Friday, September 4, 2009


I have been terrible at this blogging thing. But I’ll try to catch up now that I’m sitting at the gate waiting for my plane to come take me to Sao Paulo. I am somewhat delirious from lack of sleep but here we go.
I think I’ll start with how/why I chose this program, because I guess that’s the beginning.
I knew that I wanted to study abroad since …may be elementary, such a long time ago. And my first year in college I almost immediately picked up a whole bunch of brochures at the EAP (Education Abroad Program) office. And I grabbed EAP brochures that were focusing on majors, I took those, and then I looked at all the country-specific ones, and I took practically all of them except for places like Mexico or too close to home. I had about 20 different brochures and decided to cut down before showing them to my mom, and I realized that if I were to go to even a fifth of these places, I would be studying abroad my whole college career. But I made friends and my ideas changed and I realized that obviously I couldn’t do them all, so I reduced them to about 5 countries, and then from there I chose which were most compatible with my studies. My top 5 were: India, Turkey, Thailand, Brazil, and Holland. And I had reasons for all of them mainly because the cultures and histories of the countries grabbed my attention. Holland also has a fantastic Cognitive Psych department, and I could study psychology at Hyderabad University in India too. At that time all I knew was that I wanted to be a researcher in psychology and I knew that I wanted to do my research in non-European-“Western” cultures because that has been the group that has been most represented in academia yet the findings are usually applied to the general populations of women/children/marriages/eating habits etc. etc. EVERYTHING!

So I have always been interested in doing research in the Middle East, South East Asia, Africa, and definitely in Latin America. So the way I cam more and more focused on Brazil is because since I find it extremely important for anyone doing research with a people, to know about their culture beforehand, know the context very well, and be able to communicate directly, so it is imperative to know the language.
A video I saw in a developmental psych class really impacted me on that decision because this American researcher was describing a finding with some Japanese infants, and when he was talking about one of the participants, an infant by the name of Aya I think, he totally called her a he. And “Aya” is among the most common female names in Japanese, it’s like “Anne”. He kept saying he was a boy. I mean, I know it’s hard to tell sometimes because they look very similar, and it was different language, but still, it doesn’t seem right to me that this researcher is using the infant to demonstrate some psychological finding but doesn’t even care to learn enough about the participant to know if it’s a girl or a boy?! Even though gender wasn’t necessarily the area of focus, I just think there’s something wrong with that.

Okay anyway, the point is that I don’t want to be that researcher, and so, since I knew that I wanted to do research in Latin America, I already speak Spanish, but Brazil is such a huge part of Latin America, so I decided to learn Portuguese.
Last fall I took Brazilian Portuguese for Spanish Speakers, and it’s a program that takes four quarters, and the professor kind of expects students to hopefully eventually go to the university of PUC (pronounced /pookie/) in Rio de Janeiro to take classes among other Brazilian students, and one can study major classes.
The thing is that throughout the quarter we were learning more than just Brazilian Portuguese, we learned about the music, the food, (we had a lunch in class with food from a local Brazilian cafe), we watched films in Portuguese (some brasilians others from Guinea Bissau), and we went into a little bit of everything, the history of slavery in Brazil, the current racial relations, gender relations, poverty in the favelas, and just about everything. And that really gave me the last push towards Brazil.

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