I’m Francesca Figaroli an Italian international student from ESSET, Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Technologies and I’m currently in my first internship period. Since the beginning of my course, I knew I wanted to do my internship abroad because I always saw it as a useful and interesting opportunity and the perfect time to travel. I chose Brazil for different reasons. First of all, I wanted to experience life outside of Europe. Then two of my professors, Thais Lima de Castro and Bruno Bastos Sales are Brazilian and I had such a good impression of Brazilian people. Thanks to them that I decided to move to the other side of the world. Then of course also the will to visit such a big country with a magnificent variety of flora and fauna and cities.
Right now I’m in the state of Minas Gerais in the city of Sao Joao del Rei a small city, in Brazilian terms, at about two hours from Belo Horizonte, working with a research group in the Federal University UFSJ. In the laboratory, the environment is really friendly and welcoming and I found it very useful working with people with different levels of experience and studies background. Indeed, there are master’s students from physics, chemistry, engineering doctorates, and undergraduates all working together to help each other. Therefore, together with them, I managed to carry out my project which is about synthesising quantum dots of different materials and applying them to solar cells that we build on a laboratory scale
I didn't expect to enjoy lab work so much, but working with your hands and applying your study background to something you actually build and work on is something I really enjoy. Step by step, from cleaning the glasses to synthesizing the materials to applying all the different layers of materials needed, I managed to close my first cells without much effort because here you learn by doing.
The University environment is really vivid and present in any case of need. One of the most useful things in my opinion for students is the canteen which prepares proper meals for lunch and dinner at a really cheap price and it is present on all the campus of the university which is three in different areas of the city. I spend most of my time at Campus Don Bosco where my laboratories are. The Campus Tancredo Neves is the biggest one and the one where I live since the University has some apartments available for students here. I think making friends here is easy and going out in the city is really nice. The historical center is always full of life. At the same time due to the high presence of university students’ pubs, parties, and many organised activities are present. This area of Brazil is famous for the high presence of waterfalls and students love to organize walking trips to reach them.
Before leaving I contacted my supervisor and the international office in order to have some basic important information as regarding addresses, contacts, how was it possible to have a Brazilian number, where to go to change euro into reais, which type of plug is present here, if the apartment already had wi-fi and so on. Their answers were really helpful and the response was quick.
Some advice that I would give to a student who is willing to travel to Brazil is start to look for information regarding the Visa months before as well as for the vaccinations needed; to be ready for high temperatures and humidity so bring light clothes; everything that you need regarding medical support is present also here but always good to bring some medication which you are used to in Europe. Try all the food you can because the Brazilian food is great. Be ready to encounter people that are really curious about you and keep in mind that Brazilian would do everything to make you part of the community and to make you spend time with them which is really amazing!