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Student of the Month

Each month, one Student of the Month will be selected. Check back often! The essay question for September is:

Describe a time when you faced culture shock during your stay in the United States. What did you learn from the experience?

Please send a brief essay and a photograph of yourself to bsmpexperience@iie.org by Friday, September 4 in order to be considered as a winner.

Winners receive a certificate and a letter of congratulation, and winning essays will be featured!

Italo Dantas dos Santos

August 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Italo Dantas dos Santos
Field of Study: Geophysics
U.S. Host Institution: University of Arkansas

August Question: Tell us about a friend you've made during your participation in the BSMP.

I have always heard how essential developing friendship is to the welfare of an individual. As human beings, we need to live in community in order to learn values such as love, respect, and friendship. Without a doubt, living in community is the ideal classroom to learn those principles. As a BSMP student at the University of Arkansas, I had the pleasure of meeting people who have made my life easier in the United States and have been by my side helping me to write this amazing chapter of my life. From those friends, I wanted to write about Seth Washispack, a senior biomedical engineering student who has impacted my existence greatly.

The first aspect of his personality that I find most fascinating is his compassion. I have to confess that his strong desire to alleviate the suffering of others has made me think about how I treat people around me and how I care for them. For instance, Seth used to ask random people the common question: 'how are you?'. For most people, that question sounds like 'hi', but for Seth, it does not. When he asks this question, he is truly interested in knowing how people are doing. I remember once, at the end of the spring semester, Seth and I went to the movies. While he was buying the tickets, he started a conversation with the cashier. He asked her how she was, and her answer was “I'm not really good, but I'll be fine.” Then, the girl told us that the next day would be her birthday, but she was not excited to celebrate because her mother had died three days earlier. Seth then went to a bakery, bought a cake, candles, and some cupcakes. After that, he went back to talk to the girl and gave her everything he had bought. I saw how amazed and thankful she was. At that moment, I realized that I needed to care more about people’s lives and look for opportunities that would help them feel their best.

Seth also loyally defends others. He does not talk against anybody when those people are not around. Rather, he always highlights the good characteristics of people instead of their shortcomings. For example, a friend of ours started to talk unkindly about someone who was not with us at the time. Immediately, Seth defended that person by mentioning his good qualities. This is an illustration of how loyal a friend Seth is. How precious it is to have loyal friends in our lives. These days, those types of friends are few and far between. There is a verse in a catholic book entitled Ecclesiasticus that says “a loyal friend is a powerful defence: whoever finds one has indeed found a treasure”. This sentence is a powerful truth, primarily because it is so rare to find a friend in which we can truly trust. I would say that I have found this type of friend in Seth.

Seth has played an important role in my life. His personality characteristics have challenged me and led me to seek out ways to make a difference in people’s lives. Walking with him has made me understand more deeply not only the value of a friendship but also the practical meaning of this word. His compassion has taught me to pay attention to people around me. He has amazed me by showing me how safe it feels to have a friend as loyal as he is. Because of Seth, I know for certain that I am not the same person as I used to be before I met him. His friendship has been one of the most precious gifts that I received since my journey as an exchange student began.

Luiza Roberta Bin

July 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Luiza Roberta Bin
Field of Study:Biomedical Sciences
U.S. Host Institution:Western Kentucky University

July Question: What was your favorite moment or event in Spring 2015?

During the spring 2015 semester, so many good things happened. First of all, over Spring break, my friends and I took an adventurous trip to Georgia (that was a crazy event because we almost didn’t arrive there, and almost couldn’t return – traveling by bus in the US is hard). But everything that occurred gave us funny stories we will remember all our lives. And through the semester, many meetings with international students came about, and made me more involved in different cultures. I also attended a Bob Dylan Concert, and it was amazing, incredible and unbelievable. (However, I think Americans do not know how to enjoy a concert. In my opinion, to be quiet is not the best way to have fun, but I know that this is their culture and I respect it.) And furthermore, I finished the semester with good grades, even though I had some doubts about it.

