Short study abroad trip provides long list of unforgettable experiences

Nation and World

by Eric Gorton

Hospitality, sport and recreation management students in Brazil
The JMU contingent poses for a photo outside the headquarters for Chime Sports Marketing/Golden Goal in Rio de Janeiro.

How much can students learn in a study abroad trip lasting just one week?

More than what can be learned in an entire semester, says Jordan Clevey, one of nine JMU students who spent seven days in Brazil in May studying the ways the South American country manages its sports and recreation.

Having hosted the World Cup soccer tournament last year and now preparing to host the Olympics in 2016, the timing is ideal to study international sport management in Brazil, said Dr. David Shonk, associate professor of hospitality, sport and recreation management.

Shonk and his students, who were joined by five students and a faculty member from West Virginia University, spent four days in Rio de Janeiro and three days in Sao Paulo, a city with 12 million residents.

In Rio, they visited sport management organizations such as Chime Sports Marketing/Golden Goal; the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games; Fluminense Futbol Club; the iconic Maracanã Stadium, where the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games will take place; and Project Grael, a social responsibility initiative that promotes sailing to underprivileged children. In Sao Paulo, they met with representatives of ESPN Brazil, Anschutz Entertainment Group, sport management faculty at the University of Sao Paulo, Club Pinheiras, and Sport Club Corinthians Paulista. They also made visits to the Futbol Museum at Pacaembu Stadium and the Sao Paulo Municipal Market.

"Our students demonstrated an incredible amount of flexibility, strong work ethic, a high level of professionalism, strong communication skills and a tremendous ability to work in diverse and sometimes challenging environments as a cohesive team," Shonk said, noting that in addition to their studies, they arranged a six-hour overnight bus trip to Sao Paulo when their flight was canceled due to weather.

Adam Shor, a rising junior, said the experience taught him about cultural differences "on and off the field by having the ability to directly tie the learning to real life experiences such as attending soccer games or walking on the street." The trip also provided an opportunity to bond with people he would not have met otherwise, he said.

Rising senior Natalie Fioretto said visiting stadiums and other facilities was a jaw-dropping experience. She also saw firsthand how "the whole culture of soccer is drastically different from the U.S." Another highlight, she said, was seeing how ESPN is run and how it compares to other broadcast companies in Brazil.

Clevey noted that the government "plays a huge role in sports in Brazil," including funding athletes who could one day play for the Brazilian national team.  Clevey also said the structure of professional sports is completely different in Brazil. "Where sports here in the U.S. are very business driven, clubs in Brazil are very socially driven."

Shonk said he hopes to arrange another trip to Brazil, or another country in South America, maybe in 2017. The students who went this year raised money to pay their way and earned two credits.

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Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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