The process of internationalization in academic institutions in Rio de Janeiro and the need of affection to promote intercultural education

Abstract

 Presenter (s) Isabela Cabral Félix de Sousa

Historically in Brazil, international university cooperation focused primarily on exchanges with First World countries, the so-called South-North cooperation. However, some initiatives have occurred in the twentieth century, showing that Brazil also encouraged academic South-South international cooperation. Since this century, the South-South international cooperation became more preeminent in Brazil. Despite continuing to promote the South-North cooperation, the Brazilian government in the beginning of this century gave priority to the process of internationalization of universities by creating new institutions with integrative concepts. Yet, the internationalization of universities and research institutes in Brazil led to many challenges relating to transform them into inclusive and intercultural educational systems. In light of them, this paper discusses the process of internationalization in two academic institutions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is a qualitative study based on two case studies beginning in 2011: a university and a research center where it was mapped some actions towards international students such as special welcome meetings and grants for foreign students. It was also evaluated the different curricula and the presence or lack of adjustments of the curricula to foreigner students, such as the provision for courses in Portuguese language and Brazilian culture. This research also involved interviews in both institutions with administrative staff and some international students in order to know their voices in regard to their experiences in these academic settings and their living conditions. Through the content analysis, it was identified that international students face many difficulties as well as develop strategies to live in Rio de Janeiro. While not all of them engage in a meaningful educational endeavor, most describe their experiences as worthwhile. Their agency to live abroad is noteworthy. By describing their historical experiences, some students attenuate feelings of isolation. It was noticed that the students that are more integrated know how to best exchange affection with those they relate. Thus, inclusive and intercultural education to be successful must not only learn the concrete needs of international students but search for strategies that promote affection.

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