I took my first Portuguese class without thinking too intently on the future opportunities that would be opened to me. Having a base in Spanish, Portuguese came quickly after the initial shock of pronunciation. It was impossible to not become fascinated by Brazilian culture while taking the Portuguese class with a native speaker as instructor. Later on I spent six months studying at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in the city of Porto Alegre. I had an incredible experience. Two years later I am back in Brazil, this time in the North, as a researcher on a nine-month Fulbright research grant. After this grant ends, I am strongly considering working with eco-tourism in Brazil. I’ve come to realize that there are vast opportunities for Americans who speak Portuguese in Brazil, and I am deeply grateful to my first Portuguese teacher who started me on this personal and professional trajectory.
I took Portuguese almost as a mistake – I wanted to take a foreign language but didn’t know which one. All of my friends were taking Portuguese so I decided to take it as well. It was a great decision though. Learning Portuguese helped me in other academic areas because learning a foreign language always teaches you grammar and improves your study skills. It also increased my cultural understanding of Latin America, which was very helpful in the classes for my Latin American Studies minor. Learning Portuguese also opened up many opportunities, since it is a less-commonly taught language I was able to receive study abroad grants such as the Gilman Scholarship from the State Department and the Foreign Language and Areas Studies Fellowship from the Department of Education. Also, it opened up many doors after graduating, considering the Brazilian economy is so large and Brazil is such an important trade partner for the U.S. I am currently completing a Fulbright Teaching Grant in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Just because Portuguese is less taught in the U.S. does not make it less important.
During my second year of college I decided to take a foreign language class to fulfill university requirements. As an International Relations major, and from a business perspective, it made sense to choose a language that played a significant role in world economics. As a native Spanish speaker, I decided to go with Brazilian Portuguese, even though I knew very little about the culture or the language itself. This was by far the best decision I made in college, and today it remains one of my most marketable skills. The classes were small, which allowed for plenty of chance to work with each student individually. Moreover, the experience of learning a new language together created a kind of group dynamic that I had never seen before in a college class. Upon graduation I landed a job in Aviation. Speaking Spanish was definitely a plus during the application process, but speaking Portuguese set me apart from many other equally-qualified candidates, as my company regularly conducts business in Brazil. I have yet to make my way to Brazil to practice my language skills, but I have my eyes set on Rio 2016!
I decided to take Portuguese because I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to merge my business skills with a new language skill. I was intrigued by the Brazilian economy, the culture, and delighted by the opportunity to study with Professor Amaro! After studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, I felt I had an advantage while interviewing within the U.S. upon returning home. I will now be working in New York, and can’t wait to continue refining my international business skills within an international hub!
Studying Portuguese in college was sincerely the best decision I made in my education. At first, I chose to study the language because I happened to love the sound of it and I thought my basic Spanish might help me learn it, but my study quickly became more than just vocabulary… Learning Portuguese opens the door to a richly varied culture and history, and continues to become more relevant as Brazil enters the world stage. Portuguese was my favorite class semester after semester (which eventually translated to an amazing experience studying and traveling throughout Brazil), but it also continues to prove useful in my career as a consultant where Brazil’s emerging market is a huge source of work. I also adore finding others in the Brazilian and Lusophonic community- like developing a great relationship with an important client of mine simply by being able to communicate with his Brazilian wife at a work function, or finding a connection with a colleague who grew up in Góa, a once-Portuguese settled colony in India. Studying the language and cultural heritage of Portuguese has been so rewarding, and I have my very first teacher to thank, for his passion and dedication in creating a fun, relatable, effective learning opportunity for his students.