Gabriela Padua grew up in Brazil, and when her plans to go study abroad in high school fell through, she figured they would never be realized. You had to be a genius, and then go to Harvard, if you wanted to study abroad for college, she thought.
This all changed when she met a counselor who helps students apply to international schools. Her father, a business professor in Brazil, helped her realize that studying business was a way to ensure she’d have a useful degree, despite not knowing exactly what she wanted to do after graduation. She decided to study business in the United States, where such degrees are seen as more prestigious than they are in Brazil.
She’s now a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, and having lived in the United States for two years, she reflects on the initial culture shock with a little humor: some of the things people ask her about Brazil are ludicrous, and some of the things she thought about Texas turned out to be wrong as well.
Aside from stereotypes, there were also day-to-day cultural differences to learn – people in America don’t express their friendship as physically as people do in Brazil, and the school environment is far more formal than she was used to.
All the same, Padua has made every effort to immerse herself in the country – participating in all the opportunities she can find at UT, and sharing her Brazilian roots with her Texas friends.
Here’s her story:
I wanted to study abroad while I was in high school, but that didn’t work. My school was difficult, and I was afraid that if I left, the subjects wouldn’t be translatable and I would miss things. I decided not to go, and then I met a guy my senior year who counsels students who want to go abroad for college. At first, I thought it was like – if you’re a genius, then you can go to Harvard, otherwise there’s no way. But after I met this guy I thought, well, my dream might be coming true.
Both of my parents are doctors, and ever since I was little, people have asked if I’m going to be one as well. In Brazil, we have three big majors that basically everyone chooses: law, medicine, and engineering, because you’ll get good money and you’ll have status. Business is not as prestigious a major as it is in the U.S. I didn’t want to go into those areas, so part of deciding to go to the U.S. was because business is a good degree here. Also, English was the only language I was fluent enough to take classes in, so I figured it had to be Canada, the U.S., or England. I had been in the U.S. before, and I liked the culture.