International students bring new perceptions and experiences to the University
Every semester, around 50 students from all over the world leave their home countries to a common destination: PUCRS. Many factors drive students to spend some time at the University. According to the Office of International and Institutional Affairs (AAII), most of the students come here either because of its infrastructure or are recommended by colleagues and professors.
A study abroad experience may be very useful to broaden one’s understanding about the career chosen and to promote the students’ professional growth. New learning methods maximize the learning experiences as students work with research and share their experiences with international colleagues and professors. “This is a major challenge that represents, on top of everything, an important competitive advantage. It leads to self-awareness, independence, tolerance, respect and empathy towards our fellows”, says Vitor Schaurich, AAII’s assistant.
The encouragement to cultural learning is in accordance with the University’s internationalization goals. “The experiences are shaped by several sociocultural perspectives and will lead to positive learning experiences”, says he.
Research and Development
Marija Radic, 22, is a 4th semester Medical School student at the University of Zagreb. A native of Croatia, she came to Brazil for a 1-month academic mobility program at PUCRS’ School of Medicine. “It was better than I expected. I’m happy about this experience”, comments she.
At São Lucas Hospital, she conducted research into asthma medications and had the chance to provide clinical care and perform surgeries. “I did not have any experience, so it was very good. In Croatia, nobody does research as students are not encouraged to. I wrote my first article there”, reports she.
As for the cultural differences, Marija commends the relationship between students and professors. “In Croatia, they don’t have time for us. At PUCRS, students develop a camaraderie with their professors”, says she.
São Lucas Hospital receives exchange students from all over the world. The Local Office for Internships and Experiences (CLEV), founded by PUCRS students in 20016, acts as a mediator. Some other universities in Brazil count on the support of a similar agency. At PUCRS’ School of Medicine, it is accountable to the National Executive Board of Medical School Students, which responds to the International Federation on Associations of Medical School Students. These international connections make student mobility easier and make it possible for them to establish a network of future professionals.
Since the day it was implemented, specific students have been in charge of handling the traveling and accommodation of the exchange students. Students usually come on exchanges that last for about 30 days. Each student is paired up with a cultural partner, who is in charge of showing them around, taking them to parties, and a host, who offers room and board every day.
By October, CLEV has brought 25 exchange students to PUCRS and Marija is one of them. They come from distinct countries: Egypt, Croatia and Czech Republic, for instance. For Guilherme Bacchi, 10th semester Medical School student at PUCRS, and one of the directors of CLEV, one of the advantages of the program is its self-sufficiency. “If students want to go on an exchange program, they have to host other exchange students in their homes. A point system is also in place. Students need to make good grades and take part and extracurricular activities. Depending on the country the students want to go, they need to score higher”, explains he.
Gemma Giordano, 21, is a 3rd year Medical School student. A native of Naples, Italy, she has always had an interest in the Brazilian culture. She came on an exchange mediated by CLEV and its counterpart at Università Federico II. At PUCRS, in addition to the courses she took, she had practicum work done at the pediatric department of São Lucas Hospital, as she treated infectious diseases and pulmonology patients.
In her view, the best part of the experience was the connection she made with peers and professors. “Grand rounds were conducted in English in a very cheerful way”, says she. Gemma adds that in her country, people are more rigid. “It’s hard for a professor to provide assistance to you outside class hours, but things here are different. It’s not common for us to follow up on patients. We focus on theory and a Medical School student needs to come closer to people”, compares she. She also commends the University on its recreational areas. “The campus is beautiful. If you have some time off, you can lie in the grass or go to the Library”, concludes she.