MORGANTOWN -- Crocodiles, piranhas and pink dolphins. Not your typical classroom setting.
But for 25 West Virginia University College of Law students currently participating in the Legal Study in Brazil Program, it has become a way of life as they cruise down the Amazon River while studying international and comparative law in Brazil.
And starting this week, readers can take part in the experiences as described by the students through a new Legal Study in Brazil blogging Web site, located at http://lawinbrazil.blogs.wvu.edu/.
The site debuted with students Aimee Lim, Allen Mendenhall, Arthur Bryan II and Joe Garcia guiding readers through their adventures and sharing the insights they are gaining along the way.
An integrated effort of the Division of University Advancement and Marketing, with support from Web Services and News and Information Services, the site is a follow-up to the popular student "Blogging from Abroad" Web site, http://fromabroad.blogs.wvu.edu/, which has so far featured students' learning experiences in Italy and Japan.
Carla Williams, assistant dean of development and external relations at the law school, has been facilitating the blog logistics in Morgantown. "For the first week, they are boating on the Amazon. They will have some course work on the riverboat and will get the opportunity to meet with local communities along the way," she said.
"The second part of the trip will take them to Vitória and Rio de Janeiro, where they will stay with students from the Centro Universitario de Vila Velha; visit legal institutions, including a Brazilian court and judiciary panel; have classes in a Brazilian law school; and attend seminars on various topics such as international environmental law."
The students are accompanied by professors Kevin Outterson, who originated the idea for the program, andre cummings and Joyce McConnell.
The College of Law's Web site (http://www.wvu.edu/~law/Brazil_Web/index.htm) says no special language skills are required to participate, just a sense of adventure, which is evident by the students' rich, descriptive passages on the site and breath-taking photographs.
"The entries give a real flavor of what the trip is like," Williams said.
Lim's entry dated May 21 describes the aquatic journey. "Water the color of iced tea greets us at the beach. Monkeys sit on top of roofs as casually as pigeons perch in the States. The two-level boat has become home to us," she writes.
"I fell in love with my hammock immediately after the first night's sleep, and this feeling only grew deeper when I woke up that first morning to see that each of us was nestled in a hammock of a different color."
Lim also describes how seeing the poverty in Brazil is affecting her in the May 17 entry. She writes, "Making sense of all that we've seen and read here in Brazil, the students and professors shared a dialogue, shortly before lunch, about corporate responsibility and poverty-not just corporate responsibility and poverty in Brazil, but corporate responsibility and poverty everywhere."
Students who participate in the trip have reading assignments in the fall and spring semesters and the opportunity to take Portuguese classes at the law school to prepare for the experience although all of the classes on the trip are given in English.
According to Williams, the students' adventure began May 13 and will end June 2.
A seven-minute video about the 2006 trip can be accessed at http://www.wvu.edu/~law/Brazil_Web/Video.htm and is also available on the popular Web site, "You Tube."
Outterson states in the video, "One thing I really like about Brazil is…it's different enough from the United States that when people go there they know they're not at home. And I like that, as an academic environment…. They don't know what to expect. They know that the rules are different. They're not sure how the law works. They don't know how the culture works. We make all sorts of mistakes and have all sorts of fun, but in doing so, it helps us to question some of the foundations of our own culture or our own background."
Outterson adds that he wants students to see the incredible wealth and poverty that coexist in Brazil and begin questioning the same things about America. "Those are the types of things that if somebody comes away from Brazil, and they've had a great time and made lots of good friends, but have these deeper questions bothering them, chasing them, back in the United States, then I'm happy."