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A cultural nexus for the Brazilian community

The logo for the Brazilian Club has been around since 2019.
Courtesy of Julia Gomes
The logo for the Brazilian Club has been around since 2019.

In a move toward restructuring and reimagining its role on campus, the Brazilian Students Club paused this semester to pave the way for a revitalized presence in the spring semester. 

The club had a substantial turnover this year, with about 10 founding members and leaders graduating. This break served as an opportunity to overview their plans.

“We are in a moment of introspection, evaluating the club’s structure and objectives,” said Laissa Bellini Watanabe, president of the club and a member since its early stages in 2019.

The Brazilian Students Club has traditionally been a cultural hub for the community of Brazilians on Kent State’s campus. While the American Academy program, notably known for its significant enrollment of Brazilian students, serves as a base for this community, the Brazilian Students Club casts a broader net, embracing all students interested in Brazilian culture, regardless of program affiliations.

The decision to reorganize, together with a larger number of Brazilians coming to the university, has attracted a diverse array of new members, bringing fresh perspectives and energy to the club, according to Bellini Watanabe. 

In the second year of the club’s existence, the pandemic struck. The number of students from Brazil decreased on campus; many had to go back home and several were planning to come but could not.

According to the numbers from the American Academy program, which covers a more significant part of Brazilians, about 20 students from Brazil come to the Kent campus each semester. 

“I was so glad to see this many Brazilians wanting to engage and get involved for the upcoming semester, we haven’t seen that for a while,” Bellini Watanabe said.

The pause was not merely logistical; it became an opportunity for introspection, inviting members to reflect on the club’s purpose and its potential to foster connections beyond its cultural core.

Diving into Brazilian students’ traditions and club organizations in university is something that is not part of their culture back in their home country. For most of them, their time at Kent State is their first encounter with this organization system. 

Luiz Carlos de Camargo Leão, a Brazilian club member since 2022, is one of these cases.

“When I joined the club last year, I had no idea what to expect or what we’re supposed to do,” she said. “Now I feel we are much more structured and ready to embrace this journey with the new members.”

The club serves as a nexus where diverse backgrounds converge, breaking down cultural barriers posed by the differences in American culture and fostering a genuine sense of understanding.

“We’re looking forward to creating new connections, building a strong network, forming friendships, and continuing to share the richness of Brazilian culture,” Bellini Watanabe said. 

Her sentiments echo the club’s commitment to transcending cultural boundaries and creating a space where students from all walks of life can find common ground.

The club has on its plans for Spring 2024 to host several activities. Their plan includes bi-monthly members’ meetings to network and share experiences, cooking typical meal gatherings, tabling on-campus events to share more about Brazilian culture and more significant events to raise funds designated to social causes in Brazil. 

“We are very much excited about all the plans finally coming to reality and more than welcome to new ideas,” Bellini Watanabe said. 

Julia Pupo Gomes, an alumna of the American Academy’s psychology program and a former leader of the Brazilian Students Club, shared that the club significantly impacted her college journey abroad. 

“The club provided me with a sense of connection to other Brazilians; it was a way to be close to my community,” Julia shared. 

Her experience highlights the club’s role as a cultural conduit and a social and emotional anchor for those navigating the challenges of studying abroad.

Beyond offering comfort and connection, the Brazilian Students Club has been a bridge for cultural exchange. Julia emphasized how participating in the club allowed her to share her Brazilian heritage during events, fostering mutual learning between Brazilians and non-Brazilians. 

The Brazilian Students Club is not restricted to program affiliations, majors, year or even nationality, a crucial aspect of its inclusive ethos. Andy Garcia, an American senior majoring in history, looks forward to joining the club next semester. 

“I’m so happy to be part of the Brazilian Club’s next phase, join its upcoming events and gatherings,” Garcia said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself in Brazilian culture and connect with a diverse group of students.” 

While the Brazilian Students Club’s resurgence aligns with the commitment to fostering a globally aware and culturally rich campus, the club has a clear constitutional purpose: To promote Brazilian culture and diversity on campus. 

Students from any background interested in joining the club as a member for next semester are welcome to contact their leaders at [email protected] requesting further information.

Sofia Giotti-Teixeria is a reporter.  Contact her at [email protected].

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