Big-screen experience for Brazilian students visiting York University

The experience of a study abroad program is one of the most rewarding ways to test knowledge, expand academic and cultural horizons, and enrich education.

Five undergraduate students from film and media programs at five Brazilian universities are experiencing that enrichment first-hand. They spent the past semester taking courses in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and are now working in internship placements as part of the Canada-Brazil Ciência sem Fronteira (CsF)/Science without Borders (SwB) scholarship program, funded by the government and private sector in Brazil.

BrazilStudentsThree of the five Brazilian students studying in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, left to right: Bernardo Batista, Heloá Pizzi Mauro and Alexandre Leopoldino

Ambitious in its scope and reach, SwB aims to send 101,000 Brazilian students to study internationally in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by 2015. Some 12,000 will come to Canada.
Bernardo Batista (Rio de Janeiro), Alexandre Leopoldino (Uberlândia), Heloá Pizzi Mauro (Americana), Susana Thoma (São Paulo) and Natalia Thomsem (São José dos Campos) came to York for film and media studies and were able to branch out to explore other disciplines in the Faculty of Fine Arts. They found classes in digital media, theatre and visual arts that were a good fit for their skills, talents and interests, and also complemented their core programs.

Thomsem particularly enjoyed studying set and costume design in the Department of Theatre. “It was a very hands-on class, and the wardrobe facility is great,” said Thomsem, who described the studio as her second home on campus. “It’s not the kind of class I would normally be able to take at a film school, and it definitely gave me new skills for art direction on set. Now I’m even considering theatre design as a possible future career!”

Praise for York’s facilities, especially the high-quality camera and lighting equipment available to film students, was echoed by all the Brazilians – a reflection on the Department of Film’s ongoing commitment to keeping abreast of the fast-paced technological developments in the industry.

The Brazilian students said the balance of class time versus time spent on assignments outside of class at York was very different from their experience at home. “In Brazil, my classes were much longer and my homework less complex,” said Pizzi Mauro. “Here, the projects can be hard, but I like this way in Canada because I have more choice to explore what interests me.”

The postsecondary experience in Brazil groups students as a unit in a more prescriptive program, simplifying scheduling and strengthening the students’ interpersonal network. In Canada, the Brazilians enjoyed the variety of class options, though they noted it was harder to get to know their classmates given the demands on everyone’s time.
“York students are so busy,” said Thomsem.

Now that classes are over, Thoma and Thomsem are working on campus under the supervision of digital media Professor Michael Longford to assist professors in Faculty of Fine Arts in the creation of digital material for Moodle courses. Leopoldino is interning with film Professor Brenda Longfellow, helping with research for her interactive web documentary project on “extreme oil” exploration. Batista is supporting film Professor Ali Kazimi in his creative work in 3-D cinematography, an experience that has piqued Batista’s interest in pursuing a master’s degree in 3-D film.

As an intern with Oshawa’s Studio O, Pizzi Mauro is collaborating on the production of a series of YouTube video documentaries about the Canadian SwB 2013 experience. One episode is based at York University and features Batista and two other Brazilian visitors – psychology student Bárbara Barth and engineering student André Vasconcelos – speaking about their study abroad experience.

View the video (Portuguese with optional English subtitles).

In addition to their studies and internships, the Brazilian students are taking the opportunity to explore their host country. Their individual travels have taken them to Niagara Falls and Montreal, cottages in northern Ontario, and Jasper and Banff in Alberta. Batista and Thoma will be capping off their study abroad experience with a trip to the legendary Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

When the students return home, they will be ambassadors for York University and the Canadian educational experience. “We will meet with our professors to share our experiences and opinions,” said Batista. “What we have learned about education in Canada may change how film is taught at our schools in the future.”

“SwB provides a wonderful opportunity for Brazilian students to engage with their Canadian counterparts and Canadian culture, but it’s definitely a two-way street,” said Ina Agastra, international relations officer in the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The visiting students have also been exceptional ambassadors for their own academic institutions and for Brazil. In today’s interconnected world, supporting students in this format helps them to gain experience to live, work and succeed in a global context.”