One of the main attraction points of the IF is an 18 month internship with Amazon Fruit Company, based out of New Jersey. The program, which began three years ago, selects students from the Agricultural departments of the 5 IF-Sertão Campi to work in the New Jersey packing house, all expenses paid. While the Brazilian government is giving out scholarships to go abroad like crazy, to get these scholarships you must pass the TOEFL test, which is no easy feat and requires a minimum of two years of intensive language study according to Professora Rafaela Carla of the IF Zona Rural. Therefore, as the IF starts to build a foundation and prepare students for competitive scholarships, for the time being the principle opportunity to go abroad is the Amazon internship.
When I was back in the States in December, I had the opportunity to visit the Amazon packing house where two of my former students live and work (they left for the US two months after I arrived in Brazil). This visit made it clear to me that since this is still a relatively new program, and very little oversight, there are many improvements to be made. For instance, the program currently selects only male students from the IF Campi, and women who meet the specified qualifications need to be given an equal chance. In addition, since the students live with each other and work primarily with Spanish speakers, they return to Brazil after 18 months in the US speaking little to no English. These are two of a number of problems that must be fixed.
It became clear to me that negotiations were necessary to change these aspects of the program. To begin the process, the IF held a meeting on Wednesday, March 28, with the participation of me, Chelsea, Jeziel Junior, Gleide Mello, vice-president of the college, Sebastião Hildo Diniz, the General Director of the 5 campuses, and Gilmar Melo, one of 4 CEOs from Amazon Fruit Company. Several topics were covered, including how to incorporate women into the project and how to ensure English-language learning takes place. During their visit Gilmar, along with partner Greg Golden, whom I met informally, seem to genuinely want to improve the internship. Here at the IF-Sertão, we will be anxiously awaiting the materialized results.