“Field trip” enhances REAA education< More Stories
“It was amazing, I learned a lot and it really pushed my horizons,” says Visser, who has a bachelor of urban regional studies from the University of Lethbridge. Students visited different areas of the capital city and met with real estate professionals, including Alex F. Magalhães, a law and urban planning professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
For Visser, the legal system, land policies and the layout of the communities and city structures were not what he had anticipated.
“In Rio de Janeiro, the city itself is hugging a national park and a mountain, so it’s like there is a national park in the middle of the city and Rio de Janeiro orbits it like the rings of Saturn,” he says. “It’s interesting to see how the subway system only serves a small percentage of the city, whereas everywhere else is supported by rapid bus transit.
“It’s also interesting to see how the municipality of Rio de Janeiro is trying to prep for the Olympics and how there are quite a few projects that are delayed. You wonder how they will be completed in seven months,” he adds.
Visiting the favelas proved to be one of the highlights of their field trip. Often translated to English as slums or shanty-towns, favelas are increasingly recognized by planners for their low-rise, high density development, organic architecture and new urbanism. With more than 1,000 favelas in Rio, close to 1.5 million people – approximately 23 per cent – of the city’s population call them home.
“Seeing how a settlement was made out of other buildings constructed 20 to 30 years ago, and how people built homes out of them was very compelling,” says Visser. “They took materials that were nothing and made it into a vibrant community.”
Dr. Theresa Williamson, founder of Catalytic Communities (CatComm), took the students to Vidigal, one of Rio’s favelas, for a learning session. As an advocacy organization, CatComm has worked on behalf of Rio’s favelas since 2000 at the intersection of sustainable community development, human rights, local-global networks, communications, and urban planning.
This part of the tour proved to be inspiring for Pecoro, who encourages future REAA students to have an open mind and an open heart if they’re able to participate in future international field trips.
“I really appreciated the opportunity to visit the favelas. Being there felt different because before we went to Brazil we read articles that really sparked my curiosity,” says Pecoro. “I think what I really learned after that trip is that I want to do it again but I want to use my knowledge to help people.”
Brazil marks the second country Pecoro has visited as an REAA major. She participated in the first REAA global field trip, which was to Thailand last year. Learning by travelling has proven to be an enriching experience, according to Pecoro.
“Going to a different country will just blow your mind, that’s why I wanted to go on both field trips. This was not a vacation but a unique learning opportunity. It was great to go to two beautiful places but it was the learning that I wanted to experience,” she says. “After both trips, it’s been inspiring for me to continue with my studies and with who we’ve met abroad, they’ve inspired me to help other people.
“For me, the purpose of these trips is to open our minds, see the world in a different way and use it to help others.”
Photos: From the top, Stephen Visser (left), at the base of the Christ the Redeemer statue, says learning about the legal system, land policies and overall layout of the communities and city structures in Rio de Janeiro was an interesting part of the field trip. Janine Pecoro (front), on tour in the Vidigal favela, says learning about the favelas was the highlight of the trip. The REAA students met with Professor Alex F. Magalhães, law and urban planning professor at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro is the second international destination REAA majors have visited.