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Global Perspectives: Natalie Brooks

Natalie Brooks is an undergraduate student in the Ohio State College of Public Health.

As a public health major at Ohio State, I was not expecting to travel to Brazil for a study abroad experience. The majority of the international opportunities offered through my college focus on infectious diseases, human development and healthcare systems. While these are very important global health issues, I wanted to look at the link between education and health disparities that people face worldwide. I chose the “Higher Education in Brazil” program so I could learn more about the education system in Brazil and the type of access and opportunity afforded to Brazilian youth.

We arrived to Salvador with our “queen,” Clara Ramos waiting for us at the airport. She told us we would not be the same when we left Bahia (the region). She did not lie. This trip was completely transformative and allowed me to learn more about Brazil’s culture, history and traditions. Being involved with the citizens and interacting with students for an entire week was a great way for us to learn about their experiences. All of the Ohio State students on the trip were assigned several articles to read prior to our arrival, so we were able to familiarize ourselves with Brazil and what we could encounter. However, talking to Brazilian students and professionals for an entire week opened our eyes to what life is like there.

Visiting high school students at the Steve Biko Institute in Salvador was inspirational. They spoke on the importance of self-love and taking pride in their roots. Wearing their afros, embracing their brown skin and speaking on racial issues without fear gave me a sense of hope. These students are strong individuals who are standing up for justice and better education systems. As young adults, they are taking on the challenge to demand better from their government and education systems. I began to cry when we visited children at a local elementary school because I knew they had promising futures. Students from Steve Biko and other universities have the determination to make a change for themselves, their siblings, young children and many generations to come.

Overall, this trip gave me a sense of empowerment and has changed my perspective for the better. Dancing with other Brazilians, walking the beaches and touring the area was great. Every single day was great. Constantly working and learning helped me see what it is like to live in Brazil. While there, we heard that one of their well-known advocates, Marielle Franco, was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro. Stuff like this happens and many are still working towards the equity and justice they deserve. The fight will continue and taking trips like this raises awareness. Thankfully, I was with a fantastic group of students and we all grew together. “Higher Education Brazil: Access, Equity and Opportunity” is an education abroad trip all students should experience in their lifetime. Education is never ending. Government officials and policies may take away one’s rights but knowledge is something we will have forever. Being a part of this year’s group is something I will carry for the rest of my life, and I look forward to learning more about how I personally can make a difference during my future endeavors.

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