Portuguese Vice-Consul Márcia Sousa (left) discusses records and data with RIC student Sabrina Brum, an intern in the vice- consul’s office in Providence.
The summer has been enlightening for RIC junior Sabrina Brum, as an eight-week internship in Portuguese Vice-Consul Márcia Sousa’s office is shaping her perspective on how the Providence-based governmental agency operates.
“I get to see the diplomatic role of the office, which I knew I would see, but I didn’t have any idea I’d get to see it as firsthand as I have,’’ Brum said. “I didn’t know it would have so much to do with being involved in the community. The office really represents Portugal in Rhode Island well.’’
Brum is a Modern Languages major with a concentration in Spanish and minor in Portuguese. The Institute for Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies (IPLWS) at RIC made the connection between the portuguese studies program at RIC and the Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) to make Brum's vice-consulate internship possible. Founded in 1991, PALCUS is a nonprofit organization that has advocated for the interests of Portuguese-Americans in the United States. Since 1994 PALCUS has provided Portuguese-American students with valuable work experience across the country in embassies, the U.S. Senate, state offices, congressional offices, large private firms and governmental offices, such as the vice-consul.
A typical day for Brum at the vice-consul’s office begins at 9 a.m., digitizing archived paper records and data.
Brum also responds to 20 to 25 visitors daily who inquire about issues such as passports, citizenship, marriage, and birth and death certificates.
“We’re the only vice-consul office in the Northeast that doesn’t require appointments; you can walk in at any time,’’ Brum said. “You never know what kind of issue people are going to walk in with. But I’ve learned how to talk to them in an easy manner and assure them that we can handle their concerns.’’
Sousa said Brum has been a key asset in her office. “She learned very quickly about everything we do here.’’
Event planning is what Brum loves most about her role. She was instrumental in planning annual Day of Portugal events in June, including one that involved gathering the event’s past and present grand marshals. This July, in her hometown of Bristol, Brum planned a “Toast to America’’ to acknowledge Portugal as the first neutral country to recognize the United States’ independence following the Revolutionary War.
Brum's internship -- a RIC course called MLAN320, supervised by Associate Professor of Modern Languages Sílvia Oliveira -- fits in with the college's mission of experiential learning, as it was designed and supervised by RIC's modern languages department.
“My research project (in the course) will focus on immigration after the Portuguese Revolution of 1974,’’ Brum said. “I’ve always wondered why so many immigrants came to America from Portugal during that time.’’
Brum, whose parents were born in the Azores, a chain of islands connected to Portugal, said it’s inspiring to see young Portuguese-Americans increasingly interested in the country’s history.
“At first I didn’t think younger people were gravitating toward Portugal, but working here I’m seeing that’s not true,’’ she said. “I’m noticing more Portuguese-Americans asking about how they can get dual citizenship and not forgetting about the proud heritage our families come from.’’