Travel writing class learns first hand in Brazil

Kate Drew

Over spring break, students taking Karyn Hollis’ travel writing class, along with several others,  journeyed to Brazil for a 10-day trip. Staying in various hostels along the way, the group traveled to several places including Rio de Janiero and Manaus. 

As a member of the Latin American Studies Association, Hollis has been taking students abroad over spring break for the past three years to various South American countries, such as Chile and Peru. 

“Three years ago, I suddenly thought it might be fun to take the students on a trip that we could write about later,” said Hollis, a professor in the English department at Villanova and director of the writing and rhetoric program. 

This trip was more expensive than in the past because the vast landscape of Brazil required flying from place to place during the break. The cost totaled $2,500 plus an additional $150 for a travel visa. 

The students were required to do a great deal of preparation for the trip including organizing their travel documents as well as getting yellow fever shots and taking malaria pills before their trek through the Amazon.  

The students spent the weeks leading up to spring break reading various narratives relating to Brazil, and class time was often dedicated to learning about the culture via chocolate tastings, musical entertainment and YouTube videos. Hollis arranged pen pals for her students and instituted a Class Wiki, an online site that the students used to post messages. The students corresponded with pen pals from Brazil with whom they eventually met during their travels. 

Upon arriving in Brazil, eight students and Hollis spent time on the beach in Impanema, toured the city and attended several talks. 

“We tried to combine tourist activities and beach time with somewhat of a reality tour,” Hollis said.

In addition to attending lectures, the students enjoyed the sights of the city while also learning about the Brazilian culture by meeting with local community members. 

The trip is meant to give the students a deeper understanding of the nature of the country that they have been studying all semester.

Lectures included speakers from the Landless Peoples Movement, the Workers’ Party, Greenpeace and other community organizations affiliated with Global Exchange Reality Tours, an organization that works with various nonprofits to arrange cultural excursions that promote social consciousness. 

“It is important that we get a better idea of the country, of the reality and not just have fun on the beach,” Hollis said. 

The students made time for more recreational activities as well, such as lying on the beach, dining out and experiencing Brazilian nightlife. The group also attended a soccer match with their Brazilian pen pals. 

On the fifth day of their trip, the group traveled to Manaus, where they spent time exploring the Amazon and learning about the country’s indigenous people. The group enjoyed a jungle tour of the Amazon and spent the night in a lodge deep in the rainforest with a local Amazonian community.

After spending time participating in Brazilian pastimes and other culturally enriching activities, the students flew back to Villanova from Manaus last Sunday.  

The course continues to draw interest from students of all majors due largely in part to its tendency to incorporate in-class learning with real world experiences. 

Next year, Hollis plans to take students in her class to South America again. She currently hopes to plan a trip to Argentina.