Alumni Profile | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact
In September 2012, Sarah Sampaio traveled from Brazil to participate in a 1-year cultural exchange program in the United States. Due to a chance encounter during her J-1 trainee program, Sarah was inspired to pursue a career in academia. Today, Sarah is a PhD student in London; her research revolves around women’s entrepreneurship in Brazil and changing gender roles. Sarah was recently awarded a grant that will enable her to return to South America to conduct research and collect data. In her contribution below, Sarah Sampaio shares the meaningful impact cross-cultural exchange has had on her life.
I decided to participate in the J-1 program to obtain more professional experience and learn about practices and culture in the United States. To me, the idea that I could have cultural and life knowledge along with professional experience in one program really attracted me to the J-1 status.
The program showed me that I was a lot stronger than I had given myself credit for. It also made me more independent and proactive in my learning and professional experiences. It gave me the opportunity to build rapport with people from different cultural, socio-economic and professional backgrounds and it inspired me to learn from my colleagues and build a solid work relationship and even friendships. Since my J-1 program completed in 2013, I am still in contact with the friends I made in Salt Lake City, UT while living there, even though I’ve been living, pursuing my PhD and working in London for the past 2 years. I made friends for life and learned so much.
There is absolute value in cultural exchange. It’s not just about improving one’s professional or language skills – it’s about growing as a person and broadening one’s horizons. Meeting other cultures, different traditions and customs transforms your life as you start seeing things from a different angle, by other people’s perspectives. You return home a better, more complete person because a cultural exchange makes you realize that the world is big and you can explore it, change your life and maybe change someone else’s life in return. And a hopefully, when your cultural exchange is over, your experience can motivate others to get to know other cultures, travel and leave their comfort zones.
My program improved my views of the U.S. and its people. I made so many great friends during my program in Salt Lake City. They treated me like family and made me feel less homesick, more welcomed and like I belonged there. They always listened to what I had to say and made me feel valued, made me feel like my culture and experience mattered.
I was also able to share my culture during my program. From Brazilian food to teaching them Portuguese, my friends and colleagues were very eager to learn about my country, my family, our customs and traditions. We had great fun!
Since January 2016 I have been pursuing my PhD in Business at the CEEDR – Centre for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Research at Middlesex University London. After a long and thorough application process with interviews and PhD proposals submissions, I was awarded a scholarship and a stipend to pursue my PhD at Middlesex University in London. I am also a member of the Royal Geographical Institute and the Regional Studies Association here in the UK and also teach modules on Business and Entrepreneurship here at the university.
My research revolves around women’s entrepreneurship in Brazil, the business/household nexus and how the business-venture is changing gender roles in the household. I’m in my second year and have presented my work at several academic conferences and institutions across the UK. This year I have also been awarded a grant by the University of Barcelona (INCASI program) to go to South America for 2 months to do my research data collection in August 2017.
I truly believe that the only reason I am now pursuing my dream and building a solid career in academia was due to my international experiences. Without my first summer camp in Canada when I was 15 and years later my J-1 program in Salt Lake City, UT through CENET, I probably wouldn’t have achieved everything I have so far, simply because my horizons would be so limited without those opportunities. I’ve met people, friends and professionals that taught me so much, not only work-related matters, but life lessons. I improved my language skills, my professional skills and grew as a person, with more independence and strength to face the world and its many challenges. The friends and my boss from SLC are still in contact, we talk quite often. I know their families and was I part of many barbecues and dinners and those memories will stay with me forever.
I have an interesting story from my J-1 time, a story that defined a moment, when I finally realized that I wanted a career in academia. One evening, during my J-1 program time, I went to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants downtown SLC. I got a table by myself and was looking at the menu when a North-American lady approached me and asked if the restaurant was worth the wait in the line. We started talking and I offered her to sit at my table. During our conversation and dinner, I learned that she is a famous children’s book author and was in SLC to promote her newest book. During our talk she said, “I don’t know, but it seems like you should be a professor. It seems like your heart is in it. You should go for it.” Our talk opened my eyes about what I wanted to do as a career… and that’s when I decided what my next step would be.
And that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been talking to someone from a different culture, different background in a different country. Those experiences only happen if you are given the opportunity. And CENET and the U.S gave me that opportunity, hopefully they’ll continue to do so for many other across the world.
I would like to thank CENET for all the support and services they provide to students and professionals all over the world. The opportunity I received through my J-1 program was truly remarkable. I am rooting for CENET and other companies that continue their efforts to keep the US a multi-cultural, diverse country. Diversity is vital for a just society and hopefully CENET can continue to provide that to students and companies.
– Sarah Sampaio
PhD candidate at CEEDR/Middlesex University London, Member of the Royal Geographical Society UK, Member of the Regional Studies Association UK
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