The average university student doesn't find Monday morning very stimulating, but the vibrant young Brazilians who came to the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia to get ready for a year of study in the United States aren't your average students. They are among the 650 students who will be the first to carry the Brazilian flag to the United States in the name of Science without Borders, a massive education and scholarship initiative President Dilma Rousseff launched in July.
Science without Borders, a top priority initiative for President Rousseff, will send 100,000 outstanding Brazilian students abroad to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the next four years; up to half of them will study in the United States. To accomplish this unprecedented goal, the U.S. Mission has shifted into high gear, working with the Brazilian federal government and partner institutions to place and prepare this first group for study at more than 100 U.S. higher education institutions in more than 40 American states starting in January 2012.
The students will complete what Brazilians call a "sandwich" year -- the equivalent of "junior year abroad" -- at an American university before returning to Brazil to finish their degrees. Although the Brazilian government will provide funding for most of the students, Boeing is the first private company to offer support, funding 18 full scholarships for this program.
First, the students had to find out where they were going. On Monday morning, they got the news, and by the time they arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia and Consulates in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, their excitement and curiosity were overflowing. Our Consulate in Recife will welcome its group on Friday, December 23. Hailing from the tropics zone, the students were eager to ask Embassy staff about the basics, like what to expect of a Minnesota winter, as well as visas and dorm food.
To meet the students, recognize their accomplishment, and answer their questions, the Embassy and Consulates in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Recife are inviting the students to attend briefings and visa assistance sessions throughout the week, and in Brasilia they got a taste of an all-American barbecue with Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon, who flipped burgers and chatted with students at the "Burgers without Borders" cookout.
Ambassador Shannon talked with the students about the importance of Science without Borders, telling them that their parents made Brazil great and that they will make the world great. He encouraged them to take full advantage of their opportunity to shape the future.
Sanderson Santos, 22, who hails from the northeastern city of Natal and studies engineering in Brasilia, says the knowledge he and his fellow students acquire in the United States can help his country when Brazil opens its doors as host of the World Cup in 2014.
In sunny Rio, Maite Harguindeguy, 21, was among the 92 young scholars invited for pizza and cake at the Consulate. Headed to Portland, Oregon, she says that improving her language skills in the United States will help her as an engineer, a profession she sees as requiring a high level of English. She also asserts that interacting with another culture will be an important part of her experience.
Secretary Clinton has said, “I've always believed that diplomacy does not just happen between government officials. It also happens between individuals through people to people connections. And student exchanges are some of the most important people to people connections we can have.” Here's to 50,000 more, starting now.