Seven Countries in Four Years: A Brazilian Student’s Journey to Minerva

Sep 10, 2018

This article originally appeared in Portuguese on Fundação Estudar.

I first heard about Minerva in April of 2017 through a Facebook group for Brazilian students who were studying or preparing to study abroad. A Minerva student had posted that applications were open and the way she described the university caught my attention. I realized that Minerva was completely out of the archetype of a traditional college.

At that time, I had already started an undergraduate degree in Brazil, but I felt like I lacked an academic environment that would challenge me and prepare me to solve the problems of the world; so I decided to apply to American universities. I related better to the American educational system and the excellence it demands from its students.

So when I first read about Minerva, the academics and mission stood out to me. I appreciated the system of frequent feedback from professors after every class, the focus Minerva gives to the learning process rather than just the final grade, the way classes are focused on preparing students to solve real world problems, and the possibility of having a global experience.

The more I read about Minerva, the more I could see myself in that environment. I saw the possibility of making my degree a much more meaningful experience. In addition, the way Minerva structured its curriculum and the importance it placed on making their students more aware of society’s problems made me believe in the kind of people, students, and professionals Minerva was shaping. I was able to glimpse something that would be more significant than just a diploma; I saw the chance to make my education a journey of self-discovery while I learned the essential skills in order to address real world problems.

However, I didn’t apply to Minerva right away. I was also looking at other colleges and trying to understand the transfer process, in general. But when I received an email from Fundação Estudar, I changed my mind.

In the email, I learned about the Fundação Estudar scholarship to students interested in applying to Minerva. The only thing the students needed to do was apply through a link. As financial aid was something important to me, and since Minerva’s application was free, I gave it a try.

Unlike the normal admissions process, Minerva has a very unique system. They didn’t require standardized test scores or essays, instead they had their own application. There is no way to study for their tests, called Challenges, and while there are sample questions right before each Challenge, you don’t know exactly how you are going to be tested. The application was a surprise from start to finish, and, at the same time, a very natural process. I just needed to be myself and use the prior knowledge I already had.

In fact, I found the application so natural that I thought that I had not tried hard enough. Additionally, since Minerva has a very low admission rate (approximately 1.5%), when I received my admissions letter, I couldn’t believe. I was so surprised that I did not even tell my family until the next day after I reread the email a thousand times to make sure that Minerva had not made a mistake and sent the email to the wrong person.

This summer, I’m preparing to attend Minerva and working at Stone Pagamentos, a technology company in the payment sector with a strong culture and a dynamic environment. Even though I am not with my family, I think spending my last days in Brazil working was an excellent idea as I am preparing myself to conciliate a life of independence, study, and work. In addition, I think Stone has prepared me for Minerva better than any other place could have. Just like Minerva, at Stone there are constant and sincere feedback sessions between managers and staff. I’m also learning about entrepreneurship and the payment and technology markets in Brazil. I believe that this experience will help me make better academic decisions at Minerva.

Through the conversations I had with current Minerva students, the first year seems to be everyone’s favorite. My biggest expectation for myself during the first year is to learn from my colleagues. I will have the privilege of being in a community of intelligent and diverse people and being able to learn from and with them is what strikes me as the most exciting venture. I also want to take advantage of the broad curriculum and explore different subjects and classes. I’ve always been a person with a lot of different interests, and I think my first year at Minerva will help me decide what I really love and can be good enough to build a career with. Finally, I want to explore San Francisco! One of Minerva’s greatest differentiations is the class rotation around the world: during the four years of college, students live in seven different countries. Minerva is concerned with making the city the students’ “campus” and prepares activities and events to help students immerse themselves in the city. Since one of my strongest interests is technology, I want to take advantage of the fact that I will be living alongside the world’s largest tech companies and add to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial mindset.

Finally, I have to say, Minerva is already teaching me to not settle for what is safe and expected. Dropping out from a traditional university in Brazil to attend a college like no other, right in the heart of San Francisco, has taught me about the benefits in choosing the adventure that scares me the most. The challenges that push you are the ones that are going to require the most of me and will take me the furthest.

For those who are wondering how they can go beyond, join me in this unpredictable yet inspiring journey and apply today.