Earlier this month the University’s Bridge Year Program announced the addition of a site in Salvador, Brazil for the 2013-14 academic year.
The Bridge Year Program, which currently offers international sites in China, India, Peru and Senegal, allows incoming freshmen enrolled in the program to defer their admission and participate in civic engagement projects for a nine-month period. In 2011, the University discontinued its programs in Ghana and Serbia to expand the program’s capacity elsewhere.
The expansion of the program to Brazil follows several other recent initiatives in the country by the University, including the implementation of a formal academic partnership with the University of Sao Paulo and the creation of the Princeton in Brazil program in 2012, a Portuguese language summer course in Rio de Janeiro.
As Brazil’s international stature has grown in the last decade, the University has recognized the value of increasing ties with the country, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese Bruno Carvalho said.
Student interest in Portuguese and Brazil-related studies has dramatically increased since Carvalho arrived at the University in 2009, Carvalho said. He noted that there were 58 students enrolled in Portuguese courses in the fall of 2009, while this semester there are 115 students.
Carvalho also heads the global seminar, “History, Culture, and Urban Life: Rio de Janeiro and the Imaginary of Brazil,” which is based in Rio.
According to associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese Pedro Meira Monteiro, increased student interest in Portuguese and Brazil-related studies could be the result of Brazil’s growing presence in the global economy and greater exposure to Brazilian culture through programs such as Princeton in Brazil and the global seminar program.
“It makes sense,” Monteiro said. “It’s really part of a larger, wider set of efforts.”
While the Bridge Year Program is aware of the increased connections between the University and Brazil, Bridge Year Program Associate Director Scott Leroy explained that the decision to expand the program to Salvador was not made in collaboration with any other Brazil-related programs.
Leroy said that the incorporation of the Brazil site to the program grew out of a desire to gradually expand the program. A 2008 working group appointed by Shirley Tilghman that explored the creation of a bridge year program recommended that the program support around 100 students. The program began in 2009 with 20 students, and there were 28 participants in 2012.
“Gradual expansion is something that has always been on our radar,” Leroy said
In fall 2012, the Bridge Year Program solicited proposals from several organizations for potential new Bridge Year sites in an effort to expand the program, he said. In reviewing these proposals, a partnership with Cross-Cultural Solutions, an organization that provides service and cultural immersion activities in foreign countries, became an option. CCS will provide University students with these service and immersion opportunities in Salvador.
“Our feeling was that this program by Cross Cultural Solutions in Salvador offered a lot of interesting educational opportunities that line up with our goals for the program in a place where the health and safety issues can be well-managed,” Leroy said.
Moreover, he explained that the directors of the Bridge Year Program became interested in the Salvador site for its cultural and historical merit. Salvador was prominent in the Portuguese empire and became a major port in the transatlantic slave trade. For this reason Salvador features a blend of Brazilian culture with West African food, religion and language.
“All of this comes together in Salvador in a way that sounded really fascinating to us,” Leroy said of the site’s cultural features.
Students in the Bridge Year Program in Brazil will participate in home-stays with families in Salvador and take intensive Portuguese language courses, according to the program’s website. Participants will be serving the community by supporting at-risk communities, including children, the elderly and HIV/AIDS patients.
Upon arrival, students are matched with their service placements, which include community centers, schools and medical centers. In addition to community service, Bridge Year participants will learn about Brazilian culture through guest speakers, workshops and excursions.
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