All these things made my Spring 2015 great, but I am completely sure about my favorite moment. Not one of these compared to the Annual Sports Banquet at Western Kentucky University (WKU).

Throughout my entire life I was engaged in sports, which have allowed me to grow mentally and physically. Since I was a child, my father encouraged me to do sports like soccer and volleyball. In elementary and high school, I distributed my time between study and sports. I made so many different friends, including peers, professors, coaches, and other players. They contributed to the construction of my personality, especially in a group or team context. While I was with them, I had to follow rules and I had to respect different kinds of people – an essential skill for living in society. Sports also helped me physically (in bone, muscle and endurance development), and in forming a healthy diet. At college in Brazil I was involved mainly in soccer, and I did not want to miss this activity when I came to USA. Thus, I looked for a way to actively keep up my growth in sport activities.

For the sake of personal happiness, I looked into the women soccer club at WKU; I became a member there and got involved. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. To find the group itself was not difficult (because in the U.S., sports are big deal and the students are always encouraged to participate), but staying in this group was difficult. I spent 2 hours every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in training and practices. I was not fluent in English at the beginning, so the communication during the practices and games was the biggest hurdle. In some moments, I thought about giving it up. But this attitude would be opposed to what I have learned in all my sports life. I stayed with it, and through the days and months, and I have developed the capacity to communicate, and I approached everyone in the team. It has been a cycle, because the more I communicated, the more I approached people, and consequently the more I communicated – and the cycle never stops. In addition to the practices, we had some trips to play at other Universities, and those were yet another platform for me to get more involved in the sport and to develop my English. My involvement became bigger with each passing day.

Then, at the end of spring, all students involved in sports clubs were invited to the Annual Sports Banquet, including me. This event marked the end of the sports clubs activities for the semester. The food was delicious and everybody had a big special free meal. The most anticipated time in the night was when the awards for best players were released. To my surprise, I was nominated the “Athlete of the Year.” I received my award with beautiful speech. They announced in public my achievements and spoke about my development in the team since the difficult beginning. That moment, I knew that I had done my best. I knew that I had fully received what these people and this experience could offer me. They gave me a family in USA, with which I could have the best feelings. That moment confirmed that the sport made me a better person. It does not matter where you are; you can be who you are, and you can achieve the things that make you feel well.

Andre Xian
Ming Chang

June 2015

Graduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Andre Xian Ming Chang
Field of Study: Electrical and Computer Engineering
U.S. Host Institution: Purdue University West Lafayette
Institution in Brazil: Universidade Tecnológica Federal do Paraná

June Question: What is your favorite word in English and why?

There is a huge number of different English words (approx.: 1,025,110). Some of them are silly like “eggplant” (it doesn’t even look like egg); some words sound strange like “flabbergasted;” some are imported like “voyage;” and some have been created recently, like “selfie.” From a plethora of English words, the one that I like most is "compound," because of its inspirational meaning.

Like many English words, compound has different meanings depending on its context and usage. Compound can be a noun that defines a material that is a mixture of two or more different materials. It can also be used as an adjective to describe many elements accumulated into a bigger object. As a verb, compound gives the idea of intensify, constitute or magnify. All those different definitions converge to the main idea of a composition: of many small elements forming something bigger. One way to look at it is an accumulation of positive actions throughout time that will lead to success.

I came across with this way of looking at the word compound when my mentor and friend gave me a self-guidance book, “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. This book talks about how compounded actions through time and effort can have a huge impact on someone’s life. After reading this book, I felt inspired by the word compound, and I started to view life in a different way, in a compounded way. Instead of trying to change my life all at once, I learned how to actively engage in small positive actions every day to solve challenges that all BSMP grantees have to face: find major professor, secure an AT position, excel in class, improve English communication skills and etc.

