2013 in Review: Portuguese spoken here

UWM hosts a growing number of students from Brazil

An increasing number of students are flying the Brazilian flag at UWM.

“I wanted to improve my English and make friends all over the world,” says Murilo Cabral, an engineering major from Brazil who is spending his senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I liked the emphasis on disciplines in the energy area [within engineering],” says Mateus Oliveira de Faria, an engineering major.

Brazilian engineering students Jandira Jaccottet (left) and Emylin Sousa, were joined by Chancellor Michael R. Lovell at recent UWM soccer match. (See full image on Facebook.)

“I wanted to gain a more global perspective,” adds Alice Calmon Ramos, another Brazilian student at UWM who is majoring in architecture and urban planning.

Cabral, Ramos and de Faria are among a growing contingent of Brazilian students at UWM.

Many of them have chosen UWM through the Brazil Scientific Mobility Undergraduate Program (formerly known as Science Without Borders). The Brazilian government is the primary supporter of the program, which funds a year of overseas studies for Brazilian undergraduates. Brazilian businesses also contribute.

Most of the 4,000 students coming to the U.S. this fall are in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas, and are part of Brazilian political and business efforts to enhance the country’s competitiveness in STEM fields as well as increase the number of graduates with international experience. This year, the majority of the Brazilian students at UWM were in engineering classes. Others enrolled in the sciences, nursing, architecture and occupational therapy.

This summer 14 Brazilian students came to UWM to take intensive English courses before moving into work in their majors this month. Another four recently arrived. An additional 29 Brazilian students have come to UWM in a related program to improve their English through the university’s Intensive English Program. Eight Brazilian students who are not part of the government program are also enrolled at UWM.

The Brazilian programs are a good fit with UWM’s goal to increase international enrollment, says Jennifer Gruenewald, director of international student and scholar services in the UWM Center for International Education. To participate in the program, universities have to be approved by the Brazilian government as partners. This is the second year UWM has taken part, and the number of Brazilian students coming here has more than doubled from 2012 to 2013, according to Gruenewald.

Simone Conceição is one of the faculty members helping to spread the word about UWM in Brazil

The programs also give American students at the university a chance to meet Brazilians and increase their knowledge of a country that is a major player in the global economy.

“The Brazilian government is very energetic and interested in developing partnerships and study abroad programs,” says Kevin Beisser, senior immigration coordinator.

Governments in other countries support similar partnership programs. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest such program, but Brazil’s Scientific Mobility Undergraduate Program is one of the first major programs in South America, according to Beisser. The Brazilian government’s goal is to send more than 100,000 students abroad by 2015, he adds.

“These students are really motivated,” says Larry Kuiper, interim director of the university’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program, which anticipates 45 more Brazilian students joining the Intensive English Program in spring 2014.

Many of the Brazilian students in the intensive language program already have good English skills, “but their confidence isn’t strong enough” for course work, says Kuiper.

When university faculty and enrollment specialists first visited Brazil in the spring of 2012 for a recruitment fair, the majority of students had never heard of Milwaukee or Wisconsin. But UWM officials are hoping that will change as students who come here communicate about their experiences.

“It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of UWM among these students’ families and friends,” says Gruenewald. Brazilian faculty members like Simone Conceição, professor in the School of Education and Guilherme Indig, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, are also helping actively spread the word about UWM in Brazil.

And, UWM faculty and staff from the CIE, the Graduate School, the English as Second Language program and the School of Information Studies (SOIS) will be in Brazil later this month recruiting students.

University officials, organizations and faculty members are working hard to make sure the Brazilians enjoy Milwaukee and UWM.

“We’re looking at ways to get the students involved inside and outside of the classroom so they can really get to know the area,” says Heidi Mantera, assistant director of the ESL Program. In one project, for example, the Brazilian English-language students are paired up with UWM’s Portuguese language students to improve conversational skills. “They can have intellectual exchanges and practice their languages together,” says Mantera.

Students also worked closely with the Restaurant Operations staff to plan several receptions with authentic Brazilian appetizers, often stopping to look up family-favorite recipes on their smartphones and share them with the UWM staff.

The summer students’ first impressions of Milwaukee and UWM were very positive.

“We love the lake and the Milwaukee Art Museum,” says Gabriela Menegat, a senior in engineering, “and the city has beautiful architecture. The streets are very clean and everyone is very polite and hospitable.”

Fernanda Furino didn’t like the cold winter. “But it’s a good life experience to come to another country,” says the nursing major who has now been at UWM more than a year.

“We’re hoping the undergraduate students who get a preview of UWM with this program might eventually return here as graduate students,” says Gruenewald.

The summer group of Brazilian students and Brazilian-born professor Simone Conceição (far right) gathered for a photo at a reception featuring Brazilian food. (Photo by Troye Foxe.)