June 3, 2016
Editor’s Note: As the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team prepares to travel to France for a 10-day foreign tour, we will be presenting the stories of three Irish student-athletes who have already taken advantage of study abroad opportunities this summer. The second installment comes from rising junior Ginny McGowan, who took part in the Doing Business In Brazil program sponsored by ND International.
By Ginny McGowan (’18)
When I heard about the study abroad program in SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo, I knew I needed to apply. It was an incredible opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture and study business within the confines of an emerging South American economy. SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo is home to the largest concentration of businesses in South America and is a city full of innovation and creativity.
My group of 14 Notre Dame students studied at FundaÃƒÆ’Â§ÃƒÆ’Â£o GetÃƒÆ’Âºlio Vargas, which was named the No. 1 think tank in Latin America for seven consecutive years and recently placed 13th worldwide. Each day we received a lecture on a different aspect of Brazilian business including sustainability and development, management, competitive strategy, economics, marketing channels and many more topics.
Our main focus during the trip, from May 12 through early June, was to work on a project for the Brazilian company, Natura, which is the leading cosmetics brand in Brazil. Our assignment at FGV was to formulate omnichannel strategies for Natura that could be implemented in the short term all while maximizing customer satisfaction and revenues. Our group was able to visit the Natura headquarters and speak with the vice president, Robert Chatwin.
Separate from the academic side of things, I was able to see many different areas and learn more about the vibrant Brazilian culture. The first weekend we went on a bus tour all around SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo and ate in the market. I had my first pastel — which is a common Brazilian food composed of fried piecrust with various fillings. We then walked around Vila Madelena, a neighborhood in the western part of SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo. My favorite part was “Batman Alley” which is a cobblestone alley covered which many different pieces of graffiti art.
On the weekend the group bussed three hours to Campos do JordÃƒÆ’Â£o, a German town in the mountains. We walked around the town and ate at a very popular German restaurant called Baden Baden. As an appetizer I got a common dish called LinguiÃƒÆ’Â§a Calabresa de Metro, which is a pepperoni sausage spiral. We also took a chairlift to the top of the mountain and had an eagle’s eye-view that was incredible.
The next day — and one of my favorite experiences — we went to a Brasileiro SÃƒÆ’Â©rie A soccer game to watch SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo versus Internacional. It was amazing to see how much pride SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo took in their home team — something that is foreign but emerging in soccer in the United States. Our group ate in a Japanese restaurant located inside the stadium and had a great view of the field. Not many people in the group watched soccer in the States but were much more interested in SÃƒÆ’Â£o Paulo because the entire city was invested. Experiencing fÃƒÆ’Âºtbol in a country where it is much bigger than just a game was an incredible experience.
The following week, Brazil had a national holiday so the group took a six-hour bus ride to Rio de Janeiro for the weekend. We got in around 8 a.m. and the first thing a couple of us did was go hang-gliding. We were taken up the mountain and brought to an opening in the Tijuca National Park. The company had a wooden ramp leading off the mountain and I tried to act like I wasn’t freaking out on the inside. I was strapped in and the only instruction I was given was to keep my eyes on the horizon and run until I couldn’t feel the ground anymore. Basically, I had to ignore any human inclination I had and run off of a cliff. Once I was in the air, all the nerves went away. It was incredible to see the Sugarloaf Mountain, beaches and Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemor) from that point of view. The trip lasted about 10 minutes and it was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
We spent some time on the beach where I was able to join in a couple of beach soccer games. It’s amazing how friendly everyone is when soccer links us all together. It’s like a language that we all have in common. The next day, the group traveled to the Cristo Redentor site. It was absolutely breathtaking and the pictures I took don’t even do it justice. Seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World was definitely on my bucket list. Got some cool selfies out of it too.
All in all, this study abroad program was an incredible experience in which I was pushed outside of my comfort zone. I was able to learn, experience and see so many new things and am really grateful that Notre Dame offers these types of study abroad programs in the summer — especially because student-athletes are unable to take part in them during the academic school year. I had such a great time and I 100 percent recommend this program to anyone looking to study abroad!