Marcos dos Santos

Mechanical Engineering, 2020

“I thought to myself: how wonderful it is to explore the world!”

A group photo of students on a field trip.

Marcos with members of his Field School group at the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River in Southern Ghana.

Where did you go? What program did you do?

I went to Ghana this past summer to study Digital Archaeology of Heritage Buildings in West Africa as a part of the Field School.

Why did you want to go abroad?

I wanted to participate in this abroad program because of my passion for research. The program has a unique interdisciplinary approach to structural engineering research. Not only that, Ghana was also one of my bucket list destination because of its multifaceted history, culinary, and impressive cultural elements.

Did you work with anyone to help arrange this?

The first time I participated in the Field School, my trip was only made possible because of the Xerox Fellowship. Without the financial support from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Study Abroad Office, I would not be able to have gone the second time. Professor Renato Perucchio, as always, has been a great advocate for the participating students as well as the program itself. Without these agents advocating for my participation in the program, my undergraduate research experience would not have been so life-changing.

How would you rate the relative ease/difficulty of arranging study abroad?

I would say it is a process that requires students to be proactive. It is to expect that since living abroad requires students to make wise decisions as well as cope with difficult situations. Applying for a visa, applying for funding, and buying flight tickets are just some examples of activities that require reactivity from students. While funding available in the school, students should not expect to have that handed to them. That is not to say that there is no support available. I have been supported by the Study Abroad Office, Office for Undergraduate Research, and many others who wanted to see me succeed academically, professionally, and personally.

Were you able to take classes to satisfy degree requirements here, and if so which classes did you take?

The study abroad course I took (Digital Archaeology of Heritage Buildings of West Africa) was one of my free electives. This experience provided me with many research and survey tools to thrive at Professor Renato Perucchio’s lab.

If you received a scholarship or any additional funding to study abroad, what did you receive? How important was this in enabling you to study abroad?

For my first time going to Ghana, the Xerox Fellowship gave me full funding. For my second time, as a teaching assistant for the class, I received the Hajim International Experience Scholarship as well the Discover Grant. These allowed me to purchase flight tickets and pay for living expenses while doing research back in Rochester.

On the technical side, I learned and practiced engineering, archaeology, and anthropology techniques in the survey of Elmina Castle and Fort Amsterdam. On the cultural side, I expanded my understanding of family, religion, love, and friendship. I learned to appreciate much more of what I take normally take for granted, like warm showers and abundance of options.

Any particularly memorable experiences?

Libations before the commencement of our work. On the first day of our work at Fort Amsterdam, fetish priests from the Abandze community asked for permission and blessings from their ancestors for our work there. While the drums were being played, I thought to myself: how wonderful it is to explore the world! A bottle of alcohol was poured onto the ground to signify offerings to the ancestors. A second bottle was shared amongst the participants of the ceremony. Music, dances, drinks, and blessings made our first at work memorable.

Any advice for students thinking about studying abroad?

I would say be proactive, curious, and open minded to explore the various cultural aspects pertaining to the country of your study.

Questions? Ask Marcos!