North Central College student Miguel Purgimon Colell, a junior economics and finance major from Lisle, spent three weeks in Brazil this summer researching public opinion about the economic impact of the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.
Born in El Salvador, Colell moved to the United States in 2011 to attend North Central College in Naperville. When he arrived in Brazil, he took a crash course in Portuguese, then traveled south to Rio de Janeiro to conduct his research and attend several key games in the tournament.
While the world saw newly built facilities and legions of happy fans, Colell uncovered the human impact of the Cup. He interviewed people living in Brazil's favelas -- sprawling urban slums -- and found a growing outrage.
"Most of them weren't too happy by the economic part, because their cost of living went up due to the government's event expenses," he says.
He needed a broad perspective to tackle such a massive issue. Fortunately for Colell, North Central College assistant professor of economics Natalia Bracarense connected him with key Brazilian contacts. They included a government statistician who gave Colell a rundown of the Cup's finances.
Colell also interviewed several economics professors in Rio, as well as members of the city's middle and upper classes.
The results didn't shock Colell: upper-class residents liked the event, while most middle- and lower-class residents did not. What did surprise Colell was how much work is still ahead for him.
"Putting it all together is going to be the tough part," he said.
While his research is timely and fascinating, it needs to be transformed into a presentation. In the months ahead, he'll be translating Portuguese survey responses and analyzing data trends and crafting his research into a presentation for North Central's Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research in May 2015. His research and travel were funded by a Richter Independent Study Fellowship.
"I need to compare responses across economic levels. I have so much additional information -- age, gender, education level -- and there are many ways to analyze the data and find trends in the responses. That'll be the interesting part," he said.
While he scored big with his research, the landscape and the people will stay in Colell's mind.
"Nature's done its job there," he said. "The lagoon, the bays, the mountains -- they're all beautiful. And everyone was so friendly. I think that's what I'll miss most: the people."