In a few months, Luan will begin classes at the University of Oklahoma's College of Architecture. But for now, he's working on his English.
Luan came to OU from his native Rio de Janeiro in August. This semester, he's one of 36 students from Brazil studying at OU's English as a Second Language program. Luan, who, like many Brazilians, only goes by one name, is one of a growing number of college students from the South American nation who are coming to Oklahoma universities.
Universities in Oklahoma and nationwide are increasingly looking to Brazil as an important source of international students — and the tuition dollars they bring with them — due in part to a program that offers Brazilian students scholarships to study in the United States.
Once he completes the English language program, Luan, whose full name is Luan Vinicius Juliao das Virgens, plans to study at OU for a year. Then, he will return to Brazil to complete his degree there.
Studying in the United States gives him a different perspective than the one he gets from his university in Brazil, he said, and it gives him a chance to learn about a culture other than his own. That experience will be an asset for the rest of his career, he said.
The Brazilian government launched the Scientific Mobility Program in July 2011 with the goal of strengthening the nation's training in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math. The program gives scholarships to Brazilian undergraduates to spend a year studying at universities in the United States. The students then return to Brazil to complete their degrees.
Brazil has frequently been mentioned as a part of a group of countries collectively known as BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China — which economists see as emerging economic powers. That economic status also makes the country an attractive area for college recruiters.
Matt Hamilton, OU's registrar and vice president for enrollment and student financial services, said the scholarship program has made a major difference for OU. The university has sent recruiters to Brazil for the past two years, he said, and the university is seeing “a general increase in activity and interest.”
“It is a fertile recruitment area which combines very capable students who want to study in the United States with an emerging economy and Brazilian government support,” he said.
Dennis Dunham, director of the University of Central Oklahoma's Office of Global Affairs, said UCO is also stepping up recruitment in Brazil.