Student Testimonials 2014

Sao Paulo, Brazil Lab


Topic one: your reflection and feedback on the presentation delivered by Dr. Rodrigo Tavares, the head of Foreign Affairs the trip in the Governor Palace.

Jongwon Lee, second-year MPL student
Since I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, there was very little scope to study South America. This was my first visit to Brazil, so his informative presentation increased my knowledge of São Paulo through many well-designed charts and graphs based on a wide range of data. Also, he was very willing to spend his time and effort answering any complicated questions readily. I am sure the meeting with Dr. Rodrigo Tavares provides me a cornerstone for not only understanding the information of São Paulo but my desire to contribute to a better planning and policy of São Paulo. Thank you for his kindness again.

Bryan Maekawa, second-year MPL student
It was a real privilege and honor to meet with Dr. Tavares. I was extremely impressed with how well-spoken he was and I appreciated that he took the time to provide thoughtful responses to all of our questions. I was fascinated by his presentation on Sao Paulo and I wished I had had more time to visit and experience all that the city has to offer. Also it was nice to see a fellow Golden Bear accomplishing great things around the world.


Connie Su, second-year MPP student
I learned a lot about Brazil through Dr. Rodrigo Tavares’ presentation. I was very impressed to learn that Sao Paulo is a leader in Latin America in many, various industries – and there is surely great potential for this city to inspire growth and innovative development in the rest of the country and even the continent!

I would like to highlight how much I appreciate the guidance, hospitality, and dedication of the Governors Palace staff during our trip. Andre, Rafael, and Aline, who are interns in the Foreign Affairs Department, went above and beyond to share with us about their country. They patiently translated multiple conversations (without rest, even on the bus when most of the team took naps in between site-visits) in both formal and informal settings. They taught us about Brazilian customs, food, and culture while connecting with us about American pop music, celebrity gossip, and trending topics in social media. They even spent time with us during their off hours by treating us to authentic Brazilian meals (Coxinha, a fried chicken croquette style drumstick, is my new favorite snack!), introducing us to Melisa shoes (I bought 5 pairs!), and broadening our cultural experience by connecting us to their friends at an international networking event. Our experience in Brazil would not be the same without their kindness!

I’m coming away from this trip not only with a better knowledge of urban planning and international development strategies, but also new friendships that I hope to grow over the years to come.


Topic two: your reflection and feedback on the whole International Lab in Sao Paulo.

Jongwon Lee, second-year MPL student
With my professional experiences and academic interests in international development, I am undergoing a process of International Development certification at USC Price School as a MPL student. My goal of studying international development planning in developing countries became certain in 2011 while working as an intern in a Korean government agency that provides grants and technological cooperation to developing countries for their socio-economic advancement. I belonged to the Industry and Energy team and I got to experience national projects relevant to urban infrastructure and economic development. However, although I spent much time and effort reading many books, I was always curious about developing countries’ culture and people because without understanding this, I felt my knowledge would be limited ideas due to my mere Korean experience and perspective. In this way, the Brazil field trip essentially would allow me to have a real-world experience through not only the cultural activities but also site visit plans. Although I may have known only basic Brazilian, the trip made me learn so many cultural aspects to see real-life applications of academic lessons. I am still trying to grasp everything that I experienced while in Sao Paulo, Brazil. International lab was one of the best decisions I could have made at USC, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in international development and looking for an experience of a lifetime.

Bryan Maekawa, second-year MPL student
The international lab was truly an incredible experience and it was a real privilege to be able to participate in it. It was a great chance to apply the skills I had learned in the classroom and gain practical experience in the field of consulting. I felt that I was making a real contribution to an important project, and I appreciated that EMPLASA treated us as professionals and took our ideas seriously. Thanks to USC’s excellent reputation and presence abroad, we had access to many important people and we received a great deal of support throughout the trip. The international lab program was one of the main reasons I decided to attend USC and it did not disappoint me. I plan to participate in another international lab in the future.

Ashley Powell, second-year MPA student
My experience as an MPA candidate at USC Price will forever be affected by the incredible opportunity of being a part of the International Housing Planning lab in Brazil. Taking this class as an elective and having the opportunity to learn from Richard Green as well as my classmates and the government employees and officials for the State of Sao Paolo is truly remarkable. I will never forget the skills and knowledge I obtained from participating in this unique learning experience.

Julio Martinez, MPA student
During the last day at the International Lab, I approached Diana Motta, Director at EMPLASA, to let her know the Lab should be at least two weeks long. The International Lab was my first experience studying abroad, and it was a great experience! From site visits to presentations, I felt I was learning something new everyday. Our group also found colleagues and friends among the staff and students who helped guide the Lab throughout the week.

One of the activities that impacted me the most was the site visit to Campinas. We had the opportunity of meeting Jairson Canario who shared with us his incredible story. We also met with community leaders and they too shared with us a little about their community. The site visit reminded me of my home country Mexico, a country in which communities are currently experiencing crime and violence due to drug trafficking and drug cartels. Campinas represented for me hope that one day, communities in Mexico and in other communities in Latin America, can also overcome the difficult times and become strong and safe communities.

I am very happy to have experienced and learned from this International Lab and from having the opportunity to gain great Brazilian friends.