By: Kyle Bawot ’19
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend the month of July studying Portuguese in the Brazilian port city of Santos. This opportunity was made possible thanks to IPED’s Summer Stipend, which provided the means to arrange my travel, accommodation, and Portuguese classes. Additionally, my company gave me permission to spend the month working remotely (as I work full time and study part time). Overall, this language immersion program was an excellent experience and, ultimately, will be crucial in helping me achieve my professional goals.
I work in the coffee industry and one of my major career goals is to create change along the coffee supply chain to improve the livelihoods of coffee farmers. My IPED coursework is helping me strengthen certain skills that will help me achieve this goal, but one required skill is best learned out of the classroom: the ability to speak Spanish and Portuguese (the coffee industry’s key languages). To create impact in the coffee industry, knowing Spanish and Portuguese is a great advantage for it allows one to engage directly with coffee farmers, cooperatives, brokers, and exporters throughout Latin America.
I speak Spanish from having served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, but my Portuguese was limited. For that reason, I applied to study Portuguese in Brazil and, specifically, in the city of Santos, the major coffee-exporting port in Brazil. During my month long stay, I took Portuguese lessons at a local language institute during the evenings and weekends. Then, during the day, I worked remotely from my company’s Brazil office, which provided the additional benefit of conversing in Portuguese with my Brazilian colleagues throughout the day. Thanks to this experience, my Portuguese improved markedly and I am now better equipped to work towards my professional goals in the coffee industry.