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Foreign exchange trips can change the lives of students.

Academically, personally, and professionally, students walk away from exchange trips with new perspectives that can make all the difference for their futures, said Vanessa Oliveira, International Program Coordinator with the Faculdade de Tecnologia e Ciencias (College of Technology and Science), or FTC, Harrisburg University’s partner college in Salvador, Brazil.

For example, just last year, an FTC student who visited HU, planned to open a business in England upon graduation. But after attending one of HU Professor Albert Sarvis’ Geospatial Technology classes, her career path took an entirely new direction. During a field trip, Professor Sarvis introduced her to drones and showed her how they can be used in mapping and beyond. She now plans to with drones as a civil engineer, Oliveira said.

“Always, a foreign experience can change (student) lives,” she said. “You cannot just tell (students) about it. They have to be there to see it and experience it.”

HU’s partnership with the FTC, established in 2016, includes a collaborative class that provides opportunities for students from Brazil to visit the U.S. Integrative Sciences Professor, Dr. Robert Furey, heads the partnership for HU. Dr. Furey also accompanies students on trips to Brazil, where HU students attend classes and workshops, and participate in numerous cultural exchange activities. They even visit the rain forest during their stay in Brazil, not to mention the trips to the beach, museums, restaurants and shops.

But right now, it is the FTC’s turn to take in HU, Central Pennsylvania, and beyond.

A group of 15 FTC students arrived in Harrisburg on October 18 for a two-week visit.  During their stay, our guests will also attend classes and workshops here, and soak in our culture.

So far, the group has checked out HU’s high-tech Esports practice facility, the university’s Interactive Media and Geospatial Technology labs, and toured much of the Harrisburg campus, in addition to attending class.

Off campus, they toured the state capitol and met with state Rep. Patty Kim, hiked along the Appalachian Trail, and traveled to the Field of Screams Halloween attraction in Lancaster County. Other trips, including a visit to Washington, D.C., also are on the agenda.

In addition to the cultural exchange, learning about another University’s academic programs and the tools they use to deliver them is an important component of the trip, Oliveira said. Foreign exchange trips are something one must experience to fully understand the significance, she said. Faculty and staff have made the group feel at home during their stay. HU students can expect the same when they travel to the FTC, she said.

“It’s not only our university, (visiting students) have an opportunity to experience our country, our way of life,” Oliveira said. “Our university is set up the same way. We offer internships, and we have a lot of things in common. But we like how HU is organized, and that the studies are interdisciplinary.”

The interdisciplinary delivery of education at HU has also impressed FTC biology Professor, Caesar Carqueja, and electrical and megatronics engineering Professor, Paschoal Molinari, both of whom accompanied the students on this year’s trips.

Students at HU are introduced to a variety of subjects in, and outside, of their majors. And the various departments work together to provide a well-rounded education, they said.

HU’s campus, and the technology on hand, also are impressive, Molinari said.

“The fact that (HU) is new, with lots of new technologies. Every aspect, architecturally, the distribution of space and the use of technologies are impressive. It’s new in the frontier of education,” he said.

So, what are the visiting students’ impressions of HU so far?

“It’s very different from Brazil. HU is way more high-tech than us. We deal more with people, and here it’s about data, science, and technology,” said Maria Carolina Moura Costa Campos, a fourth-year Medical Student at the FTC.

The best part of the experience so far has been meeting students and getting to know the similarities and differences between them, Costa Campos said.

“I believe that meeting new people, places and new ways of thinking makes you so much richer,” she said.  “We will take back so many experiences, and educational methods.”

Along for the visit, also, is Amanda Querino Andrade Viana, a fifth-year medical student at the FTC.

Andrade Viana jumps at every chance she gets to visit the U.S., as she plans to move here to complete her residency and launch her career.  She said she appreciates the ability for students at HU to enroll in a variety of classes while earning their degrees.

“In Brazil, we don’t have that, so you can get experience in different areas before you choose (a major),” Andrade Viana said, adding that the best part of the trip for her has been “getting to know other students.”

For Alexandre Cavalcanti Oliveira Silva, the trip represents his first visit to the U.S.

The third-year accounting student, who is a self-confessed technology junkie, was smitten as soon as he arrived at HU.

“I always think technology is the future. It’s funny to see how technology is used here, and that there are many ways (educationally) to get to the same place. But I don’t enjoy the cold weather. And I miss the food at home,” Oliveira Silva said. “But I love the buildings, the technology and this place. I love this university.”

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