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Visiting Brazilian Student Catching On to U.Va. Life

January 31, 2012 — When Leandro Machado arrived in Charlottesville Jan. 15 to attend the University of Virginia on a new, Brazilian government-sponsored scholarship, he had some major adjustments to make.

The college junior knew it would be much cooler than the mild 60-degree temperatures in his home of Santa Catarina, Brazil. But he was not quite prepared to brave the 30 degree-chill and ice-laden trees.

"It was kind of cool! Cool for me, but not for people from here!" said Machado recently, chatting in a coffee shop on the University's popular Corner pedestrian area.

Machado, a visiting student for a year, is one of approximately 650 Brazilian undergraduate students arriving in the United States to study at U.S. campuses with funding from the Brazilian government's "Science Without Borders" program. The undergraduate scholarship program, administered by the Institute of International Education, is part of a larger initiative to grant 100,000 scholarships for the best students from Brazil to study abroad at the world's best universities. 

Scholarships are primarily given to students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields. Students in the program will return to Brazil to complete their degrees.

Allan Goodman, the president of the Institute of International Education, said the institute places students at colleges and universities around the country, dependent upon their educational backgrounds. "For Science Without Borders, IIE's placement team specifically identified host institutions that offered strong coursework relevant to STEM fields and that demonstrated excellent support services for international students, as well as their ability to provide assistance in securing the internships that are a central part of this program," he said.

In addition to studying at U.Va. for two semesters, Machado will participate in a summer internship, the details of which are still being determined.

He is studying computer science in U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science and said he has a heavy workload.

"It's kind of different from Brazil," he said. Here, "the base is way higher. The classes are harder and you get more interaction between the students and the professors."

Back in Brazil, Machado said, there is very little interaction between students and professors during class, with professors typically lecturing most of the time. "Here, the professor makes the students ask questions. It's pretty nice. I really enjoy it."

Tom Horton, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, helped Machado choose his courses for the spring semester. "I think he was kind of overwhelmed by the large selection of classes," he said. "I think the program in Brazil is more integrated and focused, with fewer choices."

The 20-year-old said in addition to adjusting to the weather and workload, he is also getting used to student life on Grounds.

"Here, the students really live the university experience," Machado said. "They have this honor code everyone follows. There are all these traditions. In Brazil, most of the people are pretty much going to college and having a degree and that's it.

"Here, people really enjoy going to university. You have a whole environment here, like you have the sports teams, and everyone goes 'Hey, let's go Hoos!' That's really nice. We don't have that in Brazil."

Machado, an avid sports fan, had his first taste of U.Va. sports action Jan. 26 when the Cavalier men's basketball team faced Boston College at the John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers won the game 66-49, a victory savored by the Brazilian.

"It was awesome! Great game, and cheering up with everybody in the arena was fantastic," he said. "You know, the band playing those songs, people clapping, jumping and going loud. It was one of the best experiences in my life."

— By Jane Kelly

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