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Posts under tag: GEO Study Abroad

October 25, 2017

Students share their experiences studying Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Shayla T Hayes

For the terms of Winter and Spring of 2017, I decided to start a journey to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to study abroad through a program called CIEE. For these six and a half months I was able to immerse myself in the Brazilian culture and gain an experience I will never forget. I left in the beginning of January and flew in alongside a group of students that were both American and of other nationalities. I was placed into a host family who lives along the beach of Botafogo in Rio. This family consisted of a host mom, dad, and sister who was 9 years old. They also had a cat, Calvin, who became attached to me at the hip by the time I left. They all welcomed me with open arms, and I got to know them very well. None of them spoke English, so it forced me to practice my Portuguese right off the bat.

For the first month that I was in Brazil, I attended PUC-Rio. During this month, I took an intensive Portuguese. It was a lot to take in at once. On the bright side, I was able to meet a bunch of new students during this time, and I got to know my fellow international peers well. I then started school at ESPM in the central part of Rio. It was downtown and a business and design school. Here I studied photography and 3D animation for the next five months. I made some amazing Brazilian friends at ESPM. They guided me when I was lost, taught me things about Brazilian culture, and laughed with me just like any of my friends in the US would continue my Portuguese course studies, I had a private teacher through CIEE named Marco.

Outside of class, I experienced so many unforgettable things throughout the country. In February I was privileged enough to experience Carnival. It was indescribable, and the passion and liveliness were amazing. When I go back to Brazil, I hope to go during Carnival. I also traveled a lot. São Paulo, Vítoria, Salvador, Iguaçu, Ilha Grande and Argentina are just a few places to name. I had endless pictures from all of these journeys.

In Vítoria I was able to see my Brazilian brother, Vitor. I visited him at least four times during the six months. My mother also visited in May, and I was able to show her everything I was accomplishing and doing while exploring the wonderful country I lived in. Other things I did in my spare time was a hike, do internships with design, teach an English class to second graders, relax on the beach with a caipirinha in hand, and spend time with friends. I spent so much time on the beach and hiking it was insane. Other activities like soccer games, samba classes, and concerts were also on the list! Overall, I loved my time abroad. It was life-changing. Brazil has truly become a second home in my heart.




By Adrien Detchmendy

During Summer 2017, I traveled to Rio de Janeiro to participate in an intensive Portuguese language program. I had taken Portuguese classes at the U of O since my freshman year. Ever since I was young, Brazilian culture and the Portuguese language fascinated me, but I never was given the chance to take a Portuguese language class. When I entered into freshman year I signed up for Portuguese 101 taught by Bene Santos. Immediately I began to pick up the language with ease. I think a major factor into that was the professors teaching style. We drilled concepts but stuck to one a week, which gave me a strong base and understanding of the language. After I had finished the first year of Portuguese, my Portuguese professor suggested I look into studying abroad somewhere in Brazil. In fact, the professor strongly suggested it to all of the students in the class and implored people to travel to Brazil and experience the culture.

Going into my second year of Portuguese, I noticed the style of the class changed from the first year. Instead of focusing on vocabulary the focus was more on being capable to hold a conversation with a native speaker or someone who is learning as well. It was around this time I identified a summer program in Rio that looked good. As I began the process of applying, my professor couldn’t have been more helpful with it. She was more than happy to write me a recommendation to go and implored me to ask any questions or concerns I may have. Through the end of my second year in Portuguese, the class became increasingly focused on reading comprehension and conversation practice. One of our final projects was a 5-minute dialogue with another student about our summer plans. By doing all of the conversation practice and comprehension I felt I brought a strong understanding of the language with me to Brazil.

The program I was chose was an intensive Portuguese language course at PUC, a private Catholic university in Rio de Janeiro. From start to finish, the program lasted a little under 5 weeks. I was going to be staying with a host family in Copacabana. Going there, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. However, shortly I arrived I realized I had chosen the right place to come. The people in Brazil were warm, nice and very patient with me. They encouraged me to speak Portuguese anywhere I went and often they liked helping me practice so I could better learn and speak their language. Within the first week of being there I could feel my confidence increasing and by the end of my program, I was navigating the city and surrounding areas with ease. I think this transition, which can be so hard for others, was so easy for me because of all the conversation practice I had done in my Portuguese classes at the U of O.


October 21, 2015

UO and PSU students study in Spain (Summer 2015)

Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo

Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo

In August 2015, Professor of Spanish David Wacks traveled to Oviedo, Spain to lead GEO Study Abroad’s Summer Advanced Spanish Literature and Culture Program. In this program, which Wacks piloted in 2014, a group of 10 students from the UO and OSU took two upper-level Spanish courses in four weeks (8 credits total), while they stayed in family homestays or at a universally accessible intergenerational residence in Oviedo that was also home to seniors, traveling professionals, students, and athletes.

During the month Wacks taught two courses whose content is focused on the culture and history of the Principality of Asturias, the region in Northern Spain of which Oviedo is the Capital. Both of these courses satisfy the ‘in-residence in Eugene’ courses required for the Spanish major and minor at the UO. Students studied hard learning about the history, mythology, folk culture, and literature of Asturias from Monday to Thursday.

Students participate in a theatrical tour of Laviana

Students participate in a theatrical tour of Laviana

On Wednesdays they went on program excursions to the places they had been studying, such as the Roman Thermal baths in the coastal city of Gijón, the historic site of the Battle of Covadonga, which now houses a shrine tucked into a cliff with a waterfall spilling out of it, and the mountain village of Entralgo, the setting for the novel La aldea perdida (‘The Lost Village’), which students read as part of the literature course.

Lush landscape around the village of Villorio

Lush landscape around the village of Villorio

In 2013, Wacks served as Visiting Faculty for AHA’s regular Spring semester study abroad program in Oviedo. He and his family were so taken with Asturias’ natural beauty, rich cultural life, and welcoming people that they wanted to share the experience with more UO students and continue relationships with friends and schoolmates they had begun in 2013. “Asturias is an interesting place,” says Wacks. “It’s not on the regular touristic routes, so locals are not overexposed to Americans or foreigners in general. It’s easier to meet people and form relationships. It’s also an area of Spain with a very interesting history. It’s not the flamenco-and-bullfight Spain of Andalucía. It’s on the Atlantic Celtic rim, and so Asturians have a lot in common with other areas of Celtic influence such as the British Isles, Brititany, and neighboring Galicia in Spain. Plus the food is exceptional.”

Students on the medieval "Roman" bridge in Cangas de Onís

Students on the medieval “Roman” bridge in Cangas de Onís

Student participants acknowleged that is work-intensive but fulfilling and enjoyable. Sheyanne Hunsinger, a Spanish major from Durango, CO, reports: “It is a challenging program but well worth the work you put into it. It is rewarding to learn about the place where you are living.”

Her classmate Phillip Kriegel, a Math and CIS major and Spanish minor from Beaverton, describes it as “an incredible program that takes you to a part of Spain that many never [otherwise] learn about. The culture, people, and city are one of a kind, and it is truly amazing.”

Student conducting ethnographic interview with resident of Ovida residence

Student conducting ethnographic interview with resident of Ovida residence

Students also appreciated the bonding experience that comes with working hard and playing hard with a like-minded group. Hannah Rondeau, a Spanish major from Corvallis, advises future participants to “be prepared to work hard, but also have a lot of fun. As long as you manage your time well you will still be able to go out and experience the culture of Spain. . . . You will develop amazing friendships with the people around you.”


at the Museum of the Asturian People in Gijón