On Tuesday, May 13, six senior nursing students, one graduate family nurse practitioner student, and two faculty members (Wendy Woith, Ph.D., and Lynn Kennell, M.S.) from Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing departed on the second transcultural trip to Londrina, Brazil, in the state of Paraná at the Universidade Estadual de Londrina (UEL). The students are staying with host families who are either nursing students or faculty.

This experience will offer students an opportunity to learn about Sistema Ūnica de Saūde (SUS), Brazil’s health care system, the UEL nursing curriculum, visit a variety of resource clinics, hospital and community-based centers available to the people of Brazil, learn about communicating in a country where we are the foreigners who don’t speak the language, and immerse themselves in the culture of Brazil for two weeks.

The following journal entries, written by students, will offer a detailed glimpse into their experiences:

Day 1: Hiccups and home

Submitted by Kaitlin Ross and Sara Ferreri

What an adventure, and it has hardly begun! For sure, we are having a lesson in patience, which will greatly contribute to our learning experience in Brazil. Our first day was just spent traveling, though this was no small feat. Our first flight was delayed due to a fire in a radar control tower in Elgin, Illinois. Due to this, we would have missed our connecting flight in Atlanta, so we rebooked a direct flight to Sao Paulo with Dr. Woith. It was all well worth it. Upon our arrival we were pleased to find our host, Jessica, was extremely welcoming and friendly. Although she and her parents speak very little English, they have been able to make us feel very welcome and comfortable in their home in Londrina.

Streets in Brazil

A neighborhood in Brazil.

The language barrier has proved to be the most difficult, but rewarding, hurdle we have to overcome. It has helped us to develop a stronger sense of empathy towards people who struggle with a language barrier to health care. It is truly difficult to communicate with people who do not speak or understand your own language. This can be extremely overwhelming and exhausting. Though this has been difficult, we are making more and more progress every day. Jessica is very bright and has already picked up a considerable amount of English. We are attempting to learn as much Portuguese as we can and try to meet Jessica halfway with our Spanish understanding.

Upon our arrival at Jessica’s home, we found it surrounded by a fence and locked gate. The rest of the community was similar with houses surrounded by fence, or even a cement wall with glass shards stuck across the top as makeshift barbed wire. The roads and sidewalks are all covered in a fine red dust, which stains shoes and clothing. Inside the house, the floors are all tiled, and the windows are barred with metal rods. Our host family has a very nice home that is well kept. We find ourselves feeling quite at home, even in such a different country.

We are thankful and very excited to see what the rest of the week brings!