American universities commonly attract foreign students, but Brazilians have always been a very small number among them. Columbia University, for instance, only had one student from Brazil in 2007. Today, the reality is different; many universities across the country have dozens of Brazilians in their programs. Their backgrounds are diverse, some who come from wealthy families that afford all college expenses abroad, while others come from public schools and depend on scholarships to attend college.
From this shift, two questions arise, and the first is why Brazilians have become more interested in graduating from an American university. I imagine that visibility as well as affordability have grown; Brazilian students who aren’t wealthy and haven’t been brought up by parents who know about doctorates and Ivy Leagues have found such information from other sources, such as the Internet, successful stories in the media and nonprofit organizations that extend their help to these students. Also included in this relationship is the interest of American universities over highly qualified Brazilian students who bring diversity, intelligence, and a more global perspective to campus.
But some people may wonder, doesn’t Brazil suffer a brain drain when the US attracts smart, motivated people, removing them from Brazilian universities, where they could have made an impact on other students and helped increase student success? I say yes, and no. These Brazilian students indeed bypass their country’s universities but get ahold of education of better quality, and the hope is that they’ll return to Brazil eventually and make a stronger impact than they would have otherwise been able to.
Even those who do not return have opportunities to make an impact on others who, in turn, could change the country more directly. Another major impact is these students set examples to others and attest to the possibility of trusting education and going far with it. The more stories of success related to unusual dedication to studying, the more likely it is to inspire others to act similarly.
The representation of Brazilian students in American universities is only starting – and I hope that Brazils’ educational improvements follow.