From scholar to ambassador

Brasil Observer - Apr 18 2016
Luiza during the final of SwB UK Ambassador contest (Photo: Divulgation)

(Leia em Português)


Luiza Negri talks to Brasil Observer about her trajectory, from scholar of the Brazilian Science without Borders program to winner of SwB Ambassador 2016 competition


By Ana Toledo

The Brazilian Science without Borders (SwB) program has a new ambassador to the UK: Luiza Negri, 25 years old, from Ouro Fino, Minas Gerais. Graduated in Architecture from the Federal University of Ouro Preto (UFOP), she spent 2012 studying at the University of East London (UEL), where she began her journey to become SwB ambassador. But what’s that?

Since its creation by President Dilma Rousseff government, in 2012, SwB has been a considerable important factor in the connection between Brazil and the United Kingdom – more than 10,000 Brazilian undergraduate and postgraduate students have been in the country thanks to the program. So considerable that today, four years after the emergence of SwB, the British Embassy in Brazil has fostered a network of former students, called Science without Borders UK Alumni. The goal is to share stories and impacts of partnerships established between Brazilian students and British educational institutions, including an annual election of a SwB UK Ambassador.

For the 2016 programme, there were more than 70 people registered in the first phase. For the second stage there were ten. Only four went for the final, held at a gala evening at the Brazilian British Centre in São Paulo. At the time, each finalist made a four-minute speech to the audience and jury.

“I really believe that if we want to change our country and even the world for the better, we must start with education. Of course, it takes time to educate a whole new generation and expect the results to be visible, but we do not need to start from scratch. We can begin now to work with our own generation,” said the architect Luiza Negri in her victorious speech.

In an interview with the Brasil Observer, Luiza explained that “the [SWB UK Ambassador] program works showing what gains SwB brought for the students.” The network, in fact, was born before the freezing of SwB by the Brazilian government, so it was not created as a way to pressure for the program to be reactivated. “I see this opportunity as a way to promote the benefits and perhaps also help to make the program back,” said the new ambassador.

Luiza told the experience with the SwB was a determining factor in her career. “It changed the course of my life completely, I wanted to give up [architecture before joining the program],” she admitted. The beginning was not easy, because in addition to be reconsidering her course, Luiza still had to adapt to the way of teaching in the chosen institution. In plain English, putting hands on. “I did not have the same skills as my colleagues, because we learn different. In Brazil, education is more technical, in London they are focused on a more visual representation,” she compared.

When she realized her difficulty, Luiza appealed to her supervisors. “I tried two teachers who gave me full support and then I finished the year among the best in my class. The first lesson was: master the technique you have to develop and do it.”

That’s what Luiza did. But the experience did not end there. When the compulsory internship arrived, she received all open positions in the university and as a consequence, another great learning: do not be limited to your study area. “The English people have a lot of openness to exchange experiences. An architecture student doing internship in public health was an experience that perhaps I wouldn’t have in Brazil. It certainly added to my resume and my personal life.”

After the mandatory internship, Luiza returned to Brazil. “It was sad; I did not want to come back.” However, with the certainty that she had developed a good year, she faced the return with fresh eyes. “I went back to college and the old scheme brought some frustration. I was trying to find solutions. Within the college, for example, we had no model practising. At the first opportunity I had I made one and a few teachers noticed. But another teacher saw it and asked me to do model workshops for the urbanism class, so I started working with her. Also, after much complaint, I became part of the college to discuss improvements to the course. Even my dissatisfaction was cool because it brought positive results.”

For Luiza, “studying abroad is something that everyone does; the question is what was different for you.” This was a reflection generated from the application process for the SWB UK Ambassador 2016 competition. “One of the objectives of this initiative is to help people understand what the experience of studying abroad was for them, what was the experience in the UK. Participate in the contest makes you reflect, look back and connect the dots of what actually was the experience.”

Today Luiza plays the role of promoting the network, participating in events such as Career Day, held throughout Brazil, and is part of integration meetings and generate content for the project blog. Another contest prize is a trip to the UK, which took place in March and it was her first mission. “The trip is an award, but also served to know more about England, meet other universities, make contact and exchange experiences. We also had some cultural programs. Among them, we were watching a Shakespeare play at the Globe.”



After doubts, questions, challenges overcome and, finally, graduation, Luiza Negri created her own business – the platform Formei, e agora? (or I graduated, now what?) – whose mission is to inspire young people to dream higher and show the different possibilities that exist within each profession.

The site began publishing stories of different professionals who tell about their experience at the beginning of their careers. Today it also offers another service: couching for new graduates.

According to Luiza, the experience in the UK was crucial to put aside the idea that success only occurs in specific activities at study area. “Knowing that the diploma cannot limit you and the concept that you can learn as much or more out of the classroom were the seed for my performance today.”