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Brazil PLACES Program Brings Four Brazilian Exchange Students to Andover

S.Bahnasy/The Phillipian

One difference that the Brazilian exchange students noted between Andover and at their home country’s educational system was the academic freedom offered in Andover’s curriculum.

As part of the Brazil PLACES (People, Landscapes, Arts, Culture, Environment, Sustainability) Learning in the World program, led by Flavia Vidal, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, four Brazilian exchange students have been visiting Andover since last Monday. They are being housed by faculty members and other students until their stay ends this Saturday.

Four students, Giulia Corrêa, Guilherme Levi, Levi Mariano, and Nathan Costa, engaged in various Andover traditions to increase their understanding of American boarding school culture. The students have been watching athletic activities, participating in school events, going to club meetings, and attending classes.

Corrêa said, “All of the events that I went to were amazing. I like them so much because they touched me so so deeply. Take Back the Night was beautiful and the purpose of it is really important, and Non-Sibi day is also very important. I think it’s nice that the school stopped [the classes] so the students get to do this.”

Besides attending events, the students were also able to see discussion-based learning in classes. After being notified as to which classes the students wanted to attend, Vidal sent out emails to faculty members to confirm if the students could sit in on specific classes.

Levi said, “I really like how the classes work here. I’ve seen some English classes and Spanish classes. In the English one, you have a team leader that makes people work in the class. And I like the fact that the teacher is just there. You almost don’t see the teacher, which I think is good because you make people think, you make people work. I really enjoy this dynamic.”

Costa commented on the surprising hospitality he received from the Andover students, both in and out of the classroom.

“I think the first impact we have is when we arrived here. We didn’t know anybody. The thing I like here is how the students are always ready to meet you and talk to you and give you some advice or teach you about the school. They talk to you about everything you want. The hospitality I really like here about the students,” said Costa.

The four Brazilian Exchange Students are Seniors at the S.E.S.C. School, a boarding school in Brazil. According to the Tang Institute’s website, for the past six years, students have been able to participate in an “exchange” program where they visit the other school through the Tang Institute’s sponsored Brazil PLACES initiative. According to Vidal, PLACES aims to increase global education through cross-cultural understanding.

“The goal of the Learning in the World programs is to continue this education about other people, other cultures, other places in the world. In this case, it’s also the idea that this school is a really interesting example of a school in Brazil that functions very much like a New England boarding school. So it has similar values to ours, like Youth from Every Quarter, for example. [How] similar valued institutions operate in two completely different countries with different political systems and histories is a really interesting question for our students to investigate as well,” said Vidal.

The four students recognized some fundamental differences between Andover and the SESC School that exist in the social and academic lives of the students.

“I was impressed, because here in the U.S., you can choose your subjects. You have some that are mandatory, but most of them you can choose. This thing is not possible in Brazil, mainly because our process to get to university is very different—it is based on one test. This test has all subjects that are mandatory. You don’t have this much freedom…. I’m impressed by how much value [Andover] gives to art, to sports. It’s not really like that in Brazil.”

Although the Andover student body and administration have labeled the school environment as the “Andover Bubble,” according to Corrêa, Andover students can interact more with the world compared to students at the S.E.S.C. school.

“Here, I think that the students have more freedom than we have because we don’t get to leave the school that easily. Also, you have day students, we don’t—you’re connecting with the world. We are in a bubble,” said Corrêa.

Another difference between Andover and the SESC school that the students noted was the type of food that is served.

Mariano said, “I’m really loving [the food]. I really love breakfast. Some simple things like pancakes, I have never eaten pancakes or waffles ever. It’s not common in Brazil. It’s really good. They told me homemade pancakes are better, but I can’t imagine anything better than that. I really love it.”