Name: Amelia Gagnon
Type of Project: Study Abroad
For my STEP Signature Project, I completed the Brazil Global May program. My four weeks abroad allowed me to visit three major cities within the diverse country of Brazil; Sao Paulo, Salvador, and Sao Jose do Rio Preto. This program provided lectures and field trips to expose me to the history, culture, and social problems facing this country.
When I applied to this trip, I was not sure what to expect of the program or of myself. As I have had the time to reflect upon my time abroad, I believe that this program has allowed me to blossom as a student and a person. Before beginning my experience, I was reserved. My time in this program helped me to break out of my shell. The Brazilian customs of friendliness and openness have become instilled in me. My Signature Project has shaped me into a more vocal leader.
Another aspect of this trip that surprised me was the similarities between the two countries. Current affairs, in both United States and Brazil, are extremely influenced by our histories of slavery. Racial injustice is one of the biggest problems facing both countries. This trip has opened my eyes even further to the racial injustices present here in the United States. It has also shown me that other countries around the world are not as different from the United States as one might think.
One of the most transformational aspects of my trip was the home stay. I was matched with an amazing family that took me in with open arms. I bonded immediately with my new mother and brother. Even though they did not speak any English and I did not speak any Portuguese, my experience with them is something I would not trade for the world. My time in their home taught me how to express myself without words and to be more assertive. Living in a home stay for those short two weeks made me see that a language barrier is something that can be easily overcome.
Another aspect of this trip that shaped me was the relationships I formed with Brazilians. During the trip, we visited many schools and met a ton of students. These teenagers were so loving and excited to learn about us, where we come from, and simply interact with us. It was an overwhelming, yet amazing experience to see how open Brazilians are to everybody. Not only these students, but my server at a restaurant, college students, and random strangers I have met are now my friends. To this day I am still in contact with many of them. This trip showed me that being open is the key to understanding others.
A final transformative aspect of my STEP experience was a trip to a non-profit company called the Steve Biko foundation. During my time at Steve Biko, I learned about the college-prep services they provided, but they also provide culture and language classes. We soon began discussing the root of the need for their services; racism. Brazil and the United States both have similar stories about slavery, but Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. Minorities in both countries feel the impact, but it is much more prominent in Brazil than I expected. My time at this organization showed me the progress that still needs to be made in both countries.
My signature project has transformed me into a more vocal, open, and confident individual. I hope to become a doctor one day, and I believe my time abroad has brought me closer to achieving that goal. As a more vocal and confident doctor, I am not afraid to speak my mind. As a more broad-minded doctor, I am understanding of new circumstances, cultures, and people. These qualities may not make me the most intelligent doctor, but it will make me a doctor that people from all walks of life will feel comfortable going to see. I will work on the smart aspect on my own time.