Marcelo, a Brazilian student at Polytech Grenoble – Interview

Marcelo is from Brazil. He arrived in France on August 25th, all the way from Sao Luis, a town located in Maranhao. Current student in the IESE department, he explains how he managed to be a student of Polytech Grenoble for a whole year, and how he lives it.

Fond of learning, and passionate about electronics, his teacher in Brazil happens to be the coordinator of the “Bravitech” agreement, which facilitates student exchange between Brazil and France. He thus told Marcelo about it, and this is how a long fight started, to get chosen as an exchange student. One of his struggles was to learn how to speak French. He explains that « It was difficult because [he] had to do a French level test, but did not know anything about French! So [he] started studying in February” for these tests which were in March. That is a month and a half to study. And in only a month, Marcelo managed to master this language and to pass his French exam hands down. Then there was a rather tough selection: three available positions, for only five students. “It was hard,” Marcelo explains, “as the selection is done mainly on the language and our specific fields (electronics, controls etc)”.

Today, Marcelo speaks French as if it were his mother tongue, thanks to his friends from Grenoble, and all the activities he has so far done in this amazing town. For Marcelo, « the experience of talking with people and the French is better than studying alone.”

You might wonder, why France of all countries if he did not speak a word of French before his first French exam? Well, in Brazil, not everyone has the opportunity to travel, let alone travel abroad. For Marcelo, this was an opportunity to learn a new language, to discover a new culture, as well as a chance to improve his resume. Nowadays, not all students are lucky enough to travel and study abroad. So when the opportunity arose, he took it with no hesitation.

However, Marcelo had never been to France. Everything was new, as it was an experience that was extremely different from what he had already experienced. He had never left his country, never been abroad. So to prepare his trip, he sought a lot of information, asked friends who already were in France how it was. He said « I asked my friends from Brazil (amongst which three were from the same city as me) who have already returned to Brazil, and also the other Brazilians who were already in France. They all helped me a lot ». As he was always looking for what he needed to improve his stay in France, he met a lot of Brazilians through Facebook, Whatsapp, and made a lot of new friends.

Out of all his Friends, he knows a lot of Brazilians, but many foreign students too! He is integrated thanks to the “TDs” and “TPs”. Indeed, one can exchange with the pupils and ask for help, or help them etc. This helps to get to know everyone a little more, and considering “the students are very nice here”, it is therefore easy to feel integrated and to make a lot of new friends.

The reason he chose electronics is because since his childhood, he enjoyed everything related to this subject. « I think it’s a question of vocation” he explains. There are a lot of things to do, such as the production of systems, embedded systems, production of a prototype, and projects for companies, on any topics related to energy, electricity. As for Marcelo, he works mostly with embedded systems and the wireless network. What he enjoys the most in it is « how electronic devices, in the development of new systems, can solve everyday problems.” He studied this field in Brazil, and he here « saw the opportunity to develop [his] knowledge and skills on the subject”. Indeed, he explained how « and some subjects are different, some subjects are similar”. Compared to Brazil, the teachers’ teaching is almost the same. But the teaching system is completely different. Indeed, in France there are “TD” and “TP”. In Brazil, they also have “TPs”, but differently. Here at Polytech Grenoble in the IESE depatment, for example, we have a theoretical week on one topic, then a week of practice on the same topic. In Brazil, they study a particular subject in a whole for an entire semester, and the following semester they practice on the same subject in said “TPs”.

Marcelo has so far spent three months in Grenoble and thinks it’s a wonderful town, which is well developed and organized. But even though he fell in love with Grenoble, he wants to work in Brazil, and export to his country the experience he gained in France. He actually plans on finishing is Master’s degree to then work in his hometown. When asked why he did not want to work in France, he answered “the most important thing, is family”. To him, it’s not healthy to be away from his family for too long. Moreover, he is the first member of his family to ever leave the country. It was thus a difficult change for his family, especially since his parents are old, but they are still very proud of him and believe their son to be very lucky to have this opportunity. « I miss them”, is what Marcelo said as he was talking about his family.

He misses his town too, mostly because of the cold here in Grenoble. Indeed, temperaturs never go below 22.2°C in his hometown! The food is also very different: he misses Brazilian food, which is very spicy, and very typical. A funny fact: in France, Couscous is served for lunch. In Brazil? They eat Couscous for breakfast! As he was born near beaches, he has never seen snow, so he enrolled in a Ski course, in order to enjoy snow during his stay in France. Today, Marcelo plans on visiting Paris, Bordeaux, Orléans, Nice and Marseille with his Brazilians friends during Christmas holiday, and keeps enjoying the wonders of Grenoble every day.

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