International Alumni Profile: Meet Maíra Furtado Faria
Maíra originally chose to study in the United States to improve her career prospects and develop new skills in her professional area. She also wanted to learn more about a different culture and become exposed to a diverse group of innovative people.
Maíra chose to study at Kent State University because of its international approach and diversity. One of Kent State’s main values is diversity and inclusion, and students come here from all over the world to study. When it came to the architecture program, Maíra was searching for a school that had a balance between technique, creativity, theory, and innovation—Kent State provides the perfect balance between all of those.
What Maíra loved the most about Kent State was getting to meet and study with people from all over the globe. Every day she discovered something else from a different culture by interacting with staff, professors, and students. According to Maíra, everyone at Kent State was always so friendly and willing to share knowledge, and she believes that being there was one of the most amazing experiences that she has ever had. Due to the international nature of Kent State, most of her colleagues were completely open and curious to talk and hang out. Maíra made friends at Kent State that she considers her family and will be in her life forever.
But being away from home and her family did not make it easy for Maíra. FaceTime made her feel like she was closer to her family—as if they were together in person. Maíra says it made her life easier to have friends that she made abroad as her second family.
The biggest surprise for Maíra about U.S. life and education is that most young adults leave their family's homes to live at or near their universities. In Brazil, it is not common for there to be dorms, full-time classes, or activities at universities. For the most part, young people leave their parents' homes when they get married or when they have a nice job that allows them to afford their own place. The cost of education in the United States was also an absolute shock for Maíra—in Brazil, most of the Universities are free or way cheaper.
The biggest disappointment for Maíra is probably the American idea of work-life balance. Maíra does not identify with the culture of living to work, and it seems that people view it that way in the United States. However, Maíra feels that even this was important for her to be exposed to and learn about. Maíra is grateful for having learned about it because it made her look at life from a different perspective.
Another aspect Maíra found challenging was English, especially with writing. In English, it is less common to see long sentences with lots of commas. In Portuguese, people tend to use many long sentences, which can make writing difficult. Fortunately, communicating verbally in English is easier for Maíra than writing in English. Maíra says that it is important to not be afraid of making mistakes. If you say something wrong, someone will probably correct you, and that is how you will keep learning and improving. Maíra also always asked for feedback from her professors and friends about her communication to see what she could improve.
Since Maíra’s program was very intense, she spent most of the past two years working at the architecture school and doing related activities. With others from the architecture school, she traveled to Miami to do field research and visit some architecture offices that were extremely interesting. Maíra says that students are always encouraged to visit important architectural buildings, art exhibitions, and museums.
Maíra’s main goal is to be able to make the world a better place. She realized that, as an architect, she has the capacity and ability to literally shape the world. Once she graduated in Brazil and faced this immense responsibility, she did not feel prepared to be a game-changer like she wanted to be; she needed to do more research. Maíra always tried to find a way to connect people, nature, and the built environment. To do this, she needed to learn more about environmental and living architecture. Regarding research and innovation in this area, the United States is ahead of Brazil in using biomaterials and developing research in environmental systems. For this reason, Maíra came to the United States to complete her master’s degree. In the future, Maíra wants to work in a company or firm that is more concerned about improving our society and our planet than about money.
For other students from her country who are considering a United States education, Maíra has some advice: It will definitely be the best experience of your life. It will also be difficult sometimes, but all things in life are, and that is how we grow. To decide to leave your country and live abroad is not an easy choice, but is one of the most enriching experiences that you will have.
When you are applying to a university, you should always reach out to professors and the Office of Global Education; they may have more resources than you may realize. We just sometimes do not have access to all the opportunities that are available for us, and they can help point us in the right direction. I am sure that there is an academic program somewhere that will fit your needs, and the school will always help you to succeed!