year to broaden and develop their skills.
The program started last year, but it has expanded into a global network that includes all of Australia’s Group of Eight universities. Brazil plans to send over 75,000 students from around Brazil overseas in the next 4 years.
Successful program applicants have their university fees fully paid, and are given a A$1,100 monthly allowance.
“I don’t think I would be living at college if I didn’t receive this money,” said Matheus Portela, who is a mechatronics engineering student.
The experience has been a major culture shock. “In Brazil, I have 18 different calculus classes. There are only 50 people per class,” Matheus said.
He clocks on average 30 contact hours per week in Brazil, and said that he is readjusting to weekly tutorials and large classes.
ANU students have welcomed the influx of exchange students with open arms. ‘It’s nice having some South American flair at ANU. Everyone’s hoping they play soccer for us!” second year student Jess Hioe said.
The aspirations of the program are tied to Brazil’s economic and social development. “Brazil sends the students overseas to get the best possible training to help build the economy for the 21st century,” said Dr Tom Chodor, who recently completed his PhD on Latin American development.
Investment in human capital is central to Brazil’s economy. “It enables them to be competitive in the new market economy. This ensures that when they join the workforce, they are not disadvantaged.”
“The Brazilians have always seen themselves as a future superpower and now it’s time is here,” Dr Chodor added. “Brazil came out of the Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed and has experienced consistent economic growth. For the first time, more than half of Brazil’s population is middle class.”
The signs are all positive. Brazil is a G20 member and has considerable lobbying power in the World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund. Data shows that many are moving from countries such as Spain and Portugal to Brazil. Politically, Brazil is pushing for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Whatever the future holds, the Brazilians are making most of their time at ANU. “I’m really enjoying it here and we’re planning trips around Australia in the holidays,” Matheus said.
Maybe they’ll have picked up an Aussie twang by the time they return to Brazil.