Brazil might have hosted the FIFA World Cup, but the University of New Mexico is hosting a growing number of Brazilian students through the Brazilian Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP). These students are not only surpassing their academic goals, but also spreading a little extra school spirit.

BSMP provides a yearlong fully funded study abroad opportunity for Brazilian students with financial need. The first BSMP students were initially received by Robyn Cote, program manager for the Latin American Iberian Institute (LAII). In fall 2013, that responsibility was transferred to the Center for English Language and American Culture (CELAC), part of the Global Education Office (GEO). Presently, CELAC manages a total of 64 Brazilian students on campus, with 26 more due to arrive in August for intensive English instruction. CELAC Program Manager Tatiana Minot has been coordinating the arrival of the BSMP students. Additionally, Education Abroad Advisor Susanne Knoblauch and GEO Project Assistant Eduardo Nunez are coordinating the academic arrangements for the students.

The university’s engineering program, in particular civil engineering, has been an attractive draw for many of the students, most of whom are sophomores and juniors, and all of whom have majors in the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. Students are also participating in UNM architecture, pharmacy, math, geology, nursing and computer science programs, among others.  

“This is an important international partnership for UNM,” said Mary Anne Saunders, special assistant to the president for global initiatives. “UNM’s well-known reputation for its highly ranked programs in the STEM fields makes it the perfect choice for BSMP students. This partnership also provides our students with the chance to connect with their peers from another country, which broadens their global perspective.”

Any incoming BSMP student who has not already passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is permitted to enroll in one or two semesters of intensive English instruction with CELAC before beginning academic courses in their field of study. After they finish two semesters of academic courses, they complete an internship in their field of study over the summer, and then return home to finish their degree.

“CELAC provides an academic bridge for most of these students,” said Paul Edmunds, interim director for GEO and director for CELAC. “They were handpicked by their universities in Brazil to participate in this program, and they are the cream of the crop academically. CELAC helps ensure that their English language skills are proficient so they can successfully complete their academic studies while at UNM.”

“These students are learning English very fast; they are highly motivated and very smart,” Tatiana Minot, CELAC program manager, said. “They have blown us away with their test scores and ability to pass through the levels of instruction much more quickly than is usual or expected.”

BSMP student Yan Caldas, a math and education major who has been at UNM since fall 2013, said he hopes to return to the United States for graduate school and would like to teach math after he completes his master’s degree and Ph.D.

“My mother and sister were the ones who encouraged me to come here, and I want to be very successful in order to make them proud,” Caldas said. “I’ve had a good relationship with my teachers here. Being at UNM has changed my mind on a lot of things. I know now that I want to work more closely with students after I finish school.”

Minot added that the BSMP students have had a positive impact on campus and are heavily involved in UNM activities. For example, the program requires the students to live in on-campus housing; Caldas and his classmates have turned it into an opportunity to host “Brazil Night” in the dorms once a semester. Residence Life and Student Housing has funded the themed social event, which has been highly popular with UNM students.

Caldas said the combination of interaction with students and instructors, along with involvement on campus, has dissolved stereotypes he previously had about Americans. Likewise, he said he has helped UNM students gain a deeper understanding of Brazil’s culture, traditions and history.

“My experience here is that Americans have been very friendly,” Caldas said. “The instructors here take a genuine interest in how you are doing. My teachers have been like a second family to me, and I have made friends for life. I feel accepted here.”