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Course provides Purdue students opportunity to study with classmates at UNISOS University in Brazil

For seven enthusiastic Brazilian students visiting the John Martinson Honors College, Purdue University culture is an exciting and surprising diversion from their university at home.

“I loved visiting with our classmates, the Starship robots, seeing the Latino Cultural Center, and walking through campus,” said Larissa Gonçalves, a junior business major in the Solutions Lab class at Unisinos in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The sheer size of the Purdue footprint, the roar of the crowd at university athletic events, and visits with local groups and organizations are among the highlights mentioned by students staying on campus as a part of the Solutions Lab Global course. A change from their small non-residential college experiences at home, these international students found quality academics and opportunity for adventure at Purdue quite easy to embrace.

The class, Solutions Lab Global: Brazil, brought together students from Purdue and Unisinos (Porto Alegre, Brazil) for a semester-long Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) course, with a one-week in-person component in November when Unisinos students visited the Purdue campus. In turn, Purdue students from the class will travel to Brazil over the 2023 spring break week to experience student life at Unisinos.

Nathan Swanson, clinical assistant professor and director of study away said, “Given that the world’s greatest challenges today are indeed global, this course prepares students for developing solutions to real-world problems in collaboration with colleagues across borders, cultures, and disciplines.”

Swanson further explains that intercultural collaboration and critical thinking better equips students to understand the different ways that people experience the same global phenomena.

Unique in its infrastructure, the Solutions Lab Global course evolved during the pandemic and social movements of 2020 as a way for students to experience diverse backgrounds and perspectives amidst the constraints and challenges of the time. The program brings together these diverse disciplinary backgrounds to work on projects that address a global need or problem. This semester’s topic explored sustainability and smart design as a global focus. As the course provides an opportunity for students to engage online throughout the semester, the adjacent travel experience offers opportunities to interact in-person with classmates and universities of different cultures. Students enrolled this semester seemed thrilled with the opportunity to embrace their cultural differences.

“The course combines study abroad and cultural learning with an interdisciplinary project-based approach”, says Leighton Buntain, global and intercultural scholar-in-residence at the honors college. “I think the experiences provided were extremely positive. The Brazilian group was surprised at the diversity on Purdue’s campus, the amazing facilities, and all the activities.”

For the spring 2023 semester, Solutions Lab Global will be partnering with the university of Padova in Italy. The course will continue its online format and include a ten-day study away opportunity to Italy for students enrolled from the honors college. Like the Brazilian students arriving on our campus this semester, Purdue students will have the unique opportunity to study and build community with students of a different cultural background.

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