MEET OUR GRADUATES: Bridging Two Continents

Sabrina Brum

Four years of study in two different languages has led to graduate school in Portugal.

Sabrina Brum leaves for Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of August to begin graduate study​ at the prestigious Universidade Católica Portuguesa (the Portuguese Catholic University), where she will study international relations.

For the 22-year-old, it has been four years of immersion in two different languages – Portuguese and Spanish. She graduated​ this May with a major in Spanish and a minor in Portuguese, with the long-term goal of working at a consulate or embassy. 

Brum said she found her future career through a series of internships suggested to her by RIC Professor of Portuguese Studies Silvia Oliveira.

“Silvia has been one of the most influential people in my life,” said Brum. “She pushed me to continue with Portuguese and to apply for many of the internships and scholarships that I would eventually be awarded.”


A ​Portuguese-American, Brum was already fluent in the language, yet Oliveira encouraged her to build on that asset and minor in it.

Oliveira also suggested she apply for an internship at Rhode Island College’s Institute for Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies, a nonacademic center on campus that awards scholarships and provides internship opportunities to Portuguese studies students, organizes cultural and academic events and conducts research projects in Portuguese and Lusophone studies. There, Brum met political  dignitaries such as the Portuguese vice-consul, who offered her a summer internship in her office.Brum describes the office of the Portuguese Vice-Consulate of Providence as “a place where two cultures come together – the American and the Portuguese. Whether you’re helping a client with a passport or trying to track down their birth, death and marriage certificates, you are straddling two cultures,” she said. “At a consulate, you really need someone who understands both cultures, which is why I hope to work at a consulate or embassy someday.”

Another internship gave Brum the opportunity to live and work in Lisbon, Portugal, for the first time. Assigned to the Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Brum said it was a culture shock even for an Azorean like herself.


Brum’s father is from a tiny island in the Azores called São Miguel, which she has visited on a number of occasions. “But whereas the Azores is isolated and agricultural, mainland Portugal is industrialized with a different culture altogether,” she said. “They speak differently. Their food is a little different. And there’s a huge mixture of ethnicities. It’s not strange to sit on the bus with people from all over the world. I was really excited to see that.”  

Assigned to a subdivision of the ministry called the Center for European Information, Brum translated documents written in English or Spanish into Portuguese and  posted them on the European Union website. The highlight of her internship, she said, was attending a policy discussion by the president of France and the prime minister of Portugal.

Upon her return to America, Oliveira suggested she apply to the graduate program at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, where she could study​ international relations. Brum followed up and was accepted on a full-tuition scholarship. She begins study in the fall.

“I think about all the opportunities I’ve had while I’ve been at Rhode Island College that I would never have received had I not enrolled here,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of great people and I’ve had a lot of great opportunities because of where I studied and what I studied. Although the Modern Languages Department is small, it’s very strong. Professor Oliveira and all the other faculty are there for every single student. Because of this program, I’m going abroad to earn my master’s degree. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Brum was awarded the Nelson A. Guertin Memorial Award and Tegu Polyglot Award by the Department of Modern Languages. She was also awarded the John A. and Mary V. Lima Scholarship in Portuguese Studies and the Lema-Fernandes Study Abroad Scholarship by the Portuguese Studies Program.

Brum was awarded the John A. and Mary V. Lima Scholarship in Portuguese Studies; the Lema-Fernandes Study Abroad Scholarship in Portuguese; the RIFLA Study Abroad Scholarship; the Nelson A. Guertin Memorial Award; the Tegu Polyglot Award; the Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) Internship Award; the PALCUS-SiPN Internship in Portugal Scholarship; and the Universidade Católica Portuguesa Fellowship for Portuguese-American students.

She was inducted into the RIC Sigma Chapter of Phi Lambda Beta National Portuguese Honor Society and Phi Sigma Iota International Foreign Language Society.​