By Alfredo Ramirez
Master’s Student in International Studies
I am a graduate student in the International Studies master’s program and a Boren Fellow. My Boren Fellowship has given me the amazing opportunity to study Portuguese in Brazil for the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 academic year. In preparation, I also attended a six-week intensive Portuguese program at the Summer Languages Institute at the University of Chicago. I am using a blog to document my experiences in Brazil as part of my work with the graduate program at the Center for International Studies at Texas State University.
I am currently staying in the city Florianópolis, the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, with a population of around 500,000 people and estimated total metropolitan area of over 1 million. My host institution here is the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), a top Brazilian institution and one of several universities in the city. It has over 35,000 students enrolled in 106 undergraduate degree programs, 82 master’s degree programs, and 55 doctoral degree programs. This makes for a vast and vibrant academic community which I very much appreciate. My studies are organized through a Texas State University study abroad affiliate, called the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), who has a student exchange agreement with UFSC. This means that while I am here, I am a guest student of UFSC and can utilize the on-campus restaurant, library, computer labs, and other services.
Florianópolis is known throughout South America for its natural beauty. The city is situated on a sub-tropical island connected to the mainland by bridge. There are endless opportunities for beautiful hikes, world-class surfing, boating tours, fishing, trail runs, sandboarding, scuba, etc. My time will be divided between language study, cultural immersion, and language practice while interacting with all the various natural wonders.
While I am here, I am available to the Texas State community and will be more than happy to take questions on anything related to living, learning, culture, business, or day-to-day activities that I can research for you while in Brazil:
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.
By Zane Wubbena
Doctoral Candidate in School Improvement
Front to back: Zane Wubbena, Angie Wang and Peter McLaren at the Vault Kitchen and Market in Savannah, GA
On February 25, 2017, I presented a paper titled “Visually Framing a Pedagogy for Space during the 2011 Chilean Student Movement” (forthcoming in Policy Futures in Education) at the 5th Annual Critical Media Literacy Conference held in Savannah, GA. Without the financial assistance of the Graduate Student Travel Funds, my attendance at this conference would not have been possible.
Academic conferences provide invaluable opportunities for encounters that enrich academic experiences beyond the university. For example, I was able to speak at great length with Peter McLaren, a world-renowned critical scholar and one of the founders of critical pedagogy (along with Paulo Freire and Henri Giroux). Dr. McLaren is currently a Professor of Critical Studies at Chapman University and Co-Director of The Paulo Freire Democratic Project. He is also Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Miami University of Ohio. The dinner, lasting for over three hours, was filled with scholarly debate and collaboration.
Experiences like this one not only provide opportunities for academic socialization, they also open possibilities for intellectual encounters that could not have been otherwise planned or expected. I am deeply thankful for the financial assistance provided by the Graduate Student Travel Funds at Texas State University.
By Christine Herrera
Doctoral Student in Mathematics Education
When I was a senior in high school my guidance counselor handed me what Gates Millennium Scholars like to call “the big packet”. It was like she handed me the golden ticket to higher education. As a high achieving, low-income, minority student I dreamed of attending college but I had no idea how I would afford it. At the time, I was living on my own struggling to pay the bills and buy groceries. So when I had found out that I had been awarded a full-ride scholarship that would pay for my undergraduate and graduate school I cried in disbelief. I was going to get to go to college! The Gates Millennium scholarship demolished the financial barrier between me and my dream of higher education.
The Gates Millennium Scholarship not only made my dream of going to college a reality but it transcended it to include pursuing my doctorate degree in Mathematics Education. Prior to receiving the scholarship, I was unaware of graduate school. The scholarship did more than open the door to higher education, it opened my eyes to a whole set of new opportunities. Without this scholarship, I would not be a graduate student here at Texas State University.
As I finish my last semester, I reflect on where I was before I began my journey in higher education and where I am now. I am fortunate to say that the Gates Millennium Scholarship alleviated the financial burdens that haunted me in high school; today I am not worried about affording rent but rather I am focused on completing my dissertation and graduating. When I walk across the graduation stage this May, I will not only become a proud Texas State Alumni but I will also be first and foremost a proud Gates Millennium Alumni.
By Tugba Somuncu
Master’s Student in Economics, Istanbul Technical University
Since writing a master’s thesis is a long journey, I was looking forward to getting some feedback about my first draft before completing my final document. When my supervisor showed me the website of the International Research Conference for Graduate Students at Texas State University, I decided that I should participate in this conference. This conference provides an academic environment in every aspect. I had the opportunity to meet with people from different fields and listen to their presentations. It enhanced my perspective on research methods as I saw how the same method could be applied to different fields. When I presented my research, it was great to see how people became interested in my topic and asked questions about it even though they were all from different departments. Further, the faculty member who was the chair of our panel gave me detailed feedback about my presentation and my English language ability which was invaluable for me. After this experience, I became more confident about the final version of my thesis.
Even though it was the first time I was visiting the U.S. and Texas, I didn’t feel like a foreigner because people were so friendly. People were always willing to help me with a huge smile. The International Office even helped me to solve my accommodation issue. I am still talking about my experience to whoever I meet in Turkey, and I am sure that this conference will have more Turkish participants in near future. Thanks a lot to all those who have contributed to this beneficial and amazing conference!
By Melanie Morales
Master’s Student in Mass Communication
Working at The Graduate College for more than four years and seeing the past few International Research Conferences come and go did not compare to the experience I was able to have by attending and participating in the 7th Annual International Research Conference this year as a first-semester graduate student. From the start of the conference, I was able to hear the opening distinguished research panel discuss their research, the process and overall skills necessary to conduct quality research. This granted me access into a world that I was not accustomed to and, quite frankly, was intimidated by. They answered very practical questions and gave answers like: “set calendar reminders,” “allot a certain amount of time for your research per day,” or “define your long and short-term goals.” This could have been seen as common sense, but to hear them say we must use these techniques showed how I could be doing it even in my own graduate classes.
What really made the conference a great learning experience was being able to actually present our research topic in a session. The presentation even allowed me to see the amount of teamwork it takes to go into presenting at a conference. Though only myself and one other team member presented, each person of the team contributed many of their skills to make our presentation the best it could be. Our session’s chair, Dr. Coy Callison from Texas Tech University, said “good presentation” several times while also offering suggestions for our research.
Though it was a good opportunity to take another stab at public speaking, I ended up taking more away from hearing other students’ presentation because it gave me insight to how they approached their research and gave ideas for the course of action in my own research.
After our session ended, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and listened to the keynote speaker, Dr. Victor Saenz from the University of Texas at Austin, bring his own research experience and enthusiasm to the conference. He took the time to educate us on an important Hispanic-education issue based on his own research. This reaffirmed the fact that when you perform research you are truly interested in, it can reveal notable results and also begin to change the environment around you.
I had a great experience being able to work with my classmates, visit with faculty, meet current undergraduate and hopefully future graduate students, and present at my very first research conference. I walked away with a whole new outlook of not only what it takes to do research and present a topic, but what you can learn from others around you, no matter where they are at in the process.