Maíra Furtado Faria from Brazil is getting her master’s degree in architecture at Kent State University in Ohio

Maíra Furtado Faria from Brazil is getting her master’s degree in architecture at Kent State University in Ohio

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

I chose to study in the United States to improve my career and develop new skills in my professional area, as well as learn more about a different culture and be more exposed to a diversity of innovative people.

Why did you choose this particular college or university?

I chose Kent State University because of its international approach and diversity. The university itself has as one of the main values the inclusion and diversity, and they receive students from all over the world, as well as they have a campus in almost all continents. When it comes to the architecture program, I was searching for a school that had a balance between technique, creativity, theory and innovation, and Kent State provides the perfect balance between all of those. 

What do you like best about your program or university?

I absolutely love the fact that I get to know and study with people from all over the globe. Everyday I discover something else from a different culture, from the staff to the professors and students. They are always so friendly and willing to share knowledge that I can definitely say that it is one of the most amazing experiences that I had in my life.

What do you miss most about home?

My family. Being away from home is not easy, although nowadays by FaceTime sometimes we are closer to them than if we were in person. One thing that makes it easier is that the friends that you make abroad become kind of your second family. 

What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?

When it comes to life and education, what surprises me the most is how young most of the young adults are when they leave their family´s house to live at the university or nearby. In Brazil it is not common to have dorms at the university, and we don't have full time classes or activities at the universities. Mostly we just leave our parents house after marriage or when we have a nice job that can help us to own our place. Right after that, the cost of the education for me was an absolute shock. In Brazil most of the universities are free or way cheaper.

... your biggest disappointment?

The American way of living in general probably was my biggest disappointment. Personally, I do not identify myself with the culture of living to work, and it seems that in the United States your life is work. But even this characteristic was important for me to be exposed to and learn about. It made me look at life with different eyes. So I am grateful for it. 

How have you handled:

... language differences?

I still struggle especially with the writing part. In English there is no such a thing as big sentences with no dots and just commas all way. In Brazil we have long sentences, and when I need to write something is always a mess. To communicate verbally is way easier. It is just not be afraid of making mistakes. If you say something wrong, probably someone will correct you, and that is how we keep learning and improving. I also always ask for feedback from my professors and friends about my communication to see what could be better.

... finances?

This part is really hard. I was not good at organizing my money and especially saving money. To live abroad and deal with my own expenses was challenging. I am still learning, and I realize that there are a lot of things that we consume with no clear reason, so I have been challenging and changing myself not only to save money but also to save the environment. Such as making food at home instead of buying fast food.

... adjusting to a different educational system?

It took me a while to truly understand the educational system of the United States. And to be completely honest I do not believe I understood one hundred per cent every single detail. Every country has its own education and that is fascinating. But since I came to the United States for my master´s, to fully understand the entire process has been interesting, and constant work and research.

What are your activities?

Since my program is very intense I spent most of those two past years at the architecture school and related activities. We traveled to Miami for field research and to visit some architecture offices that were extremely interesting, and we are always encouraged to visit important architecture buildings and art exhibitions and museums.

How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?

Thankfully for me it was easy. Due to the international character of Kent State, most of my colleagues were completely open and curious to talk and hang out. I made friends at Kent that I consider my family and will be in my life forever.

What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?

My main goal is to be able to change our word somehow, for the better. I realized that, as architects, we do have the capacity and ability to literally shape the world. And once I graduated in Brazil and faced this immense responsibility, I was sure that I was not prepared to be a game changer like I wanted to be, I needed more research. I always tried to find a way to reconnect people, nature, and the built environment. And for this, I needed to learn more about environmental and living architecture. In the field of research and Innovation in this area, the United States is ahead of Brazil in using biomaterials and developing research in environmental systems. For this reason, I came to the United States to do my master´s. For the future I want to work in a company or firm that is more concerned about improving our society and our planet than with money. 

What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?

My advice would probably be... do not think twice. It will definitely be the best experience of your life. It will be difficult sometimes, but all things in life are. And at the end, that is how we grow. To decide to leave your country and live abroad is not an easy choice, but is one of the most enriching experiences that you will have.

And always reach out to the university that you are applying to, keep in contact, talk to the professors, to the International Office, everybody! They have way more resources than we think. We just sometimes do not have access to all the opportunities that are available for us. I am sure that that is a program somewhere that will fit your needs and the school will always help you to succeed. 

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Maíra Furtado Faria from Brazil is getting her master’s degree in architecture at Kent State University in Ohio.

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