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Inspiration from Other Countries

A comparison of the American College to the Brazilian and Portuguese College based on my experience.

Photo of Izabela Correa
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Since I was a kid my parents shared with me a strong belief in the importance of the power of education. My father used to say to me that knowledge is something that we have for the rest of our lives. And it was with this mindset that I grow up.

I am from Brazil and our education system is very different than from US system. Most of the public middle and high schools in Brazil are not high quality. So, since my parents could afford, they decided to send me to a private school. However, they always showed me that I had something that most of the people couldn’t have and that I should value it.

In Brazil, the best universities are public. Students pay NOTHING. Not even administrative fees. However, it is really hard to get in these universities. Having grown with the feeling that my parents were investing in my education, I felt in someway that was my responsibility to get in one public university. And I was able to do it. I entered in Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.

My university didn’t have the entire infrastructure that American university has. However, I believe the level of education was good and it provided me a lot of experience. When I was in college, I had the chance to do research with a professor, be part of a junior enterprise, do paid internships and I also received a scholarship to study 6 months in Lisbon.

After graduating, I got a good job and worked for more than 1 year. But, I wanted to have more experience. So, I decided to quit my job. And I went to study in Europe. My decision to go to Europe instead of US or Australia was heavily influenced by the costs of education. By that time, I was paying my degree using my savings.

While I was studying there, I applied for a scholarship from the Brazil Government, a program called Science Without Borders (http://www.cienciasemfronteiras.gov.br/web/csf-eng/faq). And they offered me a scholarship to do a master at NYU. So, I decided to come to US.

Having experience at a Brazilian, two Portuguese and an American university made me think what education means in each culture. While Brazilian and Portuguese institutions were very similar (probably because of historical factors), American college is something completely different.

Here, in US, I feel that university is a company. Every decision is made based on money. The focus is more on financial return than in knowledge. Universities do all they can to recruit students. All the top athletic facilities, dorms and lounges are a reflection of this culture. In my vision, the universities here are selling a lifestyle.

I am not saying that American universities are not good. They are the top universities in the world. But, they are also the ones that have more money to invest in research and faculty. This way they attract the best professors and students from around the world. However, we should think that the current system prevents  a lot of people to have access to high education. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How could we use examples from other countries to change the American Education system and reimage the costs of college?

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Izabela, thank you very much for sharing your experience. Beyond your insightful comparative analysis of Brazilian / European and US universities (it is a great provocation about the main goal of universities and the "value" and "cost" - I'm intentionally using 2 different words - of knowledge), I was struck by the role of your parents and could not help think of Luisa's interview by Matt: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/higher-ed/research/luisa-s-higher-ed-journey

Photo of Izabela Correa

Hi Anne Laure. Welcome. You are completely right. Similar to Luisa's parents (Matt's post inspired me :) ), my parents played an important role in my education. I was wondering if this has some relation to the Latin American culture, since Luisa also grow up in a Latin American country. It would be interesting to have more information of what role American parents play on their kids education.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Izabela, glad to hear that Matt's post inspired you. Interesting point about the cultural component, although my parents did play a big role in my education too. I am also wondering how socio-economical factors play out.

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