For example, securing an AT position outside academia is a hard task. Most tech companies saw me as a temporary and low-experience employee, which in most cases, it’s not worth the investment of time and money to train a three-month employee that will leave the U.S. soon. Instead of trying to contact various companies like crazy in one week or so, I invested in incremental actions throughout the year. I improved my resume and cover letter every week; I submitted one or two online applications every week; I went to workshops, seminars, tech talks, industrial roundtables and job fairs; I talked with the university’s employment department; I joined mock interviews and actively searched for internships. I got many interviews, but I also failed most of them. All these trials and errors gave me so much life experience, and at some point they led me to success. All these small actions compounded together, and as a result, I found an AT in the engineering research department of a multinational company for chip verification.

This example shows that many objectives can be achieved through the composition of everyday actions. Thus, the word compound inspires me to always keep learning and improving myself. I hope that current and future BSMP students can also get the same inspiration from the word compound.

Breno Bernardes
de Souza

May 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Breno Bernardes De Souza
Field of Study: Medicine
U.S. Host Institution: University of California, Los Angeles Extension
Institution in Brazil: Universidade Federal De Ouro Preto

"The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain presents a world troubled with illusion and solitude. Amélie works as a waitress in a café and is a timid girl who leads an isolated life tucked away in her apartment. Her life is full of mischievousness that represents a cleaning out of feelings. The isolation of her character is brought about by a misdiagnosis of her father (a doctor) who concluded that his daughter had heart problems due to an accelerated heartbeat, and therefore should never have contact with other children. Somehow, Amélie sheds away her isolation when one night she discovers in her apartment a box of hidden toys and decides to find the owner in order to return them. This event thusly transforms the film and the protagonist, because after the emotional reaction of the owner to the “treasure box”, Amélie decides to leave her comfort zone and, at this point, she starts to make a difference in people’s lives by way of small acts of kindness.

The villain of the film is solitude, experienced by the titular character and the people she knows. In some ways, it is a romantic film. The high point in the story is in the realization that pleasure can be found in the small things in life and in the emotions they provoke. Amélie is a sensitive character who has the motivation to find these small everyday pleasures. This is incredible and, because of this, The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain is my favorite film. Motivation is what drives the world forward and there is no better movie to show how motivation can embellish the little moments of our day, and consequently, our lives. I believe there is no one who does not end the film feeling an overwhelming desire to be helpful to others. The film is simple, unique and unforgettable; the photography, the soundtrack, the direction and the screenplay are impeccable.

To put it into a simple analogy, all of us (BSMP students) are the targets of Amélie’s goodwill, which metaphorically personifies the Brazilian people. The Brazilian people, by means of our government, are permitting us to study in the best universities in the world. The Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP) is a fulfiller of dreams; it is in many ways a sort of Amélie. We are extremely lucky to have had this opportunity and it is therefore our duty to propagate this motivation that was embedded by the Brazilian government. When we return to our country, we will without a doubt try to be Amélies just as much in our personal relations as in our professional and academic ones. If we act like Amélies with our friends, patients, clients, bosses, partners, children, and colleagues we will create a nation of motivation. Brazil needs this push. The Brazilian people trusted us by funding this program and we in return should do our part to give this motivation back. I call upon all BSMP students to use our rich experiences here in U.S. to transform Brazil. I have no doubt that we will be an important part of the future of our nation, and that if we act like Amélies, we will have a much different, and a much better Brazil."

Isabella Gama Dantas

April 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Isabella Gama Dantas
Field of Study: Geology
U.S. Host Institution: College of Charleston
Institution in Brazil: Universidade Federal Do Rio Grande Do Norte

“I looked on, I thought, I reflected, I admired, in a state of stupefaction not altogether unmingled with fear!” claims Jules Verne in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). This quote represents what I feel when I face challenges during my graduation regarding mere mathematical problems or some actual geophysical data. In this line of reasoning, three weeks ago I challenged myself and sent a brief request to a lovely professor at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, which made these past few weeks definitively the craziest ones that I have ever had. Being part of the EPS at Harvard always loomed large in my mind, mostly because of its outstanding faculty and the multidisciplinary nature of its seismological study of Earth although I thought that they would never accepted me since I am just a mere Junior student. However, my fascination for my field of study is greater than my insecurity, and fortunately has made things happen.

