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Humility, Humanity and Samba

September 18, 2014

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Here it is, post-travel from Bauru, São Paulo (Brazil)— I can hardly believe that my international travel experience has come and gone, and I am positive there is hardly enough space within this blog post to share everything, but I suppose I’ll give it a try.  As a recap, I had the privilege of spending my summer vacation at school (yes, you read correctly, 10 full school days, but totally worth it) at the Universidade de São Paulo Faculdade de Odontología de Bauru (USP-FOB), with two of my classmates turned travel buddies for a 2-week student exchange program.  As mentioned in an earlier post (A Culture of Kindness-Outreach in Brazil, check it out if you haven’t already), I cannot over emphasize how humbling and warm the welcomes were from the faculty/staff, students, and even the security team on campus; the three of us went from University of Michigan D3’s to overnight American celebrities. From morning gourmet coffee from various specialty departments on campus; morning, mid-day and afternoon hugs, kisses and greetings in Portuguese and shyly-spoken English; to daily invites to tour the city or grab lunch and/or enjoy dinner and samba with different students and quickly made friends, we were truly received, accepted and welcomed with the utmost hospitality.

Needless to say, I have several favorites for this trip: foods, phrases, friends and memories, but I will briefly share a couple of my favorite things about the university that haven’t been mentioned in other posts.

1) The campus: absolutely beautiful, serene but lively. Aside from the wonderful, mild winter temperatures (~30 C° or 86 °F), the gated campus provided a very scenic and open space of various department and clinics, a cafeteria for students (lunch was filling and less than $1/day), a small café for quick snacks, pastries, coffee on the go,  Centrihno (the world renowned hospital for craniofacial anomalies), and colorful plants, small palm trees and ponds along the paths throughout the campus dimensions. Additionally, the waiting rooms/lobbies for the student clinics and Centrihno are outdoors, and particularly for Centrinho, these areas are made to look more like a resort to aid in patient relaxation rather than the anxiety-inducing white walls encapsulating distinctively distinguishable hospital aromas.

2) The multidisplinary approach to treatment.  Since the University of São Paulo in Bauru houses the Hospital for Rehabilitation of Craniofacial Anomalies (HRAC known as Centrihno), its multidisciplinary professional team involves physicians, dentists, speech pathologists/ audiologists, and psychologists to provide complete comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate patients, free of charge. Something new that I learned is that many children with cleft palate are prone to recurrent buildup of fluid in the middle ear and/or ear infections, which leads to an increased risk of hearing loss.  The phonaudiology department provides comprehensive services to evaluate, diagnose, treat and possibly prevent the communication, auditory, phonetic and deglutition problems of these patients. I was able to observe some of the many diagnostic hearing tests conducted and even analyzed my own hearing (good news, my hearing is well above average J).

Truly, this experience was invaluable and I cannot think of a better way in which I could have spent or have ever spent a summer vacation. I highly encourage 1st and 2nd year students to apply for this experience during their 3rd year, and for anyone looking for memorable international adventures to consider planning a trip to Brazil—anyone is welcome to tag along with me, because I will most definitely return in the near future.

Andrea Branch is a D3

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