This past spring break I had the unique opportunity to study abroad in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero, Brazil. My study abroad experience took place from March 16-25 and although I was only in Brazil for a week it seemed like much longer. While studying abroad in Brazil this past spring break I had the opportunity to construct my own research project. I decided to complete my research on income inequality which is a major issue in Brazil. The reason I chose to study income inequality in Brazil is because income inequality is also a major issue within the United States. By studying income inequality in Brazil this past spring, I could learn more about how economics has been used to alleviate major differences in the income of the population in Brazil, and how these methods can be used to help curb income inequality in the United States.

While in Brazil I visited many new technological companies such as Nubank an online banking system and Cubo Itau a place where startups can go to help get their business and ideas off the ground. I also visited the American Chamber of Commerce and the B3 stock exchange while in Brazil. Each of these visits helped to highlight the fact that technological advances will play a key role in reducing income inequality in Brazil. I learned a lot by visiting businesses in Brazil, but one of my favorite learning experiences was through interacting and attending a class with Brazilian students. At the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo, I was able to work alongside Brazilian students where I learned a lot about how low levels of education are contributing to income inequality in the country. Working alongside these Brazilian students, I helped to design a financial technology program to improve financial literacy among Brazil’s poorest citizens.

While a large part of my trip to Brazil centered around economics and business, I also had the opportunity to visit some of Brazil’s most famous landmarks and tourist destinations. It was amazing to go to the Afro Brazilian Museum and Beco do Batman a famous tourist destination known for its beautiful graffiti. I also had the opportunity to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue, Copacabana Beach, and Sugarloaf Mountain while in Rio de Janiero. While at Sugarloaf Mountain I was able to ride a helicopter over the coast of Rio de Janiero. The helicopter ride was probably my favorite part of the trip. The helicopter ride only lasted about 7 minutes, but from inside it seemed like much longer. The takeoff from the helipad was scary and although I couldn’t see my fellow passenger, I’m pretty sure everyone else had their eyes closed too. Once the helicopter was stable enough for me to open my eyes I took in a view that I will never forget. Waves combed through the Atlantic Ocean and boats were scattered nonchalantly throughout the vast body of water. Hills provided a backdrop to the buildings of the city and the beaches on the coast were endless.

My experiences in Brazil allowed me to make many new friends and learn so much about the issues facing people in South America. While Brazil is full of beautiful views, culture, and people, there are also serious issues in the nation such as poverty and violence. I have undoubtedly become more culturally aware as a result of this trip and I have learned so much about Brazilian culture and customs. Immersing myself in Brazilian culture has assisted me in becoming a global citizen by providing me with an awareness of issues facing people in other parts of the world, and an appreciation of different cultures, viewpoints, and values than my own.

A Little About Me:

My name is James Jones and I am a Senior honors student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign double majoring in political science and psychology. After completing my undergraduate degree, I will go on to law school and ultimately become an attorney. I enjoy reading, watching movies, and playing the piano. I am a classically trained pianist and I compose music in my free time. This is my second trip abroad and my first trip to either South America or Latin America.