Max Courval is an alumnus of the 2020 CLS Portuguese virtual institute hosted by University of the South of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil. He graduated in May 2020 from Arizona State University, where he majored in geography with minors in Spanish and urban planning as well as earning certificates in Brazilian studies and geographic information science. Currently, he works as a Transportation Performance and Planning Intern at Maricopa Association of Governments. In the fall, he will begin his master’s in Latin American studies at the University of Utah and continue to study Portuguese language and Brazilian culture as a Foreign Language and Area Studies Graduate Fellow.
Getting to Know Max
I grew up in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. I love dancing, cooking and trying new recipes. Both my sister and I are adopted. While I was adopted here in Arizona, my younger sister was adopted from Hunan province, China.
Born and raised in Arizona, Latin America was intrinsically intertwined with the history and civilizations of my home state. While my Spanish language skills allow me to interact with and study much of the region, one in two South Americans speak Portuguese. I had always been interested in learning about Brazilian culture and Portuguese language and CLS made that a reality for me.
Spanning Latin America, Africa, Europe and even Asia, learning Portuguese opens doors to opportunities across the globe. I love learning Portuguese because there are so many words that do not have a direct translation. One of my favorite words is cafuné, the act of running your fingers through your loved one’s hair, like when your mom is comforting you to sleep in bed.
Obtaining a master’s degree in Latin American studies will allow me to synthesize my interdisciplinary interests in cultural studies, sustainable development, and human geography. I hope to continue furthering my education and work towards a PhD in a related field.
I will continue taking Portuguese language and Brazilian culture classes during my graduate studies. I am taking advantage of other fellowships like FLAS that will fund my education and provide opportunities to study abroad in Brazil in the future. I also plan to use my Portuguese language skills in future research. Professionally, I strive to work in a position that values my language skills and cultural knowledge, such as a Consular Fellow in Brazil.
Cultural Exchange on a Virtual Program
While my program was virtual and I could not travel to Florianópolis in person, some of my favorite memories included virtual hangouts with my language partner, Débora. She showed me photos of her hometown, took pictures when she went to her local supermarket, and told me all about the best places to eat. While we were both stuck at home, it still felt like I was traveling the world! We keep in touch on social media and we have a shared bond over our love of pop music, both Brazilian and American.
Arizona is my home, and I was excited to share the beauty and heritage of my state with my teachers and friends and also find commonalities with my host community. Arizona is a prime example of the demographic shifts in American society occurring today. As part of the Sun Belt, many Americans have moved here for jobs, housing and quality of life. In the past century, Phoenix has transformed from a small agricultural town into of the largest metropolises in the US, surpassing over 5 million inhabitants. Given the recent explosion in population, my language partner and teachers were not as familiar with the region and I took advantage of the opportunity to familiarize them with our desert community.
My virtual CLS experience was just as impactful as my other experiences studying abroad in-person. I advanced my language abilities and created a network of peers and mentors across the US and Brazil. When international travel and academic exchanges resume, I will be more prepared than ever.
May 10, 2021