Southern adding international flavor

When fall classes start Monday, 36 Brazilian students will be roaming the campus along with Southern University’s first-time freshmen and returning upperclassmen.

Southern has made a push in recent years to open its campus to foreign students, sending Chancellor James Llorens overseas to establish relationships with universities in Turkey and Brazil.

In this case, the Brazilian government agreed to send some of its students to Baton Rouge as part of the Scientific Mobility Program, which provides scholarships to undergraduates for a year of study abroad.

Formerly known as the Science Without Borders program, the initiative grants scholarships to students studying in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, commonly known as the STEM fields.

Llorens said the initial 36 students taking classes this fall could grow to 500 students in the coming years.

Last week, four of Southern’s newest Brazilian students met with faculty advisors as they began the process of acclimating to a new country and a new school. All four hope to advance their studies in engineering and science while in Baton Rouge.

Matheus Teixeira, a civil engineering student, said that while he has friends living in California and Michigan, he’s happy he landed in Baton Rouge because of the familiar climate.

“I love the things we can learn more from being here, like football,” Teixeira, 21, said. “I like to travel, and I like to know about other countries.”

Lorrayne Andreata, 20, another civil engineering student, said she will use the opportunity to improve her English, which will help her down the line in her professional life.

Many of Southern’s Brazilian students will spend their first several weeks taking English courses in pronunciation, speaking, writing and grammar, in addition to their classes in their chosen area of study.

Southern has committed to providing the students with a host of cultural experiences, including taking Brazilian students to sporting events, educational tours in south Louisiana and travel to surrounding cities.

Brunna Amorim, 20, a computer science student said she’s already taken to south Louisiana’s spicier cuisine.

“When you think of America, you think the people are very cold,” she said. “The people here are very friendly.”

Rafael Ramos, a mechanical engineering student, said he’s excited to see New Orleans and possibly other parts of the country.

When you think about the U.S., “the first thing you think about is Barack Obama,” Ramos, 21, said. “I like robotics, so I’m interested in NASA.”

The Brazilian students are one piece of Southern’s stepped-up recruiting efforts. Llorens, the Baton Rouge chancellor, said the university has been losing between 300 and 400 students per year recently due to tougher admissions standards and rising tuition, as schools throughout Louisiana try to offset more than $700 million in state budget cuts to higher education.

Southern also is expanding its online degree offerings and reaching out to community college students to boost enrollment.