The journey to America

By Daniel Cobb

May 5, 2014

By Taylor Enyeart Over 4,000 miles separate the country of Brazil and the city of St. Joseph, Mo., but that didn’t stop a group of eight students from pursuing an American education at Missouri Western. These eight students didn’t know each other before they began their journey together, but have traveled north and have gotten to know each other well. They are enrolled in the intensive English program and have excelled quickly in learning our language. Kay Dickerson, instructor for both the English as a second language and the teachers of English to speakers of other languages programs, has worked closely with the students. She is an instructor for one of their four classes in the intensive English program as well. The intensive English program consists of four classes per day: grammar and composition, reading, academic writing and study skills. The students are in class 20 hours per week, along with two hours at the Center for Academic Support with trained tutors spending time with conversation partners. The students arrived on campus over spring break, and unloaded their belongings into their rooms in Griffon Hall. When they arrived, Dickerson and other members of the IEP took the students on different errands and trips around the area to help them get to know their surroundings. For instance, the students went to Wal-Mart to pick up items they were not able to bring on the plane, such as pots, pans and bedding. Because of traveling costs, most of the students only brought one suitcase and bought anything else they needed here. They also took a bus tour around St. Joseph, went bowling and visited Legends in Kansas City, Mo. More recently, the students traveled to see the state capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. As they have traveled around the local area and spent time in the classroom, Barbara Voigt, full-time instructor in the IEP, has gotten to know the students well. “They’re wonderful,” she said. “They are extremely inquisitive, which is a great trait.” Voigt said that the students are curious about things that most Americans don’t even think about. For example, the students were very interested in knowing what the columns in front of the state capitol building were made out of. She said that much of this is due to the fact that they are engineering students, and therefore have superior attention to detail. Voigt also said that the students are very intelligent, as some have already completed three years of college in Brazil. “They love laughter. They all have great senses of humor and never miss a chance to crack a joke,” she said. The students said that so far, they have really enjoyed their time while at Western. “Everyday we have something to do – playing ping pong, ice cream socials, parties and trips,” one of the students, Diego, said. All eight of the students agreed, however, that they miss the food from their home country. “Your food just isn’t as good,” another student, Lucas, said. Another thing the students were very interested in is our highway system. “It’s incredible, really,” Lucas said. “The roads are so straight and big.” When asked how they felt about Western, the eight said they enjoyed how well students and staff communicated. They also really like the school spirit surrounding the Griffon athletic teams. Upon their arrival to the states, the students were also happy to find that things are cheaper here than in Brazil. The students are in the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, and are part of a special project in Brazil. Brazil and the Institute of International Education work together with CAPA International Education to send students to the U.S. to train them in the STEM Program, which includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Once they complete the IEP, they will be able to continue into junior level undergraduate classes of their major programs. All of these students are interested in various engineering programs. While the students do not have to continue their education at Western, Dickerson is hopeful that they will find homes as Griffons. After they complete their undergraduate degree, they have the option to continue to graduate school and receive their master’s degree. After their schooling is complete, they have to return to Brazil and work for the country for two to four years. Brazil is paying for tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, meals and the students also receive a small monthly stipend. Dickerson said that this program is part of a scholarship that Western received after an application two years ago, and has been working on ever since. The eight that are on campus now will be here for 20-23 weeks. On June 20, Western will be receiving more Brazilian students for a shorter version of the program that these eight are on. Dickerson hopes there will be around 10 more students.