Michele is originally from Brazil, and has studied abroad in the US (twice), Italy, the UK, volunteered in Mozambique and worked in Ireland. She is currently writing for her blog “Educação Internacional – Brasil para o Mundo” to motivate more Brazilians to study abroad and is pursuing a career in international education.
Where did you go to school?
Centro Universitario da Bahia – FIB (Brazil)
When and where did you study abroad?
High School – (1 year abroad in Michigan, US); 1 semester in Universita di Cagliari (Italy); Development Studies – IICD (Massachusetts, US); Development Instructor – volunteer (Mozambique, Africa); PG Certificate in Equality & Divesty (London, UK)
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
I guess you can say I’m addicted to study abroad!! The best part is EVERYTHING! Since the first time I went to another country to study when I was 15, I came back home wanting more, and I haven’t stopped ever since. It’s an experience that changes your life forever. I was a very shy girl and because I was so young, everything was so unreal to me. 16 years ago we didn’t have all the technology we have today, so being away from friends and family was very hard at that time, but it made me stronger, I learned more about myself, I got to know a new culture and made new friends. And one of the best parts is that even after all this time and all the other countries I have lived, I’m still in touch with that very first family that hosted me in a little town in Michigan. It just made me want more of the world!
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
I have learned that everyone is unique, that every culture should be respected, there is no right or wrong. I have learned that what something for me could be an absurd for another person is something totally normal, because it fits in their culture, in their society. And I have learned specially more about my own culture, when you are abroad a lot of people ask you things about your country that is so normal to you that you don’t even think about… I lived in 5 different countries apart from my own and I have studied or volunteered in 4 of them (in Ireland I have started a Masters but I didn’t complete it) and in every country I learned new things about the world and about myself, I believe it’s a never ending process.
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
I had loads of biggest challenges in every country I lived. My first time in the US I didn’t speak much of the language and was very shy, so that implicated in all my social life and even my studies there. But I had to face it, I had to improve and learn to speak the language or otherwise the whole experience would make no sense. In Italy I faced the same problem, even though Italian is a language so similar to my own it’s still very hard to learn to speak it correctly, but with a little bit of dedication everything went well. After that I went to US again, now knowing the language and the Africa. There I lived in Mozambique and they speak Portuguese, so I had no language barrier but the cultural shock was HUGE! I felt I was 15 again, lost! It took me a few weeks to adjust and to actually feel that I could do something there but after that adjustment period, I had one of my best experiences abroad – it’s all about respect and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
How did studying abroad change your life?
To see the world with my own eyes helped me to grow as a human being that respects the other. I have learned to be much more independent, flexible and adaptable to changes. Imagine, you are living in another culture, studying in a Institution that is not your own, you do have to be prepared for things to happen when you list expect it and you have to be able to deal with it and not panic. And with that you learn to be more confident, you know you can do it, you are stronger now!
What are your future plans?
I have finished my studies in London and I am between UK and Brazil at the moment, looking for a job within International Education and planning my next move study-wise. I’m planning to do a Masters in International Marketing or Higher Education Administration.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
Just go for it!! I can’t say enough how good and exciting it is to see the world not through the TV or pictures but for yourself, and to live and learn just like a citizen from that country. I have learned that is not everyone that shares the same enthusiasm for studying abroad and that’s totally fine as well, but for those that have that little idea in their head don’t waste an opportunity! When we REALLY want something, it happens and everything else will fall into place.