Brazil meets UWEC

Students from Brazil come to UW-Eau Claire to partake in STEM research

Coming to Wisconsin, Brazil native Gabriel De Carvalho Chaves said he didn’t expect the weather to be this cold so soon, for people to be as polite as they are or for Eau Claire to be this safe.

De Carvalho Chaves is one of 30 students studying abroad at UW-Eau Claire from all regions of Brazil. He came to the university in late June with some of his classmates and took an English as a Second Language course. This semester, De Carvalho Chaves is taking classes such as Introduction to Material Science, Introduction to Neuroscience and more ESL classes.

“The idea of my program is to do English courses for a regular year and then a summer internship,” De Carvalho Chaves said.

These internships could be on or off campus, but De Carvalho Chaves said hopes to stay on campus. The research he is currently doing has a possibility of turning into an internship opportunity, he said.

What attracted De Carvalho Chaves to come to America and participate in the science, technology, engineering and math program wasn’t the chance for his credits to transfer back to his university in Brazil, but it will help make his resume stand out to future employers.

Aside from being a part of the STEM program, De Carvalho Chaves said he spends time with other Brazilian foreign exchange students, along with other students from countries such as Malaysia, Germany and Japan.

He’s also a part of the host family program, and has spent a weekend with his host family in late August. De Carvalho Chaves has connected with other people in the community, such as Jill Hecker Fernandes, clinical assistant professor of nursing.

Hecker Fernandes first interacted with the Brazilian students who were here last year at a get-together in her home. There were 16 students who came over for a Brazilian dinner. The idea, she said, was to build camaraderie.

“We invited them all to come over to have a barbeque,” Hecker Fernandes said. “And everybody came, and we cooked traditional Brazilian food.”

Hecker Fernandes said to have students come over is to provide a sense of community and a place where they will be accepted. Coming to an American’s home also sheds light on how the culture in the midwest really is, she said.

“Typically the midwest is known as a bunch of farms and snow,” she said. “So I think it’s nice for them to come to people’s houses too instead of just being in the dorms.”

Hecker Fernandes said judging by the student’s Facebooks, they are experiencing what it’s like to truly be a Blugold. She’s seen pictures of students at the games and out in the community.

She hopes by these students coming to Eau Claire, connections between the university and the community can be made, especially with the challenges of little diversity in Eau Claire.

“I’m hoping we can make a connection and show this is a good thing,” she said. “It’s good to understand other cultures. It’s a hope that … through the university, we can bring more diversity to the community.”