Today, I’m going to share the story of a Brazilian friend of mine and her exciting path from Brazil to the UK. Here, you will get to know her background, her experience studying abroad last year and how she got the much desired Tier-2 visa to work in London!
Her name is Carolina Nazareth, 26, a BA graduate of Literature from the University of Sao Paulo (USP). She lived her entire life in Brazil before moving to the UK in order to pursue a postgraduate course, after winning a prestigious half-fee scholarship from the University of Westminster. A marketing professional, she decided to study Marketing Communications MA as it fit perfectly into her onward professional ambitions.
Carol – as I call her – concluded the course a few months ago with a Merit. Shortly after graduating, she managed to get the highly coveted work visa from the UK government. It was sponsored by her current employer, a start-up agency called Gingerhead, founded by a friend of hers whom she met during the Masters. Ever since, Carol has been working as account manager and coordinating creative projects and events. Sounds exciting!
How I met Carolina
Carol and I first talked in late 2015, when I was on the last semester of the same course and university. Carol found me through my blog posts and sent me a message asking how was to find a job and work whilst studying, as she was eager to do the same as soon as she would arrive in the UK.
We eventually met each other when she moved to London and quickly became friends. I greatly enjoyed sharing tips to Carol about many things, from recommending the best city spots to handling the academic assignments while working. In the picture below, that’s me and Carol at a Holi Party we went together in Bethnal Green a few days prior to my return to Brazil. It was a lot of fun!
As I got to know Carol, what I admired her the most was her impressive willpower and determination to make her dream come true. She invested her life-long savings to pay for the rest of the course and afford her expenses, not to mention she worked hard to support herself during the studies. It takes guts and a lot of courage to take that risk and do it on your own, far away from your home country… so kudos for you, girl!
It’s needless to say that it has been a joy to know that she is now establishing herself professionally and living her dream in the UK. So a few days ago, I invited her to share a snapshot of her recent journey and offer some recommendations to anyone who would like to study and work abroad too.
So here it goes! 😊
1. Could you briefly tell us about your professional background in Brazil prior to the MA course?
Yes, sure! I’ve got my first job during the second year of my English Literature BA degree in Sao Paulo. I’ve started with a customer service role at Bradesco, a national Brazilian bank, and successfully got the job as a social media analyst there. A couple of years later, I decided to look for new opportunities and found a job at an e-commerce company called Cnova, responsible for three major retailers in Brazil: casasbahia.com.br, extra.com.br and pontofrio.com. I worked at Cnova for one year and then decided to pursue a Masters abroad.
2. You graduated with a Literature BA degree, but your first experience was in digital marketing. Why did you decide to move to marketing communications? How was this career changing process?
Looking back now, it seems that everything was like it was meant to be, and the fortunate events of my life happened in the right space, and in the right time. I first started working in Bradesco by chance with the main goal to save money to study abroad – this was always my dream! When the social media position opened, I quickly applied to it, because it would then give me the opportunity to create and write content, something I have always enjoyed doing. I instantly fell in love with it and decided to move my career to Marketing Communications. For me, it flowed naturally and all pieces fit together eventually!
3. What made you choose to study in the UK and, more specifically, at the University of Westminster in London?
I have always had a great admiration and love for the UK. It all began when I was little – as an avid reader, my favourite books were all written by English authors, most of them set in London. I remember spending hours reading these books and picturing myself visiting the same places as my beloved characters used to live… I chose the University of Westminster not only because it is located in Central London, but also due to its several benefits: it is one of the most international universities in the UK, offers a wide range of scholarships and, most importantly, it had the exact course I was looking for.
4. How did you find out about the university’s scholarship programme?
Prior to my application, I made an extensive online research to know which universities in London offered the best scholarship opportunities. Most of them were exclusive to EU students and, when not, the offered scholarship was not sufficient for me to live in London. After comparing scholarships from several universities, I realized that the University of Westminster offered the best option: there were incredible opportunities for international students, as well as half-fee and full-fee scholarships, which are quite rare to find in London-based institutions.
