Brazilian native Laura Henares is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, currently studying international economics, German, and international development studies. This international student has already lived in the United States, South Africa and Germany, and believes a global perspective can only contribute to one’s intellectual and practical pursuits. Currently engaged in the Business in Brazil club, she hopes to help Notre Dame students connect with Brazilian employers. She reflects on her time at the University and how it led to the creation of a new club and new way to connect her peers with innovative and high-tech companies closer to home.
After all enthusiasm and mind-widening experiences from freshman year, sophomore year hit me like a brick wall. Almost literally.
The taste of the sweet American dream of freedom, living in a new country where everything was brighter and cheaper, meeting people from all over the world, and acquiring the sought after “independence” could summarize most of my first year experiences. However, once summer was over, that taste became sour: I entered my sophomore year, and recruiting season landed right on top of my head.
At first, I was extremely excited about it. I wanted to wear my business clothes and go on talking to people, asking the questions I needed answers to. However, a Brazilian student at Notre Dame meant something a little different to companies because I had one deficient status: F1. Not being an American citizen meant going to the career fair and being limited from even applying to numerous recruiting processes or to any position at all in most companies due to the uncertainty of my stay in America. The sensation was of massive frustration, as I’ve focused so much on my grades, my extracurricular, hours of study and preparation, languages, and professional experiences.
However, I believe we are not what happens to us; rather, we are what we do with it.
After realizing I was not playing the same game as everyone else, I decided to create my own field of opportunities, and this was the inception of Business in Brazil.
The U.S. job market was saturated, but I knew a place that could really use my help: home. In the top ten economies of the world, being the fourth fastest in growth, and as a developing country, Brazil is fertile for business. Most Brazilians do not attend college or finish high school, and, as a result, professional workers are scarce and the top positions in corporate and tech are occupied by foreigners. Brazil needs young, motivated and capable workers in order to bring innovation and drive to its corporate world. Brazil needs all those happy faces going up and down the career fair looking for a real chance.
But how would I proceed with this?
Looking for a summer internship in Brazil, I got in touch with my former boss and Notre Dame alumnus, who also referred me to staff at the Sao Paulo Global Center. My guess was confirmed: companies in the most varied areas with the most different backgrounds were indeed looking for driven people to join them.
I founded Business in Brazil during the spring 2019 to be a platform to connect Notre Dame students looking for internships or long term opportunities to the Brazilian professional space. This platform intends to benefit both parties. While I am sure many Notre Dame students will take advantage of amazing chances to grow professionally and to explore a new culture, the Brazilian business market will also gain strength and innovative thinkers that will contribute to the shaping of a new and promising corporate culture. I believe Notre Dame students can only benefit from this experience, as there are many positions available in great companies as BCG, Xp, Gaveteiros, NuBank, and also in research institutions, NGOs, public policy agencies, and many others, as well as cultural windows to be explored by them.
While we do want to bring the Brazilian student community closer, these opportunities are not limited to Brazilians only - we had American, Chinese, Venezuelan, and Bolivian students in this process already and hope to have even more nationalities in the future. This club really is about showing how much unexplored potential there is in Brazil, and how many amazing internship and long-term opportunities there are for Notre Dame students.
Founding this club was my way to foster new connections for all students in similar situations, but also my way to bring visibility to my country, as Brazil is extremely fertile for business. It is time we see the companies expanding to Brazil, the Brazilian companies dealing with cutting-edge technology, the Brazilian businesses transitioning into new platforms, the booming social and creative content demand, and the resource and strategy optimizing field. It is time we bring Brazil into the discussion table and its time we become the actors of this change.
In order to pursue such interests, the club promotes presentations from Brazilian companies on the University, video conferences, open question sessions with people of relevant background in Brazil, oriented pairing and mentoring programs for those who wish to know more, besides workshops, group discussions, and many others. The goal is to foster connections for the students and awareness about the Brazilian potential, which will prompt the club to grow further, also counting on the input of our members.
Rather than a unilateral approach, we seek to be a platform in which our members can help us shape the activities and interests. This is, after all, an organization of students for students.
Business in Brazil is not just about Brazil or Notre Dame students. It’s an open platform to students of all nationalities who truly wish to become active people in the mission they chose to pursue. I believe the Notre Dame factor is a great differentiation; the University is a special place that fosters unique qualities in their students, making these students proactive, driven players in whatever task they chose to pursue after college. Business in Brazil is precisely about allowing people to follow their passion and be impactful in this pursuit. In college I felt deeply inspired to act upon what I thought was right, because I was shown that there are no limits for how much you can invest yourself in your dreams. All we have to do is find land fertile to our efforts.