1) Felipe, you've studied abroad yourself. How was it for you?
Studying abroad is something that started early in my life. At the age of 16, I spent one year in the USA attending a public High School. It is safe to say that it was a big challenge for me to be away from home at such an early age, but it was certainly worth it. After that experience, I realized how important it was to get out of my comfort zone more often. I also realized that I could learn so much just by going to different places and that's when I started to be passionate about travelling.
I graduated from college in the US, spent some time in Spain for an internship and visited several other countries as a tourist. My year as an exchange student in the US, however, does stand out because it made me realize how big the world could be.
2) Which skills have you learned or developed while traveling?
I'd say that I've learned a little bit of everything. Getting to know different cultures was a big part of the process, because it gave me the chance to stop stereotyping people and actually get to know them. I've also learned different languages, and I'm fortunate to say that I can communicate in Portuguese, English and Spanish. But, above all, you can't really measure how much you learn when you spend some time abroad. The life experience of travelling certainly makes you a better person.
3) What is a story behind BRASPA?
BRASPA is a social business that started with my desire to bring my experiences abroad to other Brazilian students. Today, our social reality is that not every student has the opportunity to spend some time abroad, thus, if they are unable to see the world, we try to bring a little bit of the world to them.
BRASPA works directly with the Brazilian universities assisting them with the process of receiving international students in their institutions. Our goal is to promote cultural diversity in Brazil and turn that into something productive. Therefore, we link those international students with opportunities that will make a difference in our country, such as internships, volunteering in projects, and so on. We also provide all the support necessary for a good stay in Brazil.
4) What kind of experiences can students expect?
We are already working with two universities in São Paulo - Insper and Anhembi-Morumbi. We are helping them with the internationalization process of their school by offering students the opportunity to make the most out of their stay.
Every student that joins our program receive this guide to help them to navigate through everyday life.
Students who want to come to Brazil should be prepared for an innovative version of exchange program: we want the students to learn and have a life changing experience, and at the same time, have a positive contribution in Brazil. Therefore, for those who are interested in combining their studies with internships or volunteering, BRASPA can help you.
For example, we work with language school called 4YOU2, who offers low cost English classes in underprivileged communities.
We also partner with ULiving, who brings to Brazil an innovative concept of student housing. Their spaces go beyond rooms and promote interaction among students.
The name Brasil de Portas Abertas translates to Brazil with Open Doors in English. We want everyone to feel welcome!
5) What do you feel is the greatest value of your programs?
The greatest value that BRASPA can offer is the win-win scenario we've been trying to create. On one side, we provide a great experience for international students. On the other, we are also contributing for the country development and we are enabling more educational initiatives to be promoted.
6) How do you choose your partners, who are you interested in?
We know that we are not going to do everything on our own, thus, we are always seeking partners that can help us to provide the best experience possible. Today, all of our partners offer products or services that are extremely useful for the students such as: Portuguese lessons, high quality student dormitories, air plane tickets, and so on. The partners are also important for BRASPA, as a social business, to be self-sustained financially.
7) Kind of an obvious question, but still - why Brazil?
Apart from the obvious answers of how beautiful the country is, I'd say the people is what makes Brazil special. In general, Brazilians are very warm and friendly and the atmosphere students find here in unlike any other across the globe.
8) What qualities would you like to see more around you and what we could do ourselves to make the world a better place?
I just wish people were a little more optimistic. I realize our country has problems, I'm not naive. The difference, I believe, is the way you decide to face those problems. Some of us Brazilians tend to be very negative about our country and downgrade ourselves when compared to others. However, few of us really know how to value the good things about our people.
If more of us turned the frustration in desire to help, we'd already live in a better place. What we can do as BRASPA, is to help spreading positiveness and hopefully encourage more people to get involved in the change process.
9) What are your plans, aspirations and dreams for 2015?
Our plans for 2015 is to be directly involved with 8 different universities in São Paulo and we are planning our expansion to other cities in Brazil. Our desire is to help as many students as possible. I know how transformative studying abroad can be, I lived it myself. Now I want to be a facilitator for others to have the same great experience.
10) Is there anything you would like to add?
No, we covered it all! It was a pleasure participating, thank you for the opportunity.