Impressions of Ireland: International scholar Pilar Luz Rodrigues

Pilar Luz Rodrigues

Pilar Luz Rodrigues

By the end of my post graduate study I felt I was academically prepared to enter a Master´s program, and was enthusiastic to enhance my understanding

Name Pilar Luz Rodrigues

Course title MA in Social Studies

Hometown My family and I are from a city in the Northeast of Brazil called Recife, which is a vibrant tourist city with many beautiful beaches, wonderful food and the friendliest of people. We moved, when I was at the age of 6, to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, where I mostly grew up, as my father became a public employee at the Brazilian chamber of deputies.

Brasilia is a very unique city of Brazil, as it was entirely planned, and most interestingly it is shaped as an airplane. The city is still very young, as it was founded in the 1960´s, and for that reason most of the people you meet there are from all over Brazil. Like the capital of any country, Brasilia is characterized by politics, which usually comes up in conversations, more than the weather. For those that love architecture, Brasilia is heaven. Many of its structure and main buildings were designed by the famous Brazilian architects Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, giving it a very distinguished and futuristic form. Also, because of the city´s policy, most buildings cannot have more than six floors. Because Brasilia sits at a high altitude (from 1,000 to 1,200 above sea level) it has the most beautiful sky I have ever seen! Interestingly,

Brasilia is also home to many famous artists, and even rock bands, and you can really feel the artistic/cultural influence when you go there. A fun fact about the city, are the “tesourinhas” (little scissors)! The “tesourinhas” are roads which you can use to leave or access the main roads (called eixão). Looking from above you can understand why it was given that name, but when you are a newbie or a tourist in the city, understanding how the “tesourinhas” work can be quite complicated.

It is also under these “tesourinhas” that you get to experience what people from Brasilia call “roller-coaster”. If you pass by car fairly quickly under a “tesourinha” you feel “butterflies in your stomach”, as you would in a roller-coaster, due to its sharp decline. I made wonderful friendships in Brasilia, and it is also where I went to college.  Although I grew up mostly in Brasilia, it would be unfair to say that it was entirely there. For a great portion of my childhood, I also lived in the small town of Albany, NY (USA) with my family, as my father pursued his PhD, and this had an amazing influence and impact on my life as I grew up.

After graduating, I wanted to deepen my understanding of the topic that I was researching, which was cultural policy. For that reason I moved to Campinas, in São Paulo state, where more courses in the area were available. I lived and worked in Campinas, and studied in São Paulo city, which was only an hour and fifty minutes away. Campinas is a lovely city. It is a small town that rapidly grew into a big city, so it has a big city structure, while at the same time it has characteristics of the country side. It is one of the main locations in Brazil for research and innovation, and it is home to some of the best universities in the country. It is hard to say where I call home.

I would definitely have to say that Recife, Brasilia, Albany and Campinas are all places I can call home. They have all moved me in some way and all have a place in my heart. And evidently, I now have one more addition to what I consider home, as Waterford has also became a special place in my life. Brazil is definitely very different from Ireland. However, differences don´t necessarily make it better or worse. In my opinion, the differences are what precisely make the country unique. Ireland is beautifully green and has astonishing cliffs and beaches, which you wouldn´t find in Brazil.

The Irish people are extremely friendly and the traditional culture is fascinating. Although the rainy weather can be a barrier at first, it is compensated by extraordinary green sights. If I had to highlight differences, I would say a big one is the weather. In Brazil, it is mostly warm all year round, although this can vary depending on the region. Another difference I can highlight is the cultural diversity in Brazil, due to its size and history (this includes music, arts, food, as well as others).

Why WIT Before I came to Ireland, I was living in Campinas, in São Paulo State, where I was working in a university, the Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas (PUC-Campinas). I worked in this university as an international advisor for the Department of International Relations (International Office). I managed, therefore, all international activity of the university, including scholarships, partnerships and student mobility. Through this work, I had the opportunity to meet representatives from universities worldwide. In 2014, and especially in 2015 I had the opportunity to meet some international staff from Irish universities and I was delighted with the impressive quality of Irish higher education. I came across the news of the Government of Ireland Scholarships by chance, through a contact online, and I decided to give it a go.

