What position do you hold at CET? What has been your career path so far?
Sergio: I am the resident Academic Director for CET program in São Paulo, Brazil. I have worked as a language instructor and materials writer since the 1990s.
After working for another study abroad provider for about 10 years, I served as a Visiting Lecturer of Portuguese at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, FL. I was then invited to join CET Advisory Board and eventually joined the resident staff in Brazil in August 2014.
What does the future hold for CET - any exciting new programs to share?
Sergio: Brazil's CET program has an incredible potential to grow not only because Brazil is an emerging market that attracts lots of tourists and foreign investors, but also because it is a nation whose people are highly proud of their own culture. Brazilians love foreigners and are very glad to share their life experiences while they show the country around.
This has a huge impact on language learning because students are exposed to Portuguese usage from the very beginning of their program and play an active role in their learning as they interact with such welcoming people. Brazil is an extremely diversified country, and students have the opportunity to experience that as they join us in our thrilling Traveling Seminar to Salvador da Bahia, a place where most African-Brazilian history can be fully witnessed.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
Sergio: The fact that CET Brazil offers students the opportunity of living with roommates rather than families is a great plus. As I see it, sharing a home with locals who are about the same age and who have similar life expectations is a gateway to getting to know the country in a more pleasant, realistic way. Friendship bonds are more easily achieved and accomplishments tend to be far more rewarding.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Sergio: It is absolutely impossible to talk about language learning without taking culture into consideration. As a linguist, I understand that different languages imply different ways of seeing the world. People will lay foundations to their own culture based on these ways and on the values they share in their communities.
As a student is culturally and linguistically immersed in a new culture, he/she will have the unique opportunity to see the world from the eyes of another person, and that will help him/her realize that there is no right or wrong in culture, but just "different". This broader cultural awareness will pave the way to becoming a citizen of the world and therefore a more respectful person towards his/her peers.
What was your favorite traveling experience?
Sergio: My first backpacking trip around Europe in the early 1990s. Being a dual citizen (Brazil & Portugal) enabled me to work as a language instructor and translator in the Netherlands when I first arrived in Amsterdam. Every time I stepped off the train in a different country and found myself surrounded by such a contrasting landscape, I felt there was so much to learn about the world we live in. This cross-cultural experience was definitely a landmark for me to invest in this career.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
Sergio: One of our Fall 2014 students worked as a volunteer art teacher for an NGO that helps underprivileged children in the outskirts of São Paulo, where poverty levels can be alarming. As she completed the program, she wrote a statement on CET website blog saying that her students "are the cutest, nicest kids, and saying good-bye to them this morning made me tear up." As I read such a warmhearted statement from a student, I thought to myself that working in this field is definitely worth it.