From Texas to Brazil, one student is documenting his time abroad through his online blog.
Alfredo Ramirez is a Texas State graduate student studying Portuguese in Brazil for the 2017-2018 school year as a Boren Fellowship recipient.
The Boren Fellowship provides funding opportunities to U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, according to their official website.
In 2017, Texas State had its first two Boren Fellows, Ramirez and Kathryn Burns.
Ramirez said the fellowship is rather competitive due to the opportunities it provides and tends to favor students from colleges known for their foreign policy programs.
“It was not something I was necessarily expecting,” Ramirez said. “It’s worrisome because you don’t really come up on their radar as much.”
Ramirez’s perspective changed when he received news in April 2017 that he was being considered for the fellowship.
“You had to have these different plans to for what you were going to do with that six to 12 months of your life, and when they let you know you have to move ahead really quickly,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez worked closely with Andrea Hilkovitz, research coordinator in the graduate college, and Jeremy Peña, coordinator in the international studies program, to draft a strong application.
Peña was responsible for helping Ramirez remain a Texas State student while abroad. Creating a blog was the way Ramirez decided to document his time and experience in Brazil. Peña said this allowed Ramirez to remain a student at Texas State because he would essentially be serving as an ambassador for the Center of International Studies while on the program.
“Alfredo comes from the tech world, so his idea was to create this kind of on-going walk,” Peña said. “He would kind of create this connection to really kind of show what it is to be a Boren Fellow, what it is to be a student in another country, how that would manifest itself and that’s kind of where he decided to do this blog.”
Ramirez is now strictly studying Portuguese, but took classes to learn more about the Brazilian culture, history, music and foods his first semester abroad. These first courses were not required for Ramirez to take, but he thought it would be beneficial to know more about the place he would be living for the next nine months.
“I really like the way the Brazilians go about their lives,” Ramirez said. “If you have time on the corner or waiting for the bus, or in an Uber or whatever with somebody and you’re not talking, then you’re wasting time. They’re constantly interacting with each other and I think in our American lives we get in these little bubbles trying not to interact with people. I’m going to work harder to informally interact with others more.”
Ramirez will return to Texas State in March and will hold a series of talks for students regarding his trip and being a Boren Fellow. To follow Ramirez’s adventure, read his blog at txstate2brazil.com.