I grew up in Brazil with a life-long passion for math, Brazilian geology, and my father’s career extracting minerals. My passion has been sustained by an array of science courses, over the past three years, ever since my first day of class when my Geophysics professor appealingly explained how P-waves and S-waves spread through the Earth’s interior. Indeed, I would like to see myself communicating my passion for all things environmental, as my father did for me, and contributing to science. And so, I could not be happier since in this summer I will be exploring the research conducted by the seismology laboratory at Harvard, a panel which revolves around my favorite subject of all: earthquakes.

During this amazing summer, I will work in an exciting project that I chose, develop my research skills under the supervision of a reputed scientist, network with the most influential people in seismology, and learn more about geophysics. On a more basic level, I will have the opportunity to become better acquainted with the essentials of conducting research in geophysics. I intend to test my basic understanding of my field of study and, in particular, I am also eager to learn new programming languages and software. Handling coding and modeling geophysical data fascinates me since they are a mix of direct and indirect contacts with nature.

People may say that traveling is the best way to spend the summer, but I disagree. I have been to more than fifteen states in the U.S. and no travel plan could excite me more than how I feel right now. I am certain that this experience will make a huge impact not only on my professional life, but also on personal goals, furthering future goals in ways not anticipated.

In order to excel professionally in my area and to end my exchange period in the U.S. impeccably, there is no better way than spending these 75 days conducting this delightful research. Living in the U.S. during this period has given me sufficient time to think about my future and my goals, and what exactly leads people to success. As a result, I came up with this simple word that has made everything works out: Passion."

Leonardo Rander
Asse Junior

March 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Leonardo Rander Asse Junior
Field of Study:Pharmacy
U.S. Host Institution: Wayne State University
Institution in Brazil: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

"With great power comes great responsibility," said Uncle Ben to the young Peter Parker, who eventually became one of the most encouraging Marvel superheroes in my opinion: The Amazing Spider-Man. Actually, I have to confess that Peter and I have a lot in common; for instance, the love for sciences such as chemistry and applied biology. Moreover, since my childhood, when I did not know what science was really meant to be, I used to pretend I was a great inventor/scientist. Eventually, I grew up and faced myself in front of a huge decision. I had to choose what was supposed to be my profession until the last of my days. As one could imagine, that was definitely not an easy decision to make.

At that time, I was unsure about which major should I embrace of these three: psychology, medicine (psychiatry), and pharmacy. What I was sure about was that I wanted a major/profession that allowed me to interfere and to enhance the treatment of a significant disease. Basically, I wanted to help people and to be involved in a health sciences atmosphere.

After considering the pros and cons of each pathway elected by me, I concluded that I wanted to make a contribution into people’s lives from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Preferably, I did not want to have direct contact with patients. Moreover, I have a strong passion for chemistry, as mentioned briefly before. Suddenly, I had all the pieces of the puzzle, and when I put them together, there was no doubt that pharmacy was the right choice for me.

Therefore, after further reflection about my right professional path, I recognized I had to work for a pharmaceutical company. I wanted to be involved in the development of new and revolutionary medicines that would eventually cure people. This is why I study pharmacy and this is also why my dream job is to be a senior scientist in a far-reaching pharmaceutical company.

Marcos Vinicius
de Souza

February 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Marcos Vinicius de Souza
Field of Study: Chemical Processes
U.S. Host Institution: Miami University
Institution in Brazil: Faculdade de Tecnologia de Praia Grande

My favorite class this term? I could name a few. However, as only one should be mentioned, let us make Chemistry in Modern Society the number one. This class is intended to raise the awareness of how chemistry can be applied to our present context and guide us through the way toward a more sustainable world.

The continuous exploitation of the Earth's natural resources has led our planet to a state of instability, making the term "sustainability" a major concern for the present and future generations. That's what I most like about it: It is a subject that provides me with knowledge that can help me apply the conceptual contents learned in college to make the planet Earth a better place to live in!

