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Sunday, December 10, 2023

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The three SDSU students studied abroad at Tiradentes University in Brazil this summer. (Photo: Ariella Goldstein) The three SDSU students studied abroad at Tiradentes University in Brazil this summer. (Photo: Ariella Goldstein)

Collaborating Coast to Coast

Three SDSU students spent their summer in Brazil researching coastal systems and learning a new culture.
By Katie Stanchis

This past summer, three students from the San Diego State University Department of Geological Sciences traveled to Aracaju, Brazil to study abroad at Tiradentes University. During their time in Brazil, Ariella Goldstein, Emma Vierra, and Keith Kastama participated in field-based research of coastal systems, as well as a variety of culturally diverse experiences, gaining useful hands-on experience and broadening their global awareness.

“My experience studying abroad has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for education in different parts of the world,” Goldstein said. “Geologically speaking, studying abroad allowed me to see the big picture of Earth."

Goldstein, a third-year geology major from Bakersfield, Calif., is involved in Associated Geology Students and the Hillel Community Center. She revealed that those two organizations, as well as the diverse student body at SDSU, helped her keep an open mind to the Brazilian way of life and collaboration with others.

The students also toured the Petrobras Petroleum Lab, the company that helped fund their study abroad experience to learn about different types of rock cores and formations around Brazil.

The trio was paired with other students from Tiradentes University for the majority of their visit. Every weekday, the students attended classes on the Brazilian environment, and on the weekends, they applied their knowledge in the field.

“It may be cliché to say, but borders really are just imaginary lines, and ultimately everyone is the same with a different way of doing things,” Kastama said. "Coming together with the other students was by far the greatest learning opportunity of the trip.”

Kastama, a fourth-year geology major from San Diego, is the secretary of Associated Geology Students and represents the club on the College of Science Student Council. Before his trip to Brazil, Kastama had never left the United States. With this trip under his belt, he encourages other students to study abroad in order to broaden their horizons.

The students’ field work also included the mapping of water tables. A water table is a level underground that is saturated with water. By taking core samples of these levels, the students were able to determine if there had previously been a shoreline in that area.

Goldstein, Vierra, and Kastama learned how to use ground penetrating radar in order to examine sedimentary structures below the ground. They made observations and classified the sediment by types and structure so they could better understand the evolution of the coast of the Brazilian state Sergipe.

Although the students spent the majority of their time in Brazil submersed in geological exhibitions, they still had a chance to experience some of the other fun adventures the country has to offer. They canoed through Canions De Xingo in Rio Sao Francisco, sang karaoke during their late night bus sessions, dined with ambassadors from Tiradentes University, visited a local festival, and swung in hammocks attached to trees filled with monkeys.

After studying abroad, Goldstein, Vierra, and Kastama all expressed an interest in working in the oil industry. All three say their exposure to studying abroad allowed them to grow professionally and on a personal level.

“Opening my eyes to different cultures was a really amazing experience,” said Vierra, a fourth-year geology major from Graton, Calif.

She is the former president of Associated Geology Students, as well as a member of American Association of Petroleum Geologists and San Diego Association of Geologists.

“After the first day I felt like I was a whole new person."