The Radford University Experience
PUBLISHED IN THE MAGAZINE OF RADFORD UNIVERSITY, SPRING 2016
By Dan Waidelich
Mateus Alves Gomes has enjoyed living and studying in Radford over the past year, but there's just one problem.
Despite keeping an eye out, Gomes has not found any pão de queijo, the snack he misses most from his home in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
"It is cheese and bread and it is delicious," Gomes said, "but the food here is very good also."
Gomes is one of 13 students attending Radford University as part of the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP), a one-year program that matches Brazilian students with American universities and funds a comprehensive study abroad experience. BSMP is part of a larger initiative to grant 100,000 Brazilian university students the opportunity to study abroad at the world's best colleges and universities.
"We don't choose the university, just the country we want to go to," Gomes said. "We send in our grades and essays and they find the university that will fit us best."
The chance involved explains how a student from Belo Horizonte - population: 2,491,109 - ends up in a rural town in Virginia, with no pão de queijo stands on the street.
"Radford has been very good," the information systems student said. "Everyone here is so supportive and kind, especially the staff from the university. They help us any way they can."
Diego Vitoriano da Silva, a computer science student, is from Fortaleza, Brazil, nearly 1,500 miles from Mateus' hometown.
"It is different here than in Brazil, where most students study close to home or even live with their family," he said. "American students will travel to attend school."
Because Brazilians tend to stick close to home for college, the government supports many federally funded exchange programs.
That means exposing students to many different learning styles.
"At home, professors are not as easy to talk to," da Silva said. "There is more homework and more assignments at Radford University, but I always feel like I can talk to my professors. They really help us."
Gomes, da Silva and the other BSMP students are assisted in their studies by Radford University's Language and Cultural Institute, which provides language-related programs and services for academic and professional development.
The LCI also runs an Intensive English Program, which offers full-time language training to international students. Instruction is available from beginning through advanced proficiency levels. Upon completion of the program, students can matriculate into a university program.
Several Brazilian students found themselves brushing up on their English before courses started in fall 2015.
For Gomes, it was a chance to immerse himself in the customs of an American college before classes started. The work paid off.
"I've made a lot of friends - including my roommate, who is American, and a lot of international friends," Gomes said. "This whole experience of traveling to another culture is amazing. But I wish I knew how to cook pão de queijo."