Because the first week hasn't afforded me much time to write, I decided to condense my experience in Brasilia into a single entry.
My first appointment in Brasilia was at the Universidad de Brasilia (UnB). We met with their exchange program coordinator and the (sort of) counter part of our Mark Hallet as well as an Business Professor. UnB is a federal university, which means that it is completely free for students to attend, but its also very challenging to get in. This system does not necessarily lead to greater opportunities for college access because of the reliance on a single admission entrance exam, the Vestibular. In many ways the offer of free education has further enhanced the disparity between privileged and underprivileged students during the high school years. Those who come from families who can afford a good high school education have a greater shot at being able to attend free university. Those who likely need free university the most are at schools that do not necessarily prepare them to be competitive for admission to a federal university thus until recently many students from poor families had no real avenue to a college education (there aren't the kinds of financial aid systems in place at private schools that we have in the states). Recently the government has begun to offer financial aid to students who demonstrate potential without means to help them attend private universities which seems to be a welcome development for college access here.
Like in America, Brazilian faculty have a tremendous amount of power on a college or university campus. They also serve in a variety of administrative roles. The professor who also serves in Mark Hallet's role was late to our meeting because she was wrapping up teaching a class. She turned out to be an important contact for us because she is actually working with several government officials who are actively looking to select "The Best" colleges and universities from around the world to partner with for the new international education program the Brazilian government is implementing. They are essentially looking to send 75,000 Brazilian students to study at universities outside of their country. This greatly focuses on graduate experiences, but also includes some limited scope to export students abroad for a full undergraduate experience and at the very least for a semester or year long study abroad program.
From our meeting with the representatives from UnB we headed over to the lake for Caipirinha(sort of like a Brazilian Margherita with sugar cane brandy, very good) and our first brazillian meal. I had Alcatra, which is a special cut of steak, it was very good. Brazilians love their beef and it is rare to find a true Brazilian meal without beef present.
The title for this entry is Order and Progress which is also the national slogan that appears on the Brazilian flag. Before the fair on Saturday and on Sunday I had the opportunity to do a little site seeing. The representative from University of North Texas, Dickie, had a graduate of their intensive English program who was able to show us around. The architecture of several of the important government buildings is very modern. I've attached and labeled several pictures that display this. I'm happy to share my thoughts on this with any of you when I return, but I didn't want to bias your interpretations of what you see.
One of my favorite sites (which the security people would not let me photograph, so I included a link) (was the Igreja de Sao Jao Boscao
, He is a founding saint if you will of Brazil, who had a vision of the capital of Brazil being placed in the area of Brasilia which was later implemented by the president (look up) in late 1950's.
On Monday I had the most successful lunch room visit of my career at the American School of Brasilia speaking non stop with students for over an hour. Several were curious about the process of attending American universities in general, several were intrigued by our location as they had been to Colorado on family vacations to Aspen. Two-thirds of the students at the American School are Brazilian, the other third are american or from a country outside of Brazil so it is a very international crowd. I think there is good potential for us to occasionally get a student from this school. It is a small graduating class (30-40 students), but many of them are highly interested in studying outside of the country and the list of US universities is fairly diverse in terms of selectivity and brand/non-brand name schools.
Overall my time in Brasilia was a good warm up for Sao Paulo. A slightly slower place to learn a little about what it is like to be a Brazilian before heading to the large city of Sao Paulo. I found Brasilia to be a pretty remarkable place, especially for a city that just celebrated its 50th anniversary a mere 3 years ago.