I had the possibility of applying to other universities, but I was inclined to choose WIT, as I had heard so many good things of the institution, as well as I thought Waterford would be a lovely city to live in. Finally, WIT offers an interdisciplinary MA course in the area I was looking for in Social Studies, which made a great difference when I was choosing an institution. I am in love with my course, as it has exceeded my expectations and has broadened my knowledge in many ways.

The staff are also wonderful and always keen to help, I couldn´t recommend the institution enough. I especially enjoy living in Waterford.  It is a beautiful city, with a lot of curious Viking history and lively culture. There are cultural festivals offered year round and you have great places to eat, as well as great places to see. It is also very close to incredible beaches, such as Tramore and Dunmore East.

Course choice I wanted to pursue preferably an interdisciplinary Master´s which could broaden my knowledge into better understanding culture and cultural policies, my field of research. I considered courses such as Political Science, Anthropology, as well as Sociology. The Social Studies program offered at WIT was just the right fit and had exactly what I was looking for in a Master´s course.

Study path I completed my Bachelor´s degree in International Relations at Centro Universitário do Distrito Federal (UDF) in 2012, in Brasília, and a Post Graduate degree in Cultural Management at Centro Universitário SENAC-SP in 2014, in São Paulo, Brazil. By the end of my post graduate study I felt I was academically prepared to enter a Master´s program, and was enthusiastic to enhance my understanding, research and curiosity in the area, which began at the end of my undergraduate course. I looked for a course which would be interdisciplinary and which would cover a variety of disciplines that would broaden my knowledge.

In 2015 I came across the Government of Ireland Scholarship opportunity, while working at a university in Brazil, and risked my chances in applying for the MA in Social Studies at WIT. My particular interest in WIT was the course offered, as well as the city of Waterford, which I thought would be a lovely place to get to know in the two years of study.

Extracurricular activities I unfortunately (or fortunately depending on the point of view) haven´t had a lot of free time since I´ve come to Ireland. Aside from the master´s course being extremely demanding in study and quality of work, I always use spare time for personal academic side projects, such as writing academic papers for journals or applying to research summer programs and internships, which can be time consuming. Nevertheless, I have continued my French studies at Alliance Française Waterford, which is an incredible leisure time for me. On the few hours that I do have available, especially on weekends, I love to go out for coffee on one of many great coffee shops in Waterford, or get together with one of my class mates, which in such little time have already become great friends.

What are your recommendations to future visiting scholars? For anyone who is thinking in taking that next step into a Master´s course, my biggest recommendation is that you choose to study something that you love or that you are passionate about. Graduate programs can be a lot of work, but doing something you love gives you that extra boost to keep going and to not give up, no matter how difficult. Another recommendation I would give, to those who wish to come to Ireland, is to get to learn as much as possible about the culture.

One or two years seems like a long time, but it actually goes very fast. In the time that you are here, make the most of it by breathing the local culture. Try the Irish food, enjoy some of the traditions and give a chance to learning and making friendships with the local people. Finally, get yourself a nice waterproof coat! Independently of where you will be going in Ireland, chances are you will come across a bit of rain. And since we get a lot of windy weather, you will soon find that umbrellas won´t do much work. Waterproof coats are key to daily life in the Emerald Isle!

Opportunities I was accepted to attend the 54th UN Graduate Study Program in July 2016. The program selects about 60 master´s students worldwide every year, to participate in seminars conducted by UN officials, as well as it fosters research of the students on a theme which is chosen each year.

This year´s theme is “Humanitarian Assistance and Development”, and the program will be held at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. I believe the classes I had and am having at WIT, as well as support given from professors, have highly contributed to achievements such as the one mentioned above. Modules on topics such as globalization, gender, identity and citizenship are having a great impact on my academic trajectory, and I am certain that they will also contribute to my future career wise, whether in international education or other area of international affairs.

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