By Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle
Fulbright student, Sofia Ferraz, has spent the last few months dedicated to her postgraduate research in marketing, as well as exploring all that the University of Kentucky and Lexington have to offer. Over the months that she has spent at UK, Ferraz has been involved with multiple groups and societies both on campus and around Lexington.
Ferraz has not always been an avid traveler. She only discovered her passion for travel in her adult life, after leaving Brazil to visit neighboring Argentina. There she found the great diversity between countries in South America, and consequently, the world.
“[Argentina and Brazil] were so close but we had so many differences in culture. This triggered me to begin to plan a lot and save money for travelling and experiences,” Ferraz said. Since that initial trip, Ferraz has visited Chile, Spain, Italy, Sweden, UK, the United States and the Czech Republic.
Upon her arrival in Kentucky, Ferraz said that she had not been anticipating how warm the people are. She described her impression of Lexington as “a pleasant surprise”.
“People here are so kind. When I was moving, two out of four people asked if I needed help.” Coming from São Paulo, a city in southeastern Brazil with the 12th largest population of any city on earth, Ferraz remarked on some of the differences she experienced between the two.
“The pace in Lexington is a lot different. In Sao Paolo, there was stimuli and action all the time but here, people talk to you and get to know you.”
Finding such a welcoming and inclusive community in Lexington pushed Ferraz to join various groups at the university and around Lexington. She mentioned the International Student and Scholar Services as playing a major role in helping her in becoming more involved.
“The international office here is very close to students. There are lots of opportunities to meet people and learn about Kentucky and the university.”
Ferraz has volunteered for the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, an organization that helps with the resettlement of refugees to the city of Lexington. Additionally, she has joined the International Center on a trip to Mammoth Cave on the cross-cultural workshop organized every semester.
“When I travel, I love to visit the historical sites. I like to meet new people to observe and relate with new customs and new ways of living,” she said.
Getting involved in this way has helped Ferraz overcome some of the challenges associated with the distance from her family and friends.
Coming to school in Kentucky as a Fulbright Scholar comes after a long process of interviews and paperwork, but for Ferraz it is well worth it.
“It is really good when you have a scholarship, because you can study and have this experience at the same time,” she said.
Her advice to students who want to study abroad is to be open to meeting new people and establishing new routine. “You have to learn how to relate with people and be open,” she said.
The Fulbright program grants scholars and students the opportunity to teach, study and learn in over 140 countries worldwide. The Fulbright Scholar Program sends over 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad annually. Over 90000 scholars have taken advantage of this opportunity to date.
Faculty and students interested in learning more about Fulbright opportunities can visit https://eca.state.gov/fulbright or contact Associate Provost for Internationalization Sue Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who have already participated in any type of Fulbright opportunity and would like to share about their experience can contact Andrea Gils at email@example.com.