Brazil Study Abroad
This summer, I studied at the University of Sao Paulo in Sao Carlos for three weeks. With 10 other students from Texas A&M, and approximately 25 students from USP, I took classes in Systems and Signals and Linear Control Systems from a Texas A&M Professor. In addition to 2 full courses, we had the opportunity to visit surrounding attractions like a plantation-style historic coffee farm, and Brotas, the adventure capital of Brazil. After our classes, we visited Rio de Janeiro for 10 days, and we were able to experience another type of culture that was uniquely different from Sao Carlos.
Although the classes passed quickly, I believe I learned a lot from them, and I believe I will retain the technical knowledge to use in future classes. I appreciated that we went straight to the core of each class. In addition to lectures, we also took afternoon MATLAB classes that showed us how to apply the mathematical concepts we covered to real life problems and scenarios. These classes cemented the theory and the importance of what we learned in our morning lectures. The environment we were in turned these classes into a totally different experience from other classes at A&M. Living, learning, and studying with the same 10 students forced us to develop collaborative work ethics. We helped each other with homework problems, and explained concepts and algorithms to each other. Although all of our work was individual, it really felt like a collaborative effort.
In addition to the actual classes, I learned a lot of teamwork and communication skills from my time in Brazil. The language barrier was a challenge I thought I was prepared for after having 6 years of Spanish classes, and 3 months of studying Portuguese on my own. Although I knew what I wanted to say when I had time to think about it, I was surprised by the challenge of coming up with things to say on the spot, and holding a conversation. It definitely made me reconsider the importance of being clear and succinct in my communication.
Another challenge I did not expect was that of living and working with the same people for 29 days. I usually do homework and study on my own, so I had to find a balance between my regular habits and the collaborative environment we were forced in to. I did not have any issues with specific people, but sometimes I found it overwhelming to be around the same individuals for so long every day. I think this experience helped me develop better collaboration skills, and better understand myself and my strengths and limits in group settings.
Overall, I had a great experience, and I would go back in a heartbeat if I were given the opportunity. It is fascinating to emerge yourself in another culture, and I am grateful we had the opportunity to do so, rather than just visiting tourist attractions. I made friends with Brazilians that I plan to keep up with, and I developed close relationships with the other Texas A&M students on the trip.