By Raymond D. De Leon
Master’s Student in Criminal Justice
Growing up in a working class family, there were many places I saw in books and magazines that I dreamed of one day visiting. Brazil topped the list as one of those destinations, but I never thought I would actually ever get to go. So when the opportunity came to take part in a study abroad trip to Brazil, I couldn’t pass it up.
I, along with six other students from the School of Criminal Justice, spent ten days in Brazil. It was an amazing experience, not only for the educational and cultural value, but also because it was my first time out of the country.
The first portion of our trip was spent in the city of Belo Horizonte. We had the opportunity to attend seminars at the University Federal de Minas Gerais led by criminal justice researchers that are influencing public policy on a variety of issues, including jail overcrowding, the juvenile justice system, and data collection. We also visited one of their police stations and their juvenile justice center and witnessed a jury selection for an attempted murder trial.
Another highlight of the trip was visiting several favelas. Favelas are lower socioeconomic neighborhoods in Brazil that often sit side by side more affluent neighborhoods. In Belo, the favela of St. Lucia, where there is a high rate of homicide, the organization Fica Vivo (Stay Alive) targets young men ages 12-24 (the at-risk demographic) to get involved in sports and art activities instead of gangs. In Rio de Janeiro, the favela of Babilona is dealing with gentrification as the rising cost of living in Rio is causing many middle-class families to move into the favelas, displacing many longtime residents.
While the entire trip is one I will never forget, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer was number one on my list. To be able to see with my own eyes this amazing figure that oversees all of Rio de Janeiro is something I cannot fully describe in words. I highly encourage everyone reading this to take advantage of study abroad opportunities. This trip has given me the travel bug, and I look forward to taking many more trips in the near future.