Bellydancing Through Reverse Culture Shock

Dr. Glaucia Karime Braga participated in the Visiting Scientist Program with The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) through J-1 Trainee sponsorship from Cultural Vistas in 2012—an experience that has been paying dividends in her career and personal development ever since.

Though nothing about her background as an expert in pharmaceutical sciences prior to the program would suggest that Dr. Braga has ever been anything less than motivated, she is very appreciative of how significant of a milestone her exchange program was in her life.

These aren’t the only reasons we’re big fans.

You might be surprised to learn that this pose and outfit are not typical of someone with a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences.

The organization where Dr. Braga completed her J-1 internship is an independent, scientific, nonprofit organization setting standards for medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements worldwide. Working with USP helped Dr. Braga realize the significant contributions her work could make to the global public health environment.

Upon returning to Brazil, she eagerly continued to work with USP as a volunteer in addition to her full-time occupation.

As fun as those texts look, you’re telling me she volunteered for this?

Dr. Braga’s career advancement in the U.S. also went-hand-in-hand with her own personal development. Thanks to the openness and tolerant nature of the people she encountered, she says that living in the U.S. made her feel much more comfortable in her own skin.

“When I was in the States for the first time, I was loving myself. I was loving my curly hair, my curvy body—you know—I was feeling plentiful, full… It’s great!”

But this newfound confidence abroad meant that Dr. Braga’s return to Brazil was difficult on a personal level as it rekindled past insecurities which she had largely forgotten about while in the U.S.

“I am curly… you know? Here in Brazil, people don’t like curly girls. The people don’t like curly hair.”

She’s an accomplished PhD working on global health standards and a super-cool bellydancer. Really? Curly hair?

To counteract the reverse culture shock of being back in a society she describes as being characterized by machismo and superficial judgments of physical appearance, Dr. Braga turned to a new hobby.

“When I came back to Brazil, I said ‘Ok, I will not lose all this progress that I made to find myself and to like myself, so let me see what kind of thing can fill my soul with joy.’”

Though far too uncommon to be considered an American pastime, Dr. Braga felt like bellydancing embraced the American attitudes which would again allow her to feel empowered, confident, and happy with who she was.

“I knocked at the door to a dance studio that offers bellydancing and it was love at first sight! It’s completely amazing, it’s a feminine dance, and it’s a very powerful dance because it empowers women to know their body and to like themselves—to dance as a joy—the dance is not for seduction.”

Listening to Dr. Braga further describe bellydancing can make one quite disappointed that the dance isn’t more popular stateside—as does watching some of her videos.

“It’s for your nurture, your femininity, to bring joy to yourself. Of course, for a woman, it’s about feeling that power,” Dr. Braga says. “It’s beautiful and it’s seductive. It’s attractive but it’s not the main goal. It’s like a therapy—to be in touch with yourself, to let go of problems. And since you dance, you can bring joy for yourself and you can move your body—which is healthy. That’s my passion.”

Thanks to her international exchange experience and subsequent bellydancing, Dr. Braga was able to develop on both a professional and personal level—which likely helped her become an even better scientist. As she puts it, “People are made of personal as well as professional lives, right?”

We should all be thankful for how these experiences have affected her. The enthusiasm that Dr. Braga continues to have for her most recent volunteer role with USP is the sort we could only hope to see in all the people who are determining the quality and safety standards of the things we consume.

“In 2015, I applied for being a volunteer at USP, now serving as Expert Committee Member. That is HUGE!” Dr. Braga says. “We are talking about public health and I am part of this now, you know? I am contributing! I am giving my expertise and all my passion to help ensure the quality of medicines around the world. I am in love with this!”

Dr. Braga’s personal development went hand-in-hand with her professional accomplishments during, as well as after, her international exchange program.

At times like these, it is reassuring to know that people like Dr. Braga still strive to be reminded of the U.S. to feel empowered and comfortable with who they are. Knowing that this can also enable them to make the world a better place for all of us—through science as well as dance—is a significant cherry on top.