Luiza’s Story: Studying & Interning in Brazil | Concordia Language Villages

Luiza's Story: 
Studying & Interning in Brazil 

In 2008, Marie Luiza Lefebvre was nervous about attending Mar e Floresta, the Portuguese Language Village.

“I was nervous because I came knowing no Portuguese, but I soon realized most of the other campers were in the same boat as me. It was easy to bond with each other and make friends. I loved how we became such a tight-knit group, since we were such a small camp of just 10 campers.”

Luiza quickly adapted to her new surroundings and began to create new memories.

“Some of my favorite memories included watching the novela “A Grande Família” every day, even though I could not understand a word at first; drinking Guarana (a ridiculously sweet Brazilian soda) and consequently getting hopelessly addicted; dancing forro to Gilberto Gil; and especially the wonderful Brazilian music we would listen and sing along to! I will never forget the words to “Abecedario da Xuxa,” a Brazilian children’s song that teaches you the alphabet in Portuguese.  I’m pretty sure we sang it every single day.”

Today, Luiza is studying abroad in Brazil after receiving a National Security Education Program (NSEP) Boren Scholarship. Boren Scholars represent a variety of academic backgrounds, but all are interested in studying less commonly taught languages, including but not limited to Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Swahili. Boren Scholarships are funded by the NSEP, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.

“I had been taking Portuguese classes for more than three years before finally studying abroad in Portugal during the summer of 2012. I fell in love with Portugal last summer, but studying in Brazil was always my ultimate goal and dream. I applied for a NSEP Boren Scholarship to study in Rio de Janeiro for the 2013-2014 academic year, just in time for the World Cup!”

Luiza feels that her experience at Mar e Floresta was critical in making her a successful candidate for the NSEP scholarship.

“In my application essay I wrote about my experiences both as a camper and as a counselor at Mar e Floresta. I feel like so many people forget that Portuguese is spoken outside of Brazil, but at Mar e Floresta we stressed how it is spoken in eight countries throughout the world. In my own essay I made a case for how Portuguese was important to U.S. national security, not only because of Brazil’s economic rise, but because of the growing importance of Lusophone Africa as well, especially considering the oil and natural gas deposits in Angola and Mozambique. Whereas so many of my peers are blinded by the glamour of Brazil and choose to learn Portuguese just to go to Brazil, Mar e Floresta piqued my interest in all countries that speak Portuguese.”

Not only is Luiza studying in Brazil, but she has also had the opportunity to intern with the Brazilian Biodiversity Fundas well as the BRICS Policy Center.

“Working at Mar e Floresta was my first real work experience. I will use the skills I learned, like the ability to work under pressure and improvise or working on a team to get things done, throughout my career. I was prepared to adapt to the Brazilian workplace because I interacted daily with native speakers in a full-immersion language environment while at Mar e Floresta. I also gained a lot of confidence in terms of communication skills and public speaking from having been a counselor and constantly having to lead activities or give announcements in Portuguese for the entire camp.”

Luiza is looking forward to her future and hopes to find a job where she will continue to use her language skills. One of the terms of her scholarship is that she must find a job with the Federal Government, so she plans to apply for jobs with U.S. embassies in Brazil or Portugal, or possibly with the State Department. But no matter where she goes, Luiza will never forget her time at Mar e Floresta.

“I made lifelong friends at Mar e Floresta, and I could not be more grateful for the wonderful staff there.”

For more on Luiza and her time in Brazil, check out her blog at