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Arizona, Italy connection via study abroad cultivates possibility for ASU students

August 13, 2018

Work at organic farms in Phoenix, Italy helps students discover new branches of sustainability

A gourmet meal led to a food-for-thought opportunity for a handful of Arizona State University students this summer.

As a result of discussions sparked at Dinner 2040 — a meal-tasting-turned-panel-talk in Phoenix — between a local organic farmer, an ASU professor and a former project coordinator in the School of Sustainability, five students added a comparative farming practicum to their coursework for the Italian Language and Culture in San Severino Marche study-abroad program coordinated by the ASU Study Abroad Office. A longstanding program led by Associate Professor of Italian Juliann Vitullo, students take immersive Italian language courses in a 13,000-inhabitant Italian town, San Severino Marche. 

“Students got an inside look at co-op produce. They saw 10 farms and got to witness infrastructure developing with CSA (community-supported agriculture), the business and the lack of infrastructure for farming in Phoenix,” Vitullo said.

Comparative programs like this one allow students to experience the challenges of our local system, such as food waste and lack of infrastructure for small-scale organic farmers, and address a need to bring successful practices from elsewhere back to the metro Phoenix area.

In the program, new this year, the five students worked at Maya’s Farm near South Mountain in Phoenix throughout the spring semester as part of the SOS 494 class credit of "Comparative Cultures of Sustainable Small-Scale Farming: From Maricopa County to Le Marche, Italy." Once in Italy, students worked with organic farmer Vittorio Giacomini at Biocontadino, an organic farm near San Severino Marche. Students Gerardo Moceri and Dana Martin shared their experiences.

Connecting their Arizona roots to farming and Italy

Both sustainability majors, these Arizona natives have deep ties to the region — Moceri’s family has restaurants in Sedona and Payson, and he was drawn to this program to learn more about sustainable practices he can help apply to his family’s businesses. His dad is a chef from Sicily with more than 25 years of experience, so his program was partially heritage-seeking to learn his father’s roots from working in Perugia.

“I wanted to go to Italy, and the farming piece was a bonus. Plus, I wanted it to be a month so I wouldn’t be away from helping my family’s restaurants for too long to help during the summer season,” said Moceri, a junior.

Martin’s ties are connected to her desire to bring food education and edible farms to local schools she attended here in Phoenix. Now a senior at ASU, she grew up with a long history to agriculture being in 4-H and raising pigs. She tried veterinary science at Maricopa Community College, but it didn’t quite click like sustainability did, resulting in her transfer to ASU. Her long-term goal is to be a school garden educator to help kids see the value in food at a young age.

Research projects

As part of the practicum, students investigated a particular research topic related to comparative farming. With his minor in psychology, Moceri studied the connections between the mind, body, food and sustainability. Through his research, he analyzes the negative long-term consequences of certain kinds of stress in our everyday lives and ways that local farming cultures might reduce it.

Martin investigated the relationship between school lunches in public schools and impacting health and wellness. She looked into the impacts of fast food here in the United States and Italy, and through her research, she demonstrated the need for local edible education and the role community farmers play in helping kids foster a positive, healthy relationship with food at a young age.

Making it possible financially

Finances were a challenge for both Martin and Moceri to make this study-abroad program happen. They, however, along with 17 others from ASU received the Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study this past summer and the current fall semester.

Part of the scholarship is to give back to the community upon returning from the study-abroad program. Both will continue to help Maya’s Farm and will work to help improve the infrastructure of the internship program, including coordinating logistics for future interns, farming duties and local market support. In addition, Moceri will be volunteering with America Reads in the Phoenix area to teach children in low-income areas across four different sites about the importance of a global education. Martin will be working with Vitullo and Maya's Farm owner Maya Dailey to recruit students to participate.

Advice for future students

“A big motivating factor for me was going to the study-abroad events to visually see what’s out there. Connect with a person who knows more about the program and discover what’s best for you,” Martin advised.

“Do it now and apply for all scholarships you think you qualify for. You have to find them and apply for them, but it’s worth it,” Moceri said.

Lasting impact

“It gave me hope that more sustainable food practices are possible,” Martin said. “It opened my eyes to possibility and tangibility for my future. It was helpful to see sustainability as the norm in their lifestyles. Seeing the culture and relationship Italians have with food is inspiring.”

While Martin was there, she was able to observe governmental incentives working to provide healthier food options in schools.

