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Dicas do estudante: como escolher uma universidade no exterior?

I moved to Curitiba from the United States in 2011, immediately being enroled into a high school. Although I already had an adequate knowledge of Portuguese, I was never confident enough, nor comfortable to speak or write it in everyday situations throughout the day. Despite the emotional drawback, I managed to graduate from high school with average grades and enrol into PUCPR for civil engineering. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, and the additional pressure and stress of having to write continuous reports and redações in Portuguese just didn’t help my situation. I decided to look outward and reevaluate my educational options outside of the country.

I lived in the United States for almost 13 years, but due to laws and regulations, once you leave the state you lived in for a certain period of time, you no longer become eligible to apply for universities in that state as an in-state applicant. With that being said, paying $40,000 USD yearly for 4 years as an international applicant was not a choice. I was then informed that Japan offered a G30 program for undergraduate courses – what made this inviting and interesting is that Nagoya University, located in my hometown, also offered the G30 program. I applied methodically, translated all of my documents, and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, I wasn’t accepted for one reason, and that one reason was that I took the SAT perhaps a year or two earlier than the “normal” age. Therefore, my scores were relatively lower, and they made the final decision to decline my application. (I’m sure that my overall grades from high school dropping due to the Portuguese language barrier weren’t too appealing to them either).

During this university hunt, I also explored my options to see which career I really wanted to pursue. One consecutive event led to another, and I was hooked onto the idea of biochemistry and/or biotechnology due to an Italian professor in the United Kingdom, Julian Melchiorri. His Silk Leaf project fascinated me and I decided that it was definitely something to look into.

Although I had confidently decided the course I wanted to take, I started to exhaust all of my options as to where to study. I wanted to study in English, and that was a fact that was undeniable. I then happened to stumble upon an advertisement about a UK Fair happening here in Curitiba on Facebook and decided to attend.

There were a few universities that stood out, some that had better course programs than others, and some that gave out more scholarships than others. I had a small mental list that served as necessary criteria in order to choose a foreign university, and I think that if you, the reader, is a student that’s interested in studying abroad, you should take some notes from this list.

The criteria listed below are not in any specific order:

  1. Make sure that of the universities that offer the course you seek; the country speaks a language you are comfortable with. For example, if you are Brazilian, and you decide to enrol yourself into a university in Japan, you’d have to study in English, and learn Japanese outside of classes. That could be a large hassle for most students.
  2. Confirm that the city you decide to live in offers the lifestyle that you prefer. Factors such as a small or large university – small or large city – enjoyable nightlife or nearly non-existent nightlife.
  3. Verify that the university you are interested in has the conditions and equipment in order to propel you in the right career path. If you’re looking at engineering, crosscheck that the university utilises up-to-date technology and has proper laboratories.
  4. Analyse what kind of studying style fits your needs. If you’re indecisive between the United States and the United Kingdom, know that the final grade of each semester is evaluated in different forms. The United States prioritizes homework and group work above exams in some situations. In some cases, the weight of homework can vary between 25 and 35% of your overall grade. However, in the United Kingdom, self-studying is a prerequisite as homework is rarely given (practically inexistent) and your finals could weigh up between 70 to 80% of your final grade. Consequentially, the grading scale is tremendously different between the two nations. For example, a 70% on the grading scale for undergraduate courses in the United Kingdom is considered as distinction – equivalent to a 4.0 GPA in the United States.
  5. Another factor is to calculate all of the necessary funding in order to study overseas beforehand. And most importantly, don’t apply with the expectation of receiving a scholarship.
  6. The best way to get to know a country or university is to ask someone who has attended or visited said place!

After browsing through almost all of the universities, I just happened to come across Aberystwyth University. I went through my mental list one by one, and it happened to fit what I was looking for. It’s located in a country that teaches in English, has a strong science department (IBERS) with biochemistry as a course, it’s only 3 years long – reducing the overall cost of studies compared to the United States. As an unexpected benefit, the cost of living at Aberystwyth was lower than other cities due to it being a university funded town.

The application process was tedious but more than worth it. Upon arriving and settling in Aberystwyth, I knew that I had made the right choice.

By Yugo Sato- estudante de bioquímica na Aberystwyth University, fluente em japonês , inglês e português e estagiário na gradeUP durante suas férias no Brasil.

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