Max Courval is an alumnus of the 2020 and 2021 CLS Portuguese Program hosted virtually by University of the South of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil. Max received his Bachelor of Arts in Geography with a minor in Spanish and Urban Planning and is currently a graduate student at the University of Utah in the Latin American Studies Masters’ program. As an inclusion peer advisor with the Office of Global Engagement, Max strives to expand opportunities for study abroad across University of Utah’s student body.
Getting to know Max
I grew up in the hot and arid suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. From a young age, dance has been one of my favorite hobbies and learning about different dance styles (flamenco, samba, and ballet) was my first window into another culture. 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 every two South Americans speak Portuguese. I’ve always been interested in learning about Brazilian culture and the Portuguese language. CLS made that a reality for me. Spanning across 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.
Cultural Exchange on a Virtual Program
My favorite memories from CLS involve virtual hangouts with my language partners. Our sessions were a window into Brazilian culture. My language partner Débora shared with me photos of her hometown and pictures from trips to local supermarkets. She would also give me recommendations for the best places to eat in Brazil for future travel. While we were both stuck at home, it still felt like I was traveling the world! We keep in touch on social media and have a shared bond over our love of Brazilian and American pop music. My partner from 2021, Gabriela, was a film student at the local university and gave me great Brazilian film recommendations. We even watched films together over Zoom. My virtual CLS experiences were 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. With CLS under my belt, I feel more prepared than ever to pursue study and research opportunities in Brazil.
What's next for Max?
I plan to finish my master's degree in Latin American studies and write my thesis on colonial Brazilian history. My Portuguese language skills are essential in my academic career and my research interests. I plan to study abroad in São Paulo, Brazil this summer through FLAS, taking Portuguese language courses and conducting research for my master’s degree paper. After finishing graduate school, I plan to take a gap year and apply for either a Boren Award or a Fulbright grant to study abroad or conduct research in Brazil. Afterwards, I plan to apply to a Ph.D. program with an emphasis on Brazilian and Portuguese studies. My Portuguese language skills will be crucial to all of these opportunities.
Words of Advice
If not you, then who? I was not selected as a finalist the first year I applied, but I did not let it stop my professional goals and I applied the year afterwards. CLS is not just an amazing, immersive, and intense summer study abroad program, but a stepping stone to an internationally minded academic and professional career.
April 03, 2022