SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — “It was life-changing!” said Western New England University senior Thomas Cowin of Hampden, Maine. “I’ll never be the same person after this experience,” Cowin added.
The ten-day trip to Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Games was an experience of a lifetime for ten enthusiastic university students and two professors. In addition to taking in three group-stage matches at Rio de Janeiro’s famed Maracana Stadium, where the World Cup Finals will be played, the students visited the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain; rode the cable-car trams to Sugar Loaf Mountain; toured the Imperial City of Petropolis; visited Rocinho, the largest favela (shantytown) in Brazil; received a VIP tour of the FIFA International Broadcast Center; tried on authentic Brazilian samba costumes; and of course, got in some beach time at Rio’s world-renowned Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Guiding the students in Brazil were Western New England University professors Curt Hamakawa and Daniel Covell.
“There is no greater learning experience than travel, and there is no greater travel than going to a World Cup, and there is no greater World Cup than a World Cup in Brazil, the soccer capital of the world!” said Cowin.
This summer study abroad program, was the fourth such program offered by the Center for International Sport Business in the College of Business at Western New England. Previously, CISB director Curt Hamakawa led student groups to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and the 2012 London Olympics, and Prof. Hamakawa is already planning the next student trip to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
Ross Titelbaum of Peabody, Mass., was almost at a loss for words in recounting his Brazilian World Cup experience. “It’s difficult to describe the non-stop excitement and passion and joy that you see and experience when enthusiastic fans from 200 countries get together. This experience was amazing. I’m so grateful I was able to go on this trip,” she said.
Most, if not all, of the students were deeply impacted by this unique opportunity, and thus gained tremendous life experiences in such a short span of time, from navigating their way in a non-English speaking country and interacting with Brazilians and other foreign tourists from every corner of the globe, to learning about the culture and history of its people through guided tours and visits to a museum, manufacturing plant, places of worship, and making many new international friends. A sobering, but at the same time enlightening, experience was the group’s visit to the Rocinho favela, where an estimated 200,000 people live in an area less than a square mile. The students were fascinated to learn that apart from the obvious conditions of extreme poverty and squalor, the slum dwellers actually have a well functioning community with schools, stores, and even art galleries!
Although Irina Smith of Wilbraham, Mass., was the most experienced international traveler among the ten students, having previously traveled to eight countries, even she was in awe of what Rio and the World Cup had to offer. “The cultures course and trip not only met but went way beyond my expectations. Everything was special in its own way and I would do it over again in a heartbeat!”
Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England serves 3,800 students, including 2,500 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, Pharmacy, and the School of Law.