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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Liz Living in Brazil

The world is flat—that is, if you ignore Aristotle and believe instead in Thomas Friedman, as I have so chosen to believe, based not only on his evidence in The World is Flat, but (perhaps more importantly) on my own international experiences.
I’ve been here in Florianopolis, Brazil for about a month and a half now. The biggest shock for me has been how similar life here is to life in the States. Internet access is widespread, the quality of life is high, and people are well-connected with the world around them, both within and outside of Brazil. Every other week, I pore through an issue of Exame (similar to Fortune in the States) that discusses both national and corporate problems—the costs and benefits of a bullet train between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, an analysis of corporate bonuses, the explosive growth of Southeast Asian economies. They suffer the same inequalities—of income, of regional development, of social prejudice.
They’re worried about the same things we are, and in turn, having many of the same discussions we are. The other day, I pulled up the Wall Street Journal, only to find that the hot-button issue of the day was infrastructure stimulus spending. Just today, I read an article arguing for (you guessed it) more infrastructure spending here in Brazil. Of course, that article was in Portuguese and referenced President Lula and the Brazilian Congress, but you could have just replaced those things with American references (and translated it into English, of course), and it would have been nearly the same.
What’s the lesson I’m learning? It’s more important now than ever to become a global citizen, not a citizen of a particular country. And while that sounds like an overwhelming task, the so-called “flattening” of the globe is making this task easier to achieve, as well as achievable from anywhere (although living abroad for a while certainly helps). It’s a matter of identifying global trends—trends in business, politics, regional development, and the like. Once you start to notice the trends, it becomes much easier to think globally rather than nationally. And that ability to approach things from a global perspective is necessary to succeed in our contemporary “flat” world—even if you still insist the Earth is round.

The Edge of Europe

Spending 6 weeks in Spain studying Spanish was an unbelievable experience. But, believe it or not, one of the most exciting experiences I had during my time in Spain was traveling to Lisbon, Portugal for a weekend. Not only is Lisbon the largest city in Portugal, but it’s also on the western coast of the country, facing across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States.
The monuments were fantastic. Belem Tower, which served as a ceremonial entrance to Lisbon and later a political prison, was an impressive sight. It sat just down the coast from the Monument to the Discoverers. This impressive structure serves to remind visitors to Portugal of the important role it played in new world discoveries.
Perhaps most impressive was the Castle of Saint George, sitting high above the city. This fortress was built over hundreds of years, and at its core represents impressive Moorish architecture built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This castle also afforded fantastic views of almost all of Lisbon.
My trip to the Western edge of the European continent ended with a trip to the beach, a truly cultural experience. The water was cold and the sand hot, but taking in the sun with Portuguese is an experience I won’t soon forget.