When Renato Previdelli learned that he would be spending 2012 studying abroad at the University of Nebraska, he didn't know what to think at first.
But the veterinary medicine student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, quickly realized he had been given a special opportunity.
"I figured out Nebraska has the biggest beef production in the U.S.," Previdelli said. "That's awesome.
"Nebraska is very strong in beef cattle production, (and) so is Brazil. In veterinary medicine, we have several classes which study livestock management and production. Undoubtedly I will gain a lot of experience in cattle production and also be able to bring new experiences to my country and my career."
A month into his Nebraska experience, Previdelli already is wishing he could stay longer than a year. He's keeping busy with his University of Nebraska-Lincoln classes in veterinary virology, the economics of agriculture, and prevention of livestock diseases; and he's enjoying getting to know his professors and fellow students.
"The professors are very well-qualified, very well-prepared and very attentive," he said. "They're always willing to help us, give advice and ask if we're having problems with the classes.
"I am very grateful for this opportunity I am having at UNL. This is the sort of thing that every undergraduate student wants to have: a chance to study abroad."
Previdelli is one of 28 Brazilian undergraduates spending the year at the University of Nebraska as part of Brazil's "Science Without Borders" initiative – one component of the Brazilian government's larger goal to provide scholarships to 100,000 students for study at the world's best universities.
The Science Without Borders group at the University of Nebraska is the largest single delegation anywhere in the U.S. Most of the students are majoring in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and several are studying agriculture, all key areas for growth in the knowledge-based economy.
Selected in a competitive application process, the students are among the best and brightest from Brazil, and their presence at the University of Nebraska will enrich not only their own education but the education of NU students who will have the opportunity to interact with them. Brazil is among the countries NU is targeting for close cooperation because of its shared commitment to solving critical issues in agriculture, water, energy, public health and medical research, and early childhood education.
"These are areas that offer rich opportunities for collaboration that can put us in a better position to solve great global challenges," said President James B. Milliken. "Student exchanges and other partnerships with Brazil will deepen our ties there and give the next generation of leaders a chance to develop the skills they will need to succeed in the global economy."
Milliken, who was in Brazil the day after President Dilma Rousseff announced her plans to send 100,000 students abroad, set a goal for NU to be a leading host institution. Together with Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice Chancellor Ronnie Green, he met with high-ranking Brazilian education and government officials to discuss NU's strengths and areas for potential partnership.
Milliken previously had hosted the U.S.-Brazil Fulbright Commission at NU campuses and was a speaker at the Council on Competitiveness' U.S.-Brazil Innovation Summit in Washington in 2010.
NU is focusing on collaborations with Brazil, India and China as part of its larger strategy for global engagement. Milliken's goals also include significantly growing international enrollment on NU's four campuses, and providing every undergraduate the opportunity to study abroad.
Recently, NU initiated a new study-abroad program offering students from all four campuses the opportunity for short-term study in Brazil during which they will explore the country's politics, culture, economics and society. The first group of students will leave for Brazil this June.
They'll likely learn as much in Brazil as the Brazilian students are learning now in the U.S.
"My classes are wonderful with interesting discussions," said Luiz Alves, a native of Rio de Janeiro who is studying computer engineering at NU's Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha. "The professors are excellent and my classmates are very helpful.
"When I return to Brazil, my chances of being hired by a great company will raise due to my exchange in the U.S.A."
Ana Fernandez, a Sao Paulo native who is studying mechanical and electrical engineering at UNL, called studying abroad "a great personal and academic experience."
"I'm able to do lots of things here (that) I wouldn't in Brazil," Fernandez said. "Also, it will be very important to mention my experience here when I'll be applying for jobs back in Brazil."
Fernandez said she's impressed with the assistance provided to her on campus by faculty and others.
"People always want to help us to have the greatest experience we can have and feel comfortable," she said. "I'm very happy to be here."