Eastern professor reflects on recent trip to Brazil

Luis Martinez, Entertainment Editor

Upon returning back to Charleston after spending over a week in Brazil, Jeffery Willardson, a professor in the kinesiology and sports studies department, suffered a slight set-back when the plane he was scheduled to take broke down on the runway in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

“Just as we were going to accelerate to take off, something happened and everything came to a stop, and I was grateful we weren’t in the air when that happened,” Willardson said. “They unloaded everyone on the runway, got us a bus and took us back to the terminal.”

Willardson said after everyone was waiting in the terminal, the airline decided to put everyone from the plane in one of the local hotels.

Willardson was invited to speak at multiple conferences in different cities in Brazil, including Rio de Janerio, Recife, São Luís, and Brasília. Willardson discussed different topics in relation to kinesiology.

“It was a wonderful experience, it was quite a lot of flights to get to get to where I needed to be for my first speaking engagement,” Willardson said. “It was quite a bit of travel, but I go to meet lots of great people, people that are personal trainers, people that are professors at different university similar to Eastern in the content that they teach.”

Willardson said during his most recent trip to Brazil, he met up with some colleagues he has been in contact with before, but has not yet met.

“I met lots of colleagues that I’ve collaborated with on papers before, but I never got to meet them in person,” Willardson said. “It was kind of a thrill for them and me to finally me in person and discuss more projects and also talk about the current literature in the field and just a great overall experience and strengthening the relationship I have with those people down there.”

Willardson said he had a very positive impression from the people in Brazil, as he found them to be very hard working and friendly.

“They’re very hospitable people by nature, very laidback culture, but also very hard working, so they have a good sense of working hard but also playing hard,” Willardson said. “The climate in different parts of Brazil can be vastly different. What I enjoyed about this recent trip is part of the country I was in, it was summertime, so think of a typical day here in Illinois in July, temperature low to mid 90s with about 90% humidity, that was what it was like, especially along the coastal cities.”

Willardson said he wore his coat upon leaving Charleston, but when he arrived in Miami, he quickly packed it away and prepared himself for warmer weather.

Willardson also said his presentation went over really well, in large part to his translator, Jonato Prestes, who is also a kinesiology professor at the Catholic University of Brasília.

“He could look at my PowerPoint, and he knew what I was talking because he’s a kinesiology professor, and secondly, he could take what I was saying and immediately translate it into Portuguese and relate it to people,” Willardson said. “(Jonato was) just an ideal combination, one thing being fluent, and secondly being a professor in the same field, so he knew exactly how to explain it and just made it so easy.”

Willardson said he was having the time of his life during these presentations.

“All I had to do was explain what’s on the slide, and just kind of sit back and let Jonato go to work,” Willardson said. “He’s just an awesome, awesome person and it would not have been as enjoyable without his great interpretations.”

Before Willardson left Brazil, he was able to teach a graduate class at the Catholic University of Brazilla.

“Jonato let me teach the class one day while I was there, of course providing interpretation,” Willardson said. “What was unique about this class is (Jonato) is trying to encourage all these student to work on their, so most of them can speak English fairly well, but he thought this would be a great opportunity to just step back and see if they could understand my lecture without his interpretation.”


Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]