Education without Borders

In August 2012, Babi Kruchin, an instructor in Columbia Universtiy’s American Language Program, attended a week-long education fair in Brazil, with stops in Brasilia, São Paolo, and Rio de Janiero. Under the auspices of U.S. Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration/EducationUSA, representatives of 66 U.S. universities participated in the largest education trade mission in history.

Mission participants explored opportunities for international student recruitment and partnerships with higher education institutions throughout Brazil.  Both governments have eased red tape surrounding student exchanges, including the U.S. action of opening consulates in Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte to make it even easier to issue visas for Brazilians living outside of São Paulo, Rio, and Brasilia

Participating American schools met with Brazilian institutions of higher learning to explore possible partnerships, exchange programs, and joint research projects. Brazilian President Dilma Roussef launched the Ciencia sem Fronteiras, Science Without Borders (SWB) initiative in 2011, with plans for the best students from Brazil to study abroad at the world’s best universities. The goal is to increase the number of Brazilians studying at the top science and technology undergraduate and graduate programs to 101,000 by the end of 2015.

SWB, an agreement between President Obama and President Rousseff, encourages Brazilians to study in the U.S. The Science Without Borders Program will provide scholarships to undergraduate students from Brazil for one year of study at colleges and universities in the United States. Scholarships will be given primarily to students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Students in the program will return to Brazil to complete their degrees.

According to Kruchin, Columbia’s School of Professional Studies was the most popular of the 66 schools participating, with lines of people waiting to speak to her. Brazilian students expressed the most interest in the Visiting Students Program, where undergraduate, graduate, and high school students with qualifying academic records are welcome to study on a non-degree basis at Columbia during the academic year and summer.

Babi Kruchin, a native Brazilian, considered the experience a success on every level. She noted that her Portuguese was not called into play, since most Brazilians speak English, and are anxious to communicate with Americans. She was quoted in the International Trade Commission’s final press release as saying, “It is beautiful to see Brazil and the USA working together in service of the greater good.”