The global economy has changed some of our ideas about the leading players on the world stage. Countries like China and India have gotten much attention for their growing influence, but a South American country is catching up quickly. That country is Brazil, and as ideastream’s David C. Barnett reports, it’s a growing presence on Ohio’s radar screen.
Andre Diniz greets me at the door of his dorm sporting a Green Lantern tee-shirt.
ANDRE DINIZ: I’m kind of a geek, actually (embarrassed laugh).
When he isn’t indulging his super hero fantasies, the 24-year-old Brazilian native spends most of his time as a medical student at Case Western Reserve University. He’s here for a year, thanks to the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, created by his government two years ago with the aim of sending 100,000 students abroad for science, technology, engineering and math education.
ANDRE DINIZ: They’re paying everything --- my flight tickets coming here and going back to Brazil, the housing, the food --- I don’t pay anything to be living here. Brazil is spending a lot of money on us.
Since emerging from military rule 30 years ago, the South American country has developed into the world’s sixth largest economy. That wealth is helping fund the Scientific Mobility scholarships --- just under half of which are targeted at US universities.
DAVID FLESHLER: Brazil is a real up-and-coming area of the world.
David Fleshler is Case’s Associate Provost for International Affairs. He’s in charge of coordinating all aspects of the school’s global connections, from recruiting foreign students to developing corporate partners around the world. Fleshler says the school has a number of alumni living in Brazil who act as liaisons to help make such connections. He notes that there is a stiff competition for international students, in general.
DAVID FLESHLER: Universities, both in the United States and elsewhere --- in the UK, in Australia, in Singapore, and frankly, even in China --- are looking at the global student market, both for students and for the ability to graduate global citizens.
Other connections between Ohio and Brazil are growing. Some of the state’s largest corporations, like Eaton, Diebold and Parker all have Brazilian offices, as do the larger law firms, such Jones Day. Ohio State University has recently added Brazil to a series of foreign outposts it calls “Global Gateways”. William Brustein, the school’s Vice Provost for Global Strategies and International Affairs, says these “Gateways” are like “mini embassies.”
WILLIAM BRUSTEIN: We opened the first one in China, we opened our second in Mumbai, India, and now we’re focusing on opening our third in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
J. Martin Palomo came to Case Western Reserve from Brazil 16 years ago with plans to pursue graduate work in Dentistry, and then go home. He ended up staying here, after making a few adjustments.
J. MARTIN PALOMO: There were a lot of things I had to learn, from shoveling snow, to how do you drive in the snow? And people here were very patient and understanding of someone who has never seen something like that before.
In those early days, Palomo says, there weren’t many Brazilian faces on campus. Today, there are over 30 faculty and students at Case, which makes it a little easier to find someone to talk to about events in his rapidly changing homeland.
J. MARTIN PALOMO: Things like soccer, like politics in Brazil. You catch-up with things that you aren’t going to find as good of an understanding from others.
Another place where local Brazilians gather is at performances of jazz guitarist Moises Borges. Just off the Case campus, the sultry sound of a bossa nova filters through the din of the happy hour crowd at Vino Veritas. Borges says he loves giving his Brazilian fans a chance to relax.
MOISES BORGES: They come and mingle and blend and talk their own language, and they understand each other well without being afraid of making a mistake when they are speaking a foreign language. They talk with their accent --- I just enjoy that so much. (laughs)
DCB: And he sings for them in their own language, as well – just one more little taste of home… half a world away.