Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For Brazilians, a taste of winter

Community School exchange program teaches cultural awareness

Express Staff Writer

Coming from the tropics to snow-covered and frigid Sun Valley was a new experience for a group of Brazilian students. From left are Wellington Sousa, Melinda Assumpcao and Yara Bohland. Photo by Willy Cook

It's hard to imagine someone in Sun Valley not knowing how to make a snow angel, but a group of Brazilian high school students who visited the Community School this month were somewhat at a loss as to how to go about it.

"No one's showed us," said 17-year-old Raisa Rizzieri.

"I've never seen snow, and I've never been somewhere that's so cold," said Yara Bohland, also 17. "It's cold, but it's so fun. I could get used to it."

Rizzieri and Bohland were among a group of six Brazilian students who flew back to Brazil on Sunday after spending two weeks attending classes and snow and cultural events in an exchange program with the Community School.

The others were Wellington Sousa, 17, and 16-year-olds Melinda Assumpcao, Jordy Pasa and Amanda Sampaio. They were escorted to Sun Valley by teacher Maria De Lourdes.

There's actually another Brazilian student at the Community School. Geraldo Neto, 17, came to Sun Valley in December to attend a semester there.

In Brazil, the students attend Escola SESC de Ensino Medio, a private boarding school in Barra da Tijuca near Rio de Janeiro. The school, patterned after boarding schools in the United States, is a new approach to education in Brazil. It was opened in 2008 and now has about 500 students from throughout Brazil who attend by scholarship.

The Community School connection to Escola SESC de Ensino Medio was made through incoming Head of School David Holmes, who helped arrange exchanges between the two institutions.

"Escola SESC is the product of a unique public-private partnership, and is the first school of its kind in Brazil," said Community School spokesman Bill Lauck. "The school's overall educational mission and outlook is similar to that of Community School, so it seemed like a natural outgrowth of David's efforts to try to bring some of their students to our campus and to send some of our students to Brazil."

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A group of Community School students visited Brazil last summer.

Both schools share a common goal of teaching students global consciousness.

The six Brazilian students stayed with the families of Community School students during their visit. In addition to attending classes, the students were kept busy with a number of other educational and cultural activities. They went on a snowshoe excursion, attended Community School Cutthroat basketball games, got to ice skate and sled, rode the gondola on Bald Mountain, attended snowboard and Nordic skiing events, did yoga at Zenergy, attended a Groundhog Day barbecue luncheon, toured public schools and attended a Community School dance.

In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express, the Brazilian students discussed their new experience with snow and cold and the differences between the United States and Brazil.

Pasa explained that in Brazil, voting is mandatory.

"At 16 to 18, we can vote, but if you're 18, you have to vote," he said. "We as a people had to fight to get the vote, so we kind of like the privilege."

Bohland explained that not voting can cause difficulties when it comes to getting a job "because they check on it."

"It's a way to make sure that everybody gets an opinion," Bohland said.

"We are very proud that we can vote," said Sampaio.

Assumpcao said another difference between the two countries is the privilege of driving.

"Here, the teenagers can drive you anywhere," she said. "In Brazil, you can't drive until you're 18. Here, we can go anywhere. It's nice."

None of the students said they would prefer to live in the United States rather than Brazil. Instead they explained that Brazilians were found to be "the coolest people in the world" in a recent analysis by CNN.

Regarding the weather, some of the students said it was hard getting used to the cold, but Bohland said she found it refreshing compared to the tropics.

"Brazil is way too warm for me and I like the cold," she said. "Even if it is absurdly cold, I like it. I'm homesick, but I don't want to go home yet."

Terry Smith:

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