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Scholarship Winner Thrives in Brazil

May 9, 2016

Dayana Lopez had always wanted to study abroad. Having previously studied Spanish at the University, the idea of adding another language to her course load was intimidating. However, soon after beginning Portuguese, Lopez decided that she would continue her studies and expand her skills in a study abroad program. With numerous programs to choose from, Lopez selected a semester-long study abroad program in Brazil.

Lopez then applied for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies scholarship. This scholarship is offered annually, awarding a student within the department funds to help reduce the financial costs of studying abroad. After completing an essay and application, Lopez waited anxiously before she was informed that she would be the sole University of Minnesota student to receive this scholarship.

In fall of 2014, Lopez flew to Santa Catarina, an island on the southern edge of Brazil. There she studied at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, where she took classes on literature, human rights, and Portuguese.

The study abroad program Lopez selected is not directly sponsored through the University, so she was the only University of Minnesota student on her trip. Studying abroad through a non-affiliated program allowed her to meet students from across the country. In addition to classes, Lopez spent the semester in Brazil exploring the country and getting to know other students studying Portuguese and native Brazilians.

“Even just going out and getting to explore the island was incredible—going on hikes, going to the beaches, and things like that,” Lopez recalls. “I appreciated that we were able to go outdoors a lot, and spend time getting to know the island, the culture, and the people.”

After returning to Minnesota, Lopez believes her Portuguese had vastly improved from constantly speaking the language for an entire semester. “The highlight was definitely being able to talk to local people because they were so open and willing to help,” she says. Since her trip, she has maintained her Portuguese by using TandemPlus, a resource CLA’s Language Center offers. Similar to a penpal, TandemPlus matches students from the University who study a foreign language to students in another country who study English.

Now a senior, Lopez will graduate this fall with a double major in Spanish and Portuguese studies and global studies. She is receiving a minor in teaching English as a second language, and hopes to travel to another country and teach English for an entire year.

“Studying abroad helped me realize that I wanted to teach English,” Lopez says. “While I was abroad I volunteered at a community center teaching English to at-risk children. It was there that I realized the many opportunities teaching English abroad would allow me to have culturally and personally.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.