Students embrace living in the moment

‘Study abroad changes you as a person, changes your perspectives, changes the way you see and the way you learn things in your major.’

- UTRGV graduate student Linda Torres

By Maria Elena Hernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – JULY 16, 2018 – Linda Torres, a graduate student at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, ziplined over the mountains of Brazil this May.

Did we mention that Torres is afraid of heights?

“I don’t even know how I got in the zipline,” said the Brownsville native majoring in counseling and guidance. “I could see the mountains and the trees. I don’t know how to explain it. It was just life-changing.”

Torres was one of nine students who traveled to Brazil for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology.

“We went to southern Brazil, where there’s a huge mix of cultures. Southern Brazil was mostly colonized by Germans and Italians, and Portuguese, as well," said Camilla Montoya, the UTRGV psychology department lecturer who led the class.

The region is also where Montoya is originally from.

“I'm Brazilian,” she said. “Most people don’t think I am just by looking at me.”

BLENDING IN

That reality led to one of the students’ first lesson about the culture.

“Anyone really could be a Brazilian,” Montoya said. “I looked at them and said, ‘Every single one of you could pass for Brazilian.’”

Denisse Hernandez, of Reynosa, Mexico, is a UTRGV Mass Communications focusing on advertising and public relations. She and the other students very quickly learned that lesson about stereotyping based on physical attributes.

“The Brazilians came in different shapes, sizes, skin colors, hair colors – everything,” she said. “We would be courteous with the little Portuguese we knew. But when they would try to establish a conversation, they would be like, ‘Oh, you guys aren’t from here.’”

FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCES

Another early discovery in the course was what the students would not be able to share with their family and friends back home. 

“We're sitting at this amazing restaurant,” Montoya said, “where one of the students said, ‘You know, I could take a million pictures of these plates. And I could make as many videos as I wanted and send them to my mom. And she would never know what it tastes like.’

“And to me, that really hit home – the importance of experiential learning, the importance of experiencing things instead of just seeing them through photos and videos.”

Hernandez agreed, saying she enjoyed the chance to learn outside of a classroom.

“You're actually going out there, experimenting, seeing things for yourself,” she said. “It really opens your mind. It makes you feel more prepared for the future.”

CHANGING PERSPECTIVES

Torres said that, while the class focused on differences in cultures and included daily journals and group presentations, there was also a lot of introspection.

“Study abroad changes you as a person, changes your perspectives, changes the way you see and the way you learn things in your major,” she said. “You have a lot of stuff going on in your mind, and while we were there we just kind of forgot about everything. We were just there, focused. We were living in the moment.”

NEW FRIENDS, NEW ADVENTURES

Montoya said the student on the Brazil trip experience an amazing amount of personal growth in two weeks.

“No one knew each other before the trip, and they’re an amazing group of friends now. They’re already planning a trip together as a group for next summer,” she said.

UTRGV STUDENTS – STUDY ABROAD, BRAZIL

  • Justin De Leon, junior, nursing major.
  • Aimaloghi Eromosele, sophomore, biology major.
  • Zarai Espinoza, junior, psychology major.
  • Jose Garcia, senior, psychology major.
  • Ana Garza, junior, psychology/early care and early childhood major.
  • Amanda Gomez, sophomore, psychology major.
  • Dennise Hernandez, senior, communications major.
  • Efrain Martinez, senior, psychology major.
  • Linda Torres, graduate student, psychology major.

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

Nine UTRGV students traveled to Brazil this summer for a study abroad course in cross-cultural psychology. The class, led by Camilla Montoya, UTRGV psychology department lecturer was in southern Brazil, focusing on the broad mix of cultures in that region, including German and Italian and Portuguese. In addition to classes, the trip included experiences to include sightseeing, ziplining and rafting. (Courtesy Photo)

 

ABOUT UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Malena.Hernandez@UTRGV.edu
UTRGV Senior Writer / 956-882-8787

Marci.Caltabiano@UTRGV.edu 
UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications / 956-665-2742