I'm in the US!!! And... on my way to Portugal!

Interview with Rebeca Sá, graduated in the Federal University of Pernambuco (Brazil) and now is a Master student of the Madeira Program, at Carnegie Mellon University (USA) and Universidade da Madeira (Portugal). Rebeca is now finishing the first semester at Carnegie Mellon and is going to Portugal to continue her studies in the Human Computer Interaction Master program.

Wanna see more about her experience and some pictures?? Just visit this page!!

1. What motivated you to study abroad?
I've always wanted to have an international academic/work experience, and a master program seemed to be the best way for me to reach this goal. I've always wondered how people think, interact, learn and teach in a place outside Brazil. I believe that it's extremely rewarding to have this kind of experience in a different country, with a great variety of people, culture and behaviors. We grow as a person and as a professional. I've always believed that this kind of experience would be valuable and remarkable in different aspects of my life.

2. How you selected the country and the university you wanted to study?
My strategy was start looking for the best universities in the field of User Experience Design. Then I narrowed down my options by choosing the ones that could offer scholarships or any financial aid for international students. I had no preference to a specific country, unless it was in North America or Europe. Those were the continents I definitely wanted to go. Another criteria to choose the universities was the possibility to talk in English or Portuguese, which are the main languages I can speak.

3. What kind of documentation you needed to prepare?
In order to apply for the master's programs, I had to prepare my resume and portfolio, academic transcripts, 3 recommendation letters and a statement of purpose. After I was accepted to HCI Master Program at CMU/UMa, I had to prepare all the documents related to my travel, such as passport, US visa and proof of financial funding.

4. How was the selection process?
All the process was online, except for the academic transcripts that had to be posted by mail to some universities. I applied to the universities online system and payed the application fees with credit card. The application happened two semesters before the beginning of class. I waited for a couple of months to receive the feedback that I was accepted, and I after that I went through the visa process a couple of months before traveling.

5. Do you have a scholarship?? If yes, was it enough or you faced financial difficulties? If not, how you prepared yourself financially?
Yes, I have tuition scholarship provided by the Portuguese Government. This scholarship was crucial for me to join the program, because without it I wouldn;t be able to afford the tuition fees. All my personal expenses are in my charge, though. It's very tough for me to be responsible for all the living costs in a different country, specially considering the currency exchange. But I saved money years before. I spent more than 4 years saving a little bit of money month by month. It was a long process and I believed that this money would be used in something extremely special someday in the future. And it happened!!! Thanks for these savings, I'm now able to afford the living expenses abroad. My parents also helped me with specific costs such as flight tickets, health insurance and stuff like that.

6. Could you tell us a little bit about the university you studied (are studying)?
Carnegie Mellon University is one of the top universities in the world in the fields of Human Computer Interaction and Engineering. The Human Computer Interaction Institute at CMU is one of the pioneers in HCI studies in US. I'm extremely pleased to study with great teachers and a great variety of students who come from many countries in the world. I still don;t have too much reference about the Universidade de Madeira in Portugal because classes still didn't start there. But I have great expectations about the quality of the education.

7. What's your opinion about this kind of opportunity?
What are the good and bad things about it? As I told, it is a very rewarding experience for me in different aspects of my life. We learn a lot, we grow as a person and as a professional. One of the bad things is the language limitations, which may let me a little less confident about being clear and making sense of what I want to say. Another bad thing is to stay far away from my family and old friends. But every choice in our life requires some resigns. If we choose one thing, we are automatically giving up of a couple of other possible choices. So, I chose to study abroad and be rewarded with all the good things on this journey. I also understand all the cons that I have to face.

8. Any tip for the students that wanna study abroad?
Think about what are the necessary steps to reach your goal and start moving! If you want to study abroad, start saving money right now. Also, spend some hours every week searching for universities and courses that match your interests. Check what is documentation required to apply for theses universities and prepare those documents. Look for institutions that can offer scholarships, such as Country Embassies and philanthropic foundations. That's it!


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