“Embedding it through that level and seeing it successful makes me hopeful for it to happen here," she said.

Moceri was most impacted by the food network, seeing produce go from farm to table and not into to-go containers at restaurants.

“Portion sizes are more realistic, and creates less waste for the restaurant industry," he said.

To learn more about the 250-plus study-abroad programs in more than 65 different countries offered at ASU, see the Study Abroad Office website. And visit the Study Abroad Expo on Aug. 22 in the Ventana Ballroom of the Memorial Union from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. to learn more about programs and scholarships.

Top photo: Sustainability senior Dana Martin pulls weeds at Maya's Farm, a local organic farm near South Mountain in Phoenix.

Carrie Herrera Niesen

Project Manager , J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute

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Teaching English in Brazil program offers career, academic direction

August 13, 2018

ASU students share the long-term impact of study abroad on their life plans

This summer, four Arizona State University students participated in a five-week teaching assignment in São Paulo, Brazil.

The first of its kind for ASU in Brazil, this program fulfilled a number of study-abroad program offering needs: to provide an opportunity for students to gain classroom teaching experience and to expand study-abroad program offerings in South America. 

"Until this program, we didn't have many options for students to study abroad in Brazil. This program provides a great opportunity for campus-based and ASU Online students alike to gain real-world experience in a cosmopolitan city like São Paulo," said Barbara Young, international coordinator, senior in the ASU Study Abroad Office. "South America is a lot closer and is far more affordable of a price tag for the cost of living to better suit the needs of our students."

This program was facilitated in partnership with the ASU Study Abroad Office and local organizations, social benefit nonprofit 4YOU2 and Campus Brasil. 4YOU2's unique internship curriculum divided their experience up into six themes: Your Development Journey, Cultural Engagement, English Language Instruction, Leadership, Administrative Activities and Social Partnership, accounting for 150 total internship contact hours.

"The internship placements tend to be in low-income areas for Brazilian citizens who don't have an opportunity otherwise to build proficiency in English, particularly those who work in the hospitality and tourism industries," Young said.

4YOU2 placed students in English language schools across São Paulo, and Campus Brasil provided in-country support, including housing assistance, visa coordination, cultural excursion, in-country orientation and local transportation.

ASU Now talked with two students who finished up their program on Aug. 5, to learn more about their experiences: Jordan Husk, an ASU Online senior and English major through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' English department and Tim Ashe Jr., Spanish PhD candidate through the School of International Letters and Cultures in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Question: What drew you to the Teach English in Brazil program?

Husk: This internship allowed me to do something I loved and help me figure out what direction I wanted my career to go in. I was looking into getting a master’s degree and education for teaching, but I was unsure if I would like it enough to make it my profession. I like to travel, and this internship gave me the opportunity to travel and find out if I like to teach enough to make it a career. This opportunity has opened my eyes to several different teaching possibilities, including teaching English as a second language, and this program gave me the experience I wanted without the risk.

Ashe: I was drawn to the Teach English in Brazil program through the Spanish and Portuguese department at ASU. As a Spanish instructor and Portuguese student at ASU, I was interested in learning more about the language and culture for research purposes and because I am a linguist. Similarly, I also teach English for my professional career — besides Spanish — and think that being able to have international experiences as an ESLEnglish as a Second Language teacher and researcher is extremely important. The advisers in both the English and SILC departments have been promoting the new program through our internal email and through university webinars.

Q: Did you face any challenges in preparing to study abroad? If so, what were they? How did you overcome them?

Husk: I did not face any challenges so to speak while getting ready to prepare. I had enough time to get my things together and make sure I had the tools and resources I needed, so I felt prepared. 

AsheYes, I faced some monetary issues in preparing to study abroad. Studying abroad as a graduate student is not cheap. I overcame them by working multiple jobs during the school year and summer and trying to save as much money as possible before arriving to Brazil.

Q: What preparation or support did you receive to teach courses through this program?

Husk: We can ask questions to the Campus Brasil or 4YOU2 team at any time, and 4YOU2 has a hub manager on site when we teach classes if we have any issues. 

AsheI have my master’s degree in both English education and in bicultural learning, so I was trained to teach in courses and programs like this one. My current PhD program also offers and requires pedagogical training, too, as part of the coursework and teacher development. Additionally, as a teaching associate at ASU, they assist the instructors with training. The internship through the language academy — 4YOU2 — has provided us with assistance to learn their curriculum and teach Brazilian students as well.

