2017 Grant Award: Zac Cohen

This summer I participated in the South America Signature Travel Program through the Schreyer Honors College. I spent two-and-a-half weeks each in Brazil and Colombia. In preparation for the trip, I took the three-credit honors course “Education, Culture, and Society in Brazil and Colombia.” The class focused on social inequities in Latin America, paying attention to structural inequities in higher education and K-12 schooling.

In our travels, we toured private and public universities and primary education facilities and discussed how differences in socioeconomic status created barriers to opportunities. The differences in funding, class size, and technology were apparent in our visits. Education plays such an important factor in social mobility, and it was fascinating to learn how subtle differences between systems manifest themselves in differences in expected outcomes.

My group of eight students visited eight cities in total, four in Brazil and four in Colombia. In Brazil, we stayed in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Ora Prato, and Rio De Janeiro. In Colombia, we stayed in Bogota, Murillo, Ibague, and Cartagena. We visited some of the most iconic locations in the region, including Christ the Redeemer and the Harbor of Rio (two marvels of the world), Inhotim, and Monserrate. We participated in many new cultural experiences, including attending a professional soccer playoff game, performing in a samba band, learning the martial art of capoeira, playing the sport of tejo, and taking a tango class. We explored Brazil and Colombia’s natural beauty, repelling down a waterfall in Brazil and hiking through the countryside in Brazil.

I forged new connections with many incredible people on my trip, including the undergraduate and graduate students in my group, professors, chaperones, and students from the Higher Education Institute of Brasilia (IESB) and the University of Ibague who served as our tour guides during parts of our visit. It was an amazing experience that taught me a great deal about the region and myself.