Hey y’all! As I’m wrapping up studying for midterms season, I thought I’d take the time to reminisce about the summer when it was warmer, and life was more relaxed. This past summer I participated in an online Dialogue of Civilizations to Brazil. For those of you that don’t know what a dialogue is, it’s a 4-6 week program over the summer where students go with one or two Northeastern professors abroad and take two classes with them. I think this program is really cool, and it’s actually one of the reasons I decided to commit to Northeastern because I’ve never been overseas before. So, the opportunity to go out of the country with a group of my classmates sounded amazing. Here’s a link to the Global Experience Office in case you wanted more information about dialogues and other global opportunities at Northeastern! (https://www.northeastern.edu/geo/dialogue/program-overview/)
The dialogue was all about sustainable energy which matched great with Brazil because they have a lot of natural resources and have done a lot to take advantage of those. I took two classes called Conservation Principles and Energy Systems. Both of these classes were able to count toward my degree which was a definite plus because I was able to get some of the abroad experience while paying the same as I would have to take the classes regularly. The classes component of the dialogue goes just as any typical class goes, but with the added bonus that some of my classmates in Energy Systems were also from Brazil!
Every Friday we would have a different culture experience. So, a few of the things we learned about were the demographics and history of Brazil, geography, music styles, famous and influential people, Brazilian cooking, and Capoeira (a dance style martial arts). These really helped to bring the Brazilian experience through the screen for us. My two favorites were the most interactive experiences where we had a cooking class and the martial arts lesson. In the cooking class, we made pao de queijo and brigaderios. Pao de queijo is basically a cheesy bread which was really interesting to make because it uses tapioca flour instead of wheat flour because that is what is more common in Brazil. The brigaderios were AMAZING to make because they’re basically chocolate truffles. They were both fairly easy to make and we also got to learn about the history of them as well as learn more about Brazilian cuisine. I wish I had taken pictures to show y’all, but alas the yummy memories are just on my taste buds. I still have the recipes for them, so if I feel like foraging for tapioca flour again, I’ll be able to make those.
I’ve always been intrigued by martial arts, but Capoeira is something I couldn’t have imagined. The way it was described to us was as a sort of dance fighting style of martial arts. I think what really made this experience fun for me was that my friend and I FaceTimed during the Zoom call, and we could see each other’s attempts and reactions to the moves in our respective cramped bedrooms. This is one of the ways that Zoom is a great way to try new things because I didn’t have to have my video on, so I didn’t have to care about other people seeing me awkwardly try to do a circle kick, and I could just have fun with the lesson.
In some of the other cultural lessons, I honestly learned a lot about Brazil, and I felt kind of bad for not being as aware of global history as other countries are. I kind of knew but wasn’t consciously aware of Brazil’s involvement in the slave trade and how much that has influenced their current culture and demographics. Like how Carnival is technically from Afro Brazilian culture, but it’s just considered to be Brazilian, which is the same with Capoeira. Learning things like that really made me wish that I was able to go there in person to really be fully immersed in the culture, but I still appreciated the exposure to know about the culture so that if I get another chance to go, I won’t be going in blind. On that note, the cultural lessons also reminded me that there are cultural differences that we need to be conscious of when going to another country, so it’s important to be properly informed.
Another aspect of the class that really enhanced the online experience was working on a group project with my Brazilian classmates. The final project for the class was to pitch efficiency improvements to a paper company, Suzano, which is based in São Paulo. This honestly was a really daunting final project, but like everything else in college, as we learned more about energy systems and how to make things more efficient, it started to come together and make sense. During group meetings, we would all work on the project, but we’d also chat a bit about our different cultures. It was mostly them telling my friend and me about Brazilian culture because the whole world kind of knows about American culture. These were such fun conversations as we got to go deeper than some of the in-class lessons and share stories and such. I also have a playlist of the songs they recommended that I still listen to sometimes. (I’ll drop the Spotify link! https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5YoazakMpCGeVxB4r5AeAN?si=MLTGMrQjS6GDn9CakrNq7Q)