Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - UERJ-FEBF (Rio de Janeiro State University- Baixada Fluminense School of Education)
For eight weeks over the summer of 2019, I worked as a volunteer research assistant at UERJ-FEBF (Rio de Janeiro State University- Baixada Fluminense School of Education. Over the course of these 8 weeks I worked alongside a cohort of first generation undergraduate women preparing community focused research projects which had been selected for presentation at the 2019 Women’s Leadership in Education conference in Nottingham, England. These women were tasked with bringing the voices of economically disadvantaged women of color into the conference by highlighting how women develop the educational sphere in the Baixada Fluminense, the province of Duque de Caxias, and the larger Rio de Janeiro area. My main task over the course of these weeks was to work alongside my supervisor in preparing these students in the UERJ Promovide research center for presentation by editing and translating student papers and preparing student introductions and presentations in English. In this group of 8 students, I helped to edit in-depth research projects on local topics from educators’ role in aiding violence against women in Duque de Caxias to black women’s role in popularizing local film work in the Baixada. This process of working on these presentations while successful presented many challenges from timing, to difficulties with my Portuguese, to working through the age gap between myself and UERJ students. However, one of the main assets to my learning experience was learning to be flexible in the face of sudden change. Coming into the first week of my project, I was informed that my original aim to be more involved in the actual process of research during my time in Rio would not be needed as many of the projects and papers were closer to completion than originally planned. Additionally, I was informed that due to a sudden emergency, my supervisor would not be arriving or prepared to begin work for about two weeks. This was a frightening and simultaneously empowering experience, as I had to push myself head first into the community and begin to search for new opportunities to be of service.
The two pictures above showcase two of the major activities I completed while in Brazil. The first picture to the left shows Laudelia Laudino, one of the UERJ research group students and also a member of my host family. In the picture above, she is giving a timed practice of her presentation entirely in English to the other 7 participants, my supervisor, myself and a few other UERJ students just a week before the conference. Laudelia and I had a uniquely powerful relationship as we worked together in practicing the English skills necessary to present her topic on Double Difference within the population of Deaf Black Students in the Baixada. The picture to the right demonstrates one of the Rio school presentations I was allowed to assist with for student teachers coming from UERJ. This day, Laudelia and I presented to this class of students aged 8-13 on the definition of culture and how this presents in our local community. These two very different opportunities within my same project not only helped me to broaden my passion for cultural studies and educational development, but helped me create amazing relationships with teachers and students both in and outside of my field site at UERJ.