Green Chemistry has been developing powerful alternatives to generating products that are less harmful to the environment in a way that the used materials produce less waste and turn into innocuous products at the end of their useful time.

I believe Chemistry in Modern Society will certainly broaden my horizons about the world I inhabit and inspire my future decisions as a chemical process student. That is why I'll strive to make the most of it.

Marco William Paulo
Da Silva

January 2015

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Marco William Paulo Da Silva
Field of Study: Software Engineering
U.S. Host Institution: Savannah College of Art and Design
Institution in Brazil: Universidade de Brasilia

What is my New Year's resolution? Even though It might sound insane, I will change the world. This exchange has been changing my conception about many aspects, but the most important is that it is opening my mind and providing me a new point of view about the world. So, why not really change somehow this year, rather than just make the same unachievable cliché plans?

I could say once more, as most people always say, "Next year? I will start going to the gym, I will drink less coffee, I will surely study harder, I am going to find the love of my life, it is going to be the year I am going to become rich, and so on."

Instead of making self plans, though, this year I want to be more friendly, helpful, cooperative, kind, peaceful, amiable, selfless. I want people to feel loved. I will embrace any chance I get of helping someone out; feeding homeless people or those who do not have a good (or even any) financial condition, giving advice when possible, or even just hearing someone out to make that person feel better.

When talking about changing the world, people think it requires too much of them, when actually it's just about loving each other. Having a better world is something that everyone wants, although unfortunately it is not everybody who gives some effort to make it happen.

Love is indeed what is missing in today's world. If at least each person who reads this essay makes a good difference in someone else's life, it is already a good beginning. Also, love being spread, come what may, it is going to make you feel better as well.

Isabelle De Carvalho
Von Randow

December 2014

Intensive English Program Winner

Name: Isabelle De Carvalho Von Randow
Field of Study: Geology
U.S. Host Institution: State University of New York, Plattsburgh
Institution in Brazil: Universidade Federal Do Espirito Santo

In my winter break I want to get my feet wet, to try something new like how to make a real ginger man, and a traditional "kissing ball". I want to ski for the first time, to explore the beauty of Adirondack Mountains, and visit Lake Placid in NY where the Winter Olympics of 1932 and 1980 were hosted. After I become a friend of Santa Claus in -30º surrounded by all this snow I definitely want to go to a warm weather, because I miss so much the sun! I can see myself jumping the waves of the sea in Miami, FL.

Guess what? I also want to update my reading, Truman Capote wait for me with his interesting histories like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "In Cold Blood." What about to explore new museums? I study Gemology and I love to visit collections of minerals and gems.

In conclusion, after a hard work I can't wait to enjoy my winter break without needing to follow the clock's rules. I want to enjoy my coffee with chocolate and listen to the noise of hours going "tick-tock."

Giovana de Andrade
Resende

December 2014

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Giovana de Andrade Resende
Field of Study: Medicine
U.S. Host Institution: University of Southern Indiana
Institution in Brazil: Universidade De Uberaba

What are my plans for winter break? I am going to come back to my "normal" life. It is time to go back home.

This experience for me was amazing, the chance of studying abroad for one year and a half was a dream come true, when the truth is even better than dreamed. I met people that I will never forget, real Friends for life, Americans and non-Americans, and I have been to places that I never thought that I would be able to visit in such a young age. Some people ask me where I liked most, but it is impossible to decide: Miami, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, and even my small Evansville, each one has its own unique beauty.

I have been asked a lot recently if I want to go back to Brazil, and the funny part is that I am always responding in a different way. There are days that I say "Yes!" with conviction. Other days I say "No! Definitely not!" The truth is that a big part of me doesn't want to stop living this dream, while another part is ready to see my family and come back to the old life and realize another big dream of becoming a doctor.

