Through their eyes: Student perspectives on GLP’s Brazil Symposium

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Salvador | Brasilia | Rio

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
— Pat Conroy, author. 

The notion of Brazil conjures up images of bright beach scapes, rain forests bustling with wildlife, football, food, and a little festival called Carnival. It is, of course, all of these things. But Brazil is also so much more.

The GLP’s International Symposium to Brazil delves into the political, cultural and diplomatic history of South America’s largest country. Students experience firsthand the rich fabric of Brazil’s cultural heritage, whilst also gaining insight into some of the most compelling issues on Brazil’s national agenda today through a range of briefings with diplomats, non-government organisations, community groups and university students.

Last week GLP caught up with three delegates from last year’s International Symposium to Brazil.

We asked them, almost a year on, what person, place or topic in Brazil do they still reflect on now? 

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Shelby S
Bachelor Law/Arts majoring in Social Justice

“The Symposium enlightened and inspired me with such depth and beauty – and as a student, has allowed me to discover my passion for human rights.

Immersing ourselves in tours around the neighbourhood of Rio Vermelho in southern Salvador and Pelourinho, Salvador’s historical down town showed us first-hand the blending of European and African cultures – with the contrast between the historical, slightly run-down buildings and lively, bustling shopkeepers and citizens being truly indicative of the city’s diversity.

Brazil undoubtedly changed my life for the better. Let it change yours.”

After attending the GLP Symposium to Brazil in 2015, Shelby decided to change her degree to reflect the passion for social justice that she developed in Brazil. 

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James B
Bachelor of Arts – Politics & International Relations, Spanish and Human Rights Law & Development

“…nothing compares to forming one’s own conclusions and ideas by experiencing this flux in power, from the few to the many, on the ground.

In the old capital of Salvador, a discourse of the racial inequalities is facilitated through music and dance as the cultural connection to African roots. Organisations like Instituto Mídia Étnica, the cross-platform media network dedicated to Afro-Brazilian issues, furthers this dynamic. Inequalities in income, access to services, housing, work and political empowerment have pushed Brazil into a new phase of self-actualisation, as what some say is corruption and ineffectual leadership become less and less tolerable to a population that is newly empowered.”

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Gabby H
Bachelor of Commerce (Commercial Law)/Bachelor of Laws 

“…there is beauty in these communities unlike anything else I had ever seen. The favela is bustling. Young boys shoot for makeshift goals and around every corner, and the sound of music and drumming is rife.

When I think of Brazil, two things come to mind: football and music. Our visit to Cantagalo favela brought these two together. Cantagalo is home to thousands, its houses stacked like blocks stretch up the hills just back from the picturesque beaches of Copacabana.  We were guided through the steep and weaving staircases with the help of a local guide who has lived his whole life in the favela.”

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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, author.  

Applications for the Global Leadership Program’s Symposium to Brazil (17 – 30 September) are now open. The Symposium is open to all Macquarie students.

Email glp@mq.edu.au for more information, and a link to the application form.

Applications close 9am, Monday 30 May.

A place we call ‘Home’

A story from GLP Cultural Series Cabramatta October 2015:

Last year, I, together with a group of beautiful ladies and one gentleman, had a one-day trip to Cabramatta, a small suburb in Sydney that is believed to be a great example of multiculturalism. Despite originating from Vietnam, I have always wanted to explore Cabramatta, where most Vietnamese people, together with other cultural groups such as Cambodian and Laotian, have formed a community in Australia, where I’m studying abroad. The day has given me one of the best experiences in my GLP journey, helping me to understand a place that I call my ‘second home’.

The day started in the early morning, at the Mingyue Lay Temple, our first destination. Mingyue Lay Temple is one of the largest Chinese Buddhist temples in Cabramatta. It has four main halls, which represent an ecumenical celebration of Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. Miss Hong warmly welcomed and introduced us to the establishment and the story of the temple. At the main entrance, we took in the majesty of the ‘Three Buddhas’, who are also known as ‘Ru Lai Fao’. They represent the teachers of Western Universe with the ethereal world of the faithful, the earthly universe and the Eastern World, from left to right. We also had a chance to appreciate the beauty of goddess Quan Yin, a great deity in Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhism, as well as Di Sung Wang, the God of the underworld.

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The Three Buddah’s

We were lucky as this day was a celebration of Chung Yeung Festival (Double Ninth Festival). This festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in the Chinese calendar and is observed as a traditional Chinese holiday! Nine is a yang number and that date is said to have too much yang (double nine). On this day in Chinese culture, people visit the graves of their ancestors to pay respects by cleaning the graves and dedicating food, which is believed to have spiritual elements.

During the visit we watched the Buddhist monks gather together in front of the three Buddha, reading out loud Buddhist scriptures. There was such a relaxing atmosphere.

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Double Ninth Festival

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Ekta attempting to draw fortune sticks

After having Vietnamese cuisine for lunch, we began a walking tour around Cabramatta. We were so amazed by the richness of the community, from the meaning of spirit animals to the structures of the buildings. The gateway or Pai Lau located in Freedom Plaza, a pedestrian mall between the main shopping areas of John Street and Arthur Street, stands as a symbol of friendship, freedom, democracy and multiculturalism. The five languages on the gate, English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Lao and Khmer, are the most commonly used in the community. The statues that stand on either side of the gate  further represent the characteristics and wishes of the local people. The ox on the left-hand side symbolizes strength, hard-work, and luck while the horse is a symbol of entertainment and stamina.

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Cabramatta Freedom Plaza

Our final activity of the day was the Amazing Race. We were put into groups and had to race around Cabramatta to find local shops and items, or to interpret the special terms. Our main target places were the markets where we could find fabric, fresh vegetables and special herbs. We were amazed by the friendliness and kindness of the shop owners when we asked for help even though we did not buy the goods! Their willingness to help us was astounding. Despite having to overcome language barriers, at times, we had a fun experience and learnt so much more about the community.

We were given a glimpse in to the lifestyles and traditions that have been kept so dearly since the 1990s, and the strong cultural and social relations among the locals. In Australia, where multiculturalism is encouraged, we are lucky to have the opportunity to work and live with so many different people. Small or big, the uniqueness of each culture affects each other, blending together to build a picture of colours that makes Australian culture even more rich and attractive.

We came together, learnt together, had fun together, a small group of young visitors craving to learn about new cultures, regardless of our backgrounds. Even though we left our footsteps behind, the lessons we bring home will forever stay in our hearts.

Tu Lien Chu is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce and was able to claim this experience as part of her Experiential Credit. 

The Cabramatta Cultural Day is applicable for:
UG 10 Experiential Credit points GL X33 Participation in a GLP Cultural Series Tour
OR
GLP Approved Event (Study Abroad/Exchange)

Please check your student email for a link to the application form, or email glp@mq.edu.au. Please note, only complete applications will be considered.

Applications close 9am, Monday 23 May 2016