This is a piece in an occasional series of articles about the BRIC nations. If you are looking for international students, these rising powers provide an important opportunity, but you have to know about the land and the people to effectively recruit. This week, we’ll be discussing Brazil- it’s rise, obstacles it faces, how recruiters can appeal to potential Brazilian students, and how to make sure students are adjusting well to life in America.
Over the course of this week, we’ve been talking about Brazil, and why its rise is important to your school. Bringing over the next generation of scholars from this energetic and growing power will be a huge boon for your school. But it does leave an important question: once you have attracted students to your school, what will it take to make them happy?
This isn’t an idle question. Obviously, you want to make your students happy and comfortable because it is the right thing to do. If they are thrown into the cold (sometimes literally) with nothing comfortable on which to fall back, it will hurt their academics, which negates why they came in the first place, and reflects poorly the school. And the perception of your academic institution is important. In the past, if you treated your students well, the information was passed on to family and friends, and maybe you could stick a pull quote on a flier. Now, they can easily share this information with others around the world. Happy and well-educated international students are your best advertisement when recruiting the next class. It’s another example of how doing the right thing is also good for business.
Understanding cultural similarities
First off, it is important to understand that you shouldn’t try to recreate Brazil, and nor should you. The point of studying abroad is not to make the experience as close to home as possible. Students are here to learn and to explore, to push the edge of their comfort zone and discover who they are. However, you also don’t want to alienate any students.
One of the helpful things is that there are large cultural similarities between the United States and Brazil. Both nations have a large immigrant experience, and have been shaped by a variety of cultures. One thing that is disorienting for people studying abroad is that the U.S. has no one culture- it is very much a hodgepodge of borrowed ideas, like the nest of a magpie. Brazil is very similar. So there might not really be much of an adjustment period.
Groups to help ease transition
That being said, there is always a transition period. People, teens especially, get lonely and scared, and may feel isolated and separated by walls of language and shared experience. An international club can help a lot in this situation, and it is good to have, but even there the students are bonded by differences more than similarities. That’s a good thing, for sure, but for some students there is the need to feel the comfort of one’s own language, where not everything has to be filtered or mediated through a variety of experience.
A Latin American Student Organization can help with this. Or, if there is a large enough population, a Brazilian Student Union can be a good thing. This is different than just the Brazilian kids hanging out with each other- if space is provided, and maybe even a counselor who speaks the language or is familiar with the culture, then the organization has the imprimatur of the school, and the students will feel less isolated. They’ll feel they are part of a community that cares about them.
Avoid Common Mistakes
Key things to keep in mind:
- The language is not Spanish- Brazilians speak Portuguese.
- The capital is not Rio; it is Brasilia, a city with a fascinating architectural history.
- Don’t assume because you read something about food, all Brazilians like it.
- It’s probably best not to badmouth Pele.
Brazil is an amazing country. Barely generations removed from a general poverty, it has risen to become a major world power, and in doing so has provided a stirring example for not just Latin America, but for any country struggling to harness the drive and intelligence of its people and its native resources. Brazil is not a blip or a bubble- it is aggressively setting itself up for generations to come by making sure its students receive a great education. Your school can be part of that. You will be providing a quality education, strengthening your international program for decades to come, and helping to make the world become a better place. With Brazil, you can check off all the reasons you want a program in the first place.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.