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Source: Massey University

Massey students on the Prime Minister’s Scholarship to Latin America, pictured at Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Sergio Alvarez.

A group of 13 Massey University students has discovered there is much more to Brazil than just soccer, samba and sun during a recent four-week language and culture immersion programme.

They were recipients of a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Latin America, funded by the New Zealand Government and administered by Education New Zealand. It aims to help New Zealanders build new connections and networks, as well as develop a deeper understanding of language and culture.

From visiting a coffee plantation to experiencing life in a favela, the students discovered many connections and comparisons between Brazil and New Zealand. Cherie Trujillo began studying Portuguese when the new language programme was launched at Massey last year, and says the trip was an unforgettable journey.

“I loved being surrounded by Portuguese every day and challenging myself to have interesting and informative conversations with people about their lives and ´their´ Brazil,” Ms Trujillo says. “This was an extraordinary experience and I can´t wait to get back to Brazil to keep learning.”

The group was based at the University of Campinas and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, two of the top Brazilian universities with which Massey has collaborative agreements. Professor Matilde Scaramucci, who coordinated the immersion programme at the University of Campinas, says the cultural exchange has promoted a new understanding among students and staff at the three universities.

“The programme was instrumental in strengthening the Unicamp and Massey University partnership,” Professor Scaramucci says. “Its success must be attributed in large part to the enthusiasm, goodwill, willingness to dialogue and patience of the people involved.”

Students during a talk about New Zealand culture at the Rio Branco School in Campinas. From left to right, Kerry Nichols, Charlie Ingss, Kalebh Venter, Jessica Tchernegovsky, Aaron Hailwood, Penny Rasmussen, and Anthony Fraser.

Massey is the only New Zealand tertiary education institution to offer a Portuguese language and culture programme. Dr Leonel Alvarado, who heads the programme in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, says the course offers an important tool to build new relationships between people from New Zealand and Brazil.

“Brazil is by far the largest country by area and by population in Latin America and is a significant player on the world stage,” Dr Alvarado says. “Knowledge of the Portuguese language will certainly make it easier to approach a huge market of more than 200 million consumers.”

The group returned to New Zealand in December and will present their experiences at the Embassy of Brazil at 6pm on Tuesday March 17. For more information, or to attend the event, please email Dr Alvarado,

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