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.
All week, we’ve been talking about Brazil- its economy, its people, and its students. But, obviously, I don’t consider this blog to be the definitive source on Brazil; it’s merely an introduction for recruiters of international departments. After all, we’ve emphasized all week that Brazil is a growing power, and is looking to send hundreds of thousands of students to the United States to study in order to grow their economy. Your school should be at the forefront of that.
But it is important to always stay at the forefront, and to keep yourself well-versed not just on current trends, but also on history. After all, you can’t understand a country’s present until you understand its past. So, here is a short and absolutely non-comprehensive list of things you should consider reading in your quest to attract Brazilian students.
1808: Flight of the Emperor: How a Weak Prince, a Mad Queen, and The British Navy Tricked Napoleon and Changed the New World
OK, so after that subtitle it may seem that you don’t need to read the book. But, as with any history of North or South America, to understand it you need to understand the greed and drama of the Old World, as dynasties clashed and expansionist dreams tumbled violently against one another. This book discusses the colonial history of Brazil, an important story in how it became what it is today.
But obviously Brazilian history did not begin with the feverish desire of empires. It is also important to understand indigenous histories, which are every bit as tragic and far-reaching as in the American experience. A good place to start is Michael Heckenberger’s book on roughly 1000 years of Amazonian life. History isn’t written with black lines, of course, and the past is never quite the past. Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil explores the conflict between tribal culture and modernity, an issue not just of importance in Brazil, but in many developing nations around the globe.
The Amazon is particularly fascinating for this because many of its tribes are largely untouched, and the ones that are, struggle to maintain identity when Stone Age lifestyle meets the incomprehensible modern world (which is incomprehensible to many of us who grew up in it, so that isn’t a value judgement). There are many sensationalist accounts of these tribes, and many amazing stories that need no added drama. But it is important to remember that in the end, they are human beings, far removed from a circus attraction.
A Sidenote on Cinema
Do not watch Terry Gilliam’s Brazil hoping that it’ll provide a crash course on South America. It won’t.
This isn’t a blog, per se, but I always keep the Economist’s South America page bookmarked, for concise and comprehensive overviews of the region, in which Brazil is the major player. Of course, there is no substitute for people actually on the ground, and here is a great list of blogs compiled by southamericaliving.com.
It isn’t an easy job being an international recruiter. But by staying up to date, and being well-versed in the history, culture, current events, and identity of country, you will be able to relate to students, and understand how to not make them feel like there is an unbridgeable gap. And in the end, isn’t that what studying in America is all about?
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.