By Maria Eduarda Tarré
When I decided I wanted to study abroad, the first thing I did was to look for Brazilian students who were pursuing a degree abroad and for staff members who could help me figure out the application process. I must say it was a very hard task because it is very hard to find people with availability to talk to you and to explain to you how the whole process works — once you start your superior education, you will understand. Therefore, when searching for those people, I had a lot of difficulty as I often found people who gave me too few explanations and who were not very sympathetic with me and with my story. Also, because I had already started a superior education in Brazil, trying to figure out how I could apply as a freshman abroad was even harder. Due to that, there were several times I thought about giving up on my dream and just continuing my education in Brazil. I knew that if I went with that decision, I wouldn’t be 100% happy, but I wouldn’t stress with anything as well. However, my mom has always been a great supporter of my goals and she has always given me incentives so I could study abroad and therefore, she never let me simply be “comfortable.” Thus, for the hundredth time, I tried to contact Brazilians studying abroad and that was when I met Tadeu Rodrigues, who is now a great friend of mine.
At the time, Tadeu was a senior at St. Francis College (SFC) and a water polo and swimming athlete. He was from Rio de Janeiro, just as me, and he had also studied in a university in Brazil before applying to universities in the States, and from the first moment on, he was very welcoming to me. That was very different from the other students I had gotten in contact with. He explained all that I had asked about, and he even put me in contact with the manager of the International Admissions Department, Bora Dimitrov, who in a matter of seconds contacted me and scheduled a meeting so I could understand more about St. Francis College’s values and community. It was the first time in a year looking for universities abroad that I found people who really heard my story and who were willing to help me. It finally felt that things were working for me — and they truly did!
Being in contact with Tadeu and Bora opened so many doors for me that I don’t think I can even write them all here. Bora told me about an opportunity of winning a full tuition scholarship and also about the Honors Program. While that was happening, Tadeu introduced me to other staff members and to some colleagues, and then, in a matter of months I was already part of the SFC community! Before my classes started, I had several meetings with the SFC staff members, and then, I was making friends and being known by many people. I was recognized as “Maria from Brazil” and for me, that was incredible.
My prior experience in a university was very different from this one. While studying in Brazil, I was more like a number than a person because professors did not know me and students did not talk to each other which made my whole experience very frustrating. So, for me, being so physically distant from my current college (SFC) but, at the same time, so connected to it was just incredible.
I think that because I was so communicative back then and so willing to make connections, a world of opportunities was opened for me. My initial contact with Tadeu opened my path to SFC, and then, I was introduced to Bora, and later to Esther, Dr. Reza Fakhari, Rob Oliva, and so many other staff members all working on behalf of international students. I believe that this was also possible because St. Francis College is a small school where everybody really knows one another.
Classes are small so students can have a chance of engaging and making friendships. My first years enabled me to know lots of professors and that even gave me the chance of getting a job at school in my second semester. Moreover, because I was part of the International Community, in which we had classes with other international students, I made friendships with people from all around the world: Germany, Canada, Trindad and Tobago, Spain, and Guiana, for instance. Now, as the time of being in person at school gets closer, I feel that I am more than prepared to live my first year miles away from my family, as I already have friends, professors, and people waiting to welcome me!
Maria Eduarda Tarré is an international student from Brazil at St. Francis College. Currently, her major is undecided, but she is leaning towards political science. She also participates in the Amnesty International Chapter USA at SFC.