I learned so many things here: a new culture, a new language, new subjects, and I will go back a different person than arrived here. I love my country, but I fell in love with the United States. I will miss having four seasons in a year. I will miss the advanced infrastructure, which is especially evident at the University. I will miss how secure I felt here. When I left Brazil I knew that I would end up going back home, but now I cry because there is no coming back soon.

In conclusion, the answer for this question is that, willing or not, this winter I am going to the Brazilian summer. Taking with me a huge suitcase of great memories.

Felipe Souza Teixeira

October 2014

Intensive English Program Winner

Name: Felipe Souza Teixeira
Field of Study: Electronic Engineering
U.S. Host Institution: University of Michigan, Dearborn
Institution in Brazil: Pontificia Universidade Catolica De Minas Gerais

First of all I am very happy to be here in the United States and I have many things here that I am enjoying and loving since I arrived, like the food, the housing, the people who are so nice and patient with me because I am still learning English, and the university. If I had to choose one of these things I would choose the people who are so understanding of me, as I am not fluent in English yet.

I was afraid about this, I always thing something like, "I can't say something wrong because they are going to make jokes about me or treat me badly!" Instead the opposite happened, when people here realize that I am foreign and I am not fluent yet, I receive all the attention and respect. It is actually very common that people here seems interested about the country that I am from and about the culture. They want to know about nice places to visit and what I recommend to do, and to eat in Brazil. Here in United States I am different and this draws attention, which is perfect, because this way I can train my English and become fluent quickly with this new contacts and know more about culture of the United States. Most everybody that I've met here is nice, friendly and I know that whatever I need, I must only ask them and if they can help me they definitely do.

I am enjoying each moment here and improving myself as a person, student and professional. I am doing very well because I am loving this time while I am here, I am learning more than I ever imagined I would learn, I can realize that all this experience will be unforgettable and remarkable in my life.

Marina Cazilda de
Moura Alves

October 2014

Undergraduate Academic Program Winner

Name: Marina Cazilda de Moura Alves
Field of Study: Environmental Science
U.S. Host Institution: Rochester Institute of Technology
Institution in Brazil: Universidade De Brasilia

"There are words like Freedom, Sweet and Wonderful to say. There are words like Liberty that almost make me cry"- Langston Hughes. The words of this poem have significant meaning for me as an international student. Living in the United States for more than one year has made me see the world from another point of view. I have met people from different parts of the world and have learned their beliefs, values, cultures and thoughts. I was also able to work side by side with people from different countries, which gave me a new understanding of how truly diverse this country is. The volunteer work allowed me to become a part of this multiculturalism, and it is what makes me love living in the United States.

As a host country, the United States welcomes immigrants "yearning to breathe free," to quote Emma Lazarus. In her poem "The New Colossus," Lazarus brings the idea that "The Statue of Liberty became a greater symbol of conquest of freedom for incoming immigrants" (John T. Cunningham). As part of the history of the country, the Declaration of Independence states, "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It proves that freedom is part of American history and has always welcomed people from different countries, and this makes the United States a culturally diverse country.

The best example of seeing and feeling this diversity firsthand was participating in the UNICEF club at Rochester Institute of Technology. Through this club, I was able to visit Mary's Place Refugee Outreach in Rochester, New York, and to talk with a lady called Dhan Subba from Bhutan. She asked me several times about the political system of Brazil, and questioned me: "King? King? No freedom?" I told her that in my country we have a woman president and we also have freedom. She said emotionally, "Oh, in Bhutan we do not have freedom, we have a king." On this day I had the opportunity to look in people's eyes, and see that we all are the same, no matter where we are from, what religion we practice or what ethnicity we are. The volunteer work allowed me to become a part of this multiculturalism.

The best experience of my life was studying in the United States and immersing myself into a world of incredible culture, trying to understand people's opinions and respecting them as they are. I have learned a great deal during my time here, and have gained a lot of knowledge in this learning, so I want to apply what I have learned to my future work in Brazil: helping vulnerable populations and environmental refugees in developing countries, bringing back their rights and protection to those who need a better quality of life.

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