Q: Describe a day in the life on your internship. What is your teaching assignment like? Whom are you teaching? What kind of experiences are you cultivating for your students? What do you enjoy the most/least?

Husk: We had some time at the beginning of the internship to explore the city and get a sense of the culture. Day to day, we usually get breakfast or lunch together if we sleep in, and travel to the school, teach two classes and head back home. We occasionally go out together and night, and we do go out and spend time with each other on the weekends. The teaching assignment is two classes every day, generally with adults — on average they are around 25–35. 

For my students, many of them have told me this is the first time they have spent time and talked to a foreigner, so the language and cultural aspects I am showing them, even through simple conversation, is something new and exciting for them. I love how kind and excited my students are, and perhaps the least enjoyable thing is the long commute time to the school. 

AsheMy typical day is teaching from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. I teach mostly adults from the ages of 18–35.  Most of my students are professionals who worked during the day and then took English classes during the late afternoon/evening. Some of my students are high school students and college undergrads on break, too. 

I enjoyed using technology and current events to teach my students using different types of interactive tools. I taught all levels of English to them — beginner, intermediate and advanced — in three different classes. I enjoyed learning about a new culture and gaining their perspectives on life. Teaching can be exhausting, but they always brought a positive attitude and an open mind to our activities.

Q: Why are your students enrolling in this program? What do they hope to gain from this experience?

HuskMy students all want to learn English for better opportunities. While those range from getting more money at work because they can speak English, or traveling the world, they all want to personally improve.

AsheMy students enrolled in English classes to improve their salaries in Brazil and to learn about a different culture. Only 5 percent of Brazilians know English, yet many of their employers reward them for being able to speak it and add it to their CVs. They understand that they will have more opportunities in life if they learn English since it is an important global language.

Q: What are your academic, professional and personal goals? How is this intern abroad program helping you achieve those goals?

HuskMy biggest focus is on my short-term goal of graduating in the fall and opening myself to new experiences. This internship has let me teach in a new country and opened me up to so many amazing people and a great culture. 

AsheThis intern abroad program allowed me to learn more about the Portuguese language and Brazilian Portuguese variety. I also developed a cultural understanding and learned about the education system in Brazil. I was able to teach English classes in a new country and gain valuable experience with different types of students. Lastly, I was able to assist in curriculum development and testing while also doing my own study on technology use in the classroom and its effects on intercultural competence in a language immersion setting for second language acquisition.  

The experience will help me with my dissertation (as I piloted the methods portion) and will show that I can teach languages in a variety of settings. Working and learning from South Americans and from teachers with a wide breadth of experience has been an incredible experience.

Q: What has been a highlight and a challenge of interning abroad in São Paulo?

Husk: The best part about São Paulo is the people. Everyone is so warm and welcoming, and they genuinely want to learn about our culture and they want us to experience theirs. I would say the only challenge for me personally was a language barrier, but if you know the basics you can make your way around OK. People are very understanding, and many people love to practice what English they know with you! 

Ashe: The highlight is getting to explore a world-class city. Additionally, getting to travel to South America for the first time to interact with amazing, ambitious students has been a pleasure. Of course, when you learn a new language (Portuguese), there are always difficulties and cultural nuances to learn about and adapt to. Also, it can be difficult at times to speak a lot in the target language (English) while in the classroom to fully immerse the students (where sometimes they may have different levels of English) and get them participating at a high level to achieve the goals of the class. 

Q: What would you say to ASU students considering a study-abroad program?

Husk: I would encourage anyone to travel abroad if they can. I urge them to try to immerse themselves as much as they could in the culture; food, nightlife, TV shows, local events, sporting events, anything experience that would be different than what they are used to. I would urge them to stay open-minded and flexible but to have fun and not allow the occasional homesickness to get in their way. 

Ashe: Take the plunge. Living in another country is incredibly exciting and rewarding. Studying abroad and traveling is good for the soul, and you learn so much about your own country and “culture” by doing it. Brazilians are incredible people who have opened their houses and hearts to me, and I will be forever grateful to them.

To learn more about the 250-plus study-abroad programs in more than 65 different countries offered at ASU, see the Study Abroad Office website. Visit the Study Abroad Expo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 22, in the Ventana Ballroom of the Memorial Union to learn more about programs and scholarships.

Top photo: City skyline in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo courtesy of ckturistando/Unsplash

Carrie Herrera Niesen

Project Manager , J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute