New Perspectives: Study Abroad in Brazil

Sophomore Marnie Leonard (third from left, below) was one of several Parkland students taking a Portuguese language class last spring who were then able to immerse themselves in the culture during a two-week trip to Brazil last month. This opportunity came about due to a three-year federal grant Parkland has received to boost foreign-language study.

As you will see, Marnie gained more than a deeper understanding of Portuguese.


I was very nervous about this trip. I had never been so far away from home for so long before, and it was my first time abroad. It felt really daunting to be going to a place where I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to communicate with people who lived there. I was always more excited than nervous to embark on the trip, though!

Students from Parkland and Joliet Junior College attended the trip to Brazil.

We went to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraty, and Mogi Mirrim. In Rio, we saw Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana beach, and the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral. We also visited a favela, or slum, and got to witness firsthand the extreme poverty that so many Brazilians live in. In São Paulo, we went to several museums and to Ibirapuera Park, the Brazilian equivalent of Central Park in NYC.

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Here’s a look at life from the favela.

Paraty is a preserved colonial town, so we saw a lot of cool baroque architecture and learned the history of the port there and its ties with Portugal. While we were there, we also visited an island village populated by fishermen. It was so beautiful and untouched by the outside world, but just like the favela, its people lacked many of the resources and basic assets we take for granted in the United States.

I think my favorite part of the trip was Mogi Mirrim, though. Mogi Mirrim is a really small city in São Paulo state. This is where the trip started to feel more like a study abroad rather than a vacation. We went to the college there, Fatec College, a technical school of about 1,000 students. It was really interesting to meet the Brazilian college students and interact with them (as best we could with the language barrier) and learn more about what it’s like to live day to day in Brazil. What made it so cool to me was the fact that this was an experience I never would have had the chance to have if I had just been a tourist in Brazil—and they were so excited to meet Americans. The Brazilians were all so warm and welcoming that it was hard to leave them when the time came to go.

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US and Brazilian students get acquainted at Fatec College.

This trip was so incredible, I would go on it again in a heartbeat. I gained a new understanding of worldwide poverty. I met people my own age who come from a different world and yet still had things in common with them. I now have a new appreciation for language and how difficult it is to master a new one. These are all new perspectives I will carry with me in returning to my normal life, and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to obtain this outlook.


For the current academic year (2015-2016), Parkland’s foreign-language grant program focuses on learning Arabic, with an opportunity to visit the country of Morocco in summer 2016. Our AY 2017 opportunity will explore Taiwan and the Chinese language. Short-term summer study abroad opportunities and scholarships will be offered for both of these countries, too. For more information, give Jody a call!

Jody Littleton
Associate Professor, Communication
Study Abroad Coordinator
Parkland College

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