5. As a scholarship recipient yourself, could you give a few tips on how to achieve one?
I believe the most precious tip is: do not give up. At first, it may seem a bit difficult and complicated to gather all the requested documents, write an appealing personal statement and get rid of the pessimist “they will never chose me…” mindset. But what I would say is: believe in yourself and work hard for it!
Having said that, once you’ve decided to apply for a scholarship, make sure you are familiar with the application criteria and how the process works. I would suggest to start organizing the documents, letters and all forms needed as soon as you can. I remember leaving some details to the last minute, so I had to rely on a friend who was living in London to hand over my application documents personally. Otherwise, I would have missed the deadline if I had to send them out from Brazil!
About the personal statement, be yourself and open-hearted as you write your application. Remember: you are competing against thousands of applicants, so you must stand out! Besides, being honest about your history and your real needs will certainly help you during the assessment process. Avoid using “standard justifications” and always put a piece of yourself in everything you write. 😊 Lastly, as a non-native English speaker, I have asked a friend to proofread my application. It is sometimes difficult to spot grammar mistakes by yourself, so a second look will indeed help!
6. Could you share your study experience at the university? What were your major learnings and accomplishments on the course?
If I could use only one word to describe my study experience that would be: intense! We had loads of assignments, group works, workshops, exams and dissertation preparation. It is challenging to cope with the amount of things you have to do at the university and, at the same time, deal with the experience of living abroad by yourself.
However, you would be amazed at how fast we are able to learn and, above all, how to make the most of everything! The course certainly brought me an amazing level of academic knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise. As my first degree wasn’t related to marketing, the course opened my eyes to so many opportunities out there and how/what you should do to not miss them.
7. Did you work alongside your studies? How did it help you to find a job after graduating?
Yes. Actually, throughout the course, I worked as a retail cashier at a household products store to help me pay my bills – I didn’t get much, but it made a difference for me financially. So, if you think it is all glamour, sorry to disappoint you! The best part, however, was the internship I got after 5 months in London. I have found that opportunity at the work placement programme to which the students have access once they start the course.
My internship experience was amazing: I had the chance to work for a pharmaceutical company to support their internal communication. I helped organize an international conference held in Chicago and one of my key tasks was to promote this event worldwide. In the end, I was invited to go to Chicago with the team and watch the event with my own eyes. It was a fabulous feeling of achievement!
Above all, this internship helped me to understand more deeply what the UK work routine was like. I realized that working here is quite different than working in Brazil, especially in regards to autonomy. Here in the UK, I have more freedom to make decisions, whereas in Brazil, many decisions depend on other people’s approval and long hours of discussions. However, such prerogative means that you must be more self-confident and take control of everything you’re doing – which is tricky sometimes!
8. As a newly graduate, tell us a little bit more about your current job – how is like to work in London?
I am currently working at Gingerhead, a marketing communications agency founded by Helen Calder, a Uni friend. To work in London is absolutely amazing and hectic! Everything happens at the same time, there are opportunities popping up everywhere and you feel that, if you blink, you may have missed something important. As London is a multi-cultural city, I am lucky to have the chance to work and be in contact with people from all parts of the world and discover new things every day!
9. For many international students, it’s a dream to achieve a work visa through a sponsoring employer. How was that journey for you? What advice would you give to anyone looking for that opportunity?
It may sound cliché, but the golden tip is: be connected! Update your LinkedIn, invite people for a coffee, attend networking events and let them know what you are looking for and what you can do for them. I was lucky to start working with a fellow Uni friend, who decided to open her own business after graduating. As we worked so well in our group assignments, gave our very best to deliver an excellent paper and presentation, she invited me to work with her. It has been challenging and fun at the same time!
10. Lastly, what would you say to any Brazilian who is dreaming to study abroad and work in the UK?
Again, I would say: do not give up! Fight for your dream and don’t think it is something impossible to achieve! Although you may find some stumbling blocks along the way, keep your eyes on the prize and you see that all your effort and hard work will be totally worth it in the end!
What an empowering way to finish the interview and inspire others to persist in their dreams… Thanks for the lovely chat and wish you the best of luck with your endeavours at this marvelous city that London is, Carol!
Thank you for reading and see you next time! 😊
Pictures provided by Carolina Nazareth
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