Gretchen 1

Gretchen's Story

Computer Science, Visual Processing, and the challenges of teaching in a foreign language

During January 2020 IAP, Gretchen travelled to the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife as part of the MIT’s Global Teaching Labs program.  She spent two weeks with the Futuras Cientistas program and another two weeks with the ABA Global Education program teaching workshops to local high school students.  As part of a team of four MIT students, Gretchen led workshops on Computer Science and Psychology.  The workshops were conducted in both Portuguese and English— three out of four of the team spoke some level of Portuguese, but all agreed that teaching in Portuguese was more difficult than casually speaking or translating.  Inspired by this challenge, Gretchen improved her Portuguese over the course of the trip, and celebrated the everyday experiences of language learning, such as exchanging Portuguese and English slang with students in the workshops.  Upon returning to Cambridge and completing her undergraduate degrees, Gretchen applied for and was selected into 2021 Fulbright Scholars program— to return to Brazil to conduct new research on machine vision learning and art, using Brazil’s unique graffiti and street art as both data and inspiration.  What began as a one-off IAP teaching experience in the GTL program has led Gretchen to a deep commitment to research and education in Brazil.


  • Gretchen 3
“Since returning from my trip, I've kept in touch with some of the Brazilian instructors who helped us lead our workshops, and I've even heard from a couple students who went on to extend their programming projects that we started together in the workshop! The students have so much potential and it was really inspiring to see them learn and grow."
  • Gretchen 4
“Going to Brazil with Global Teaching Labs was the highlight of my time at MIT— it gave me the motivation to finish my double major in Computer Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and ultimately apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student program in Brazil."

Lawson's Story