Campus: California State University, Fullerton -- December 19, 2005

Brazilian Students Learn About the OC and U.S. While Studying at CSUF

Like many of their Cal State Fullerton classmates, Felipe Ribeiro and Josias Xavier will be heading home for the holidays.

They’ll just be traveling close to 6,000 miles to get there.

Ribeiro and Xavier, a pair of Brazilian exchange students, will conclude their stay in America when they return to Brazil Dec. 22.

The duo has spent the fall semester at CSUF as part of a new student exchange program among Cal State Fullerton, the University of Connecticut and two Brazilian universities. The program, centered on coastal marine management, will see six CSUF students venture to Brazil in the spring. Future faculty exchanges also are being planned.

“There are so many different ramifications of international studies,” said geography professor Robert A. Voeks, who traveled to Brazil in July with Steven Murray, dean of the university’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, to help spearhead the program.

“I think people here have perceptions about students from foreign countries, and once our students get a chance to experience and become exposed to international students, some of those [perceptions] begin to go away. It’s very beneficial for both the students and faculty involved.”

Ribeiro, a 21-year-old sophomore from Universidade Federal Fluminense, and Xavier, a 22-year-old senior at Universidade Federal Da Paraiba, live together in the campus residence halls with four other roommates.

The biological science majors both said that prior to their arrival on campus, their perceptions of America came primarily from pop culture. In fact, once they found out they were headed to California, they said they started watching the TV show “The OC,” in hopes of learning about the region.

“Our knowledge of the U.S. is mainly from movies, and it’s very interesting to see things here that you see in the movies,” said Xavier, whose Brazilian girlfriend, Sofia Gomez, also is participating in the program at the University of Connecticut this semester.

“But I’ve been involved with so many nationalities here, and it’s good to see so many people with so many different types of lives.”

Xavier and Ribeiro said university life at CSUF is far different from their Brazilian universities. They said most Brazilian students live alone or with someone they’ve known for a long time and rarely have cars. There also are no fraternities and no intercollegiate athletics.

Their coursework in Brazil is focused primarily on lecture and theory, and they rarely get the opportunity to do fieldwork or research outside of class. Xavier and Ribeiro noted that the resources available to American students are far greater here than in Brazil.

”I came here expecting to see a lot of technology and money, and that’s what I’ve found,” said Ribeiro. “What I didn’t expect is that the university makes sure we’re in contact with scientific research, and then you choose whether you want to become involved.”

Each is taking 12 hours of coursework, and both say their favorite class is marine phycology. Jayson R. Smith, lecturer in biological science, teaches the course and said Xavier and Ribeiro have definitely developed a bond with their American peers both inside and outside of the classroom.

“I see them talking with other students all the time about what it’s like [in Brazil],” said Smith. “They get along great with the students we’re sending down to Brazil and have kind of taken it upon themselves to mentor them and tell them what to expect when they get down there.

“I hear about the places they’ve gone and who’s taking them there, and it’s always somebody different. I think people are taking the effort to expose them to our culture.”

Photo: A high-resolution image of Felipe Ribeiro and Josias Xavier can be downloaded from the university website at

Media Contacts: Steven Murray, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, (714) 278-2838

Robby Nisenfeld, Public Affairs, (714) 278-3798 or

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