Spending time away from everything that is familiar to someone can create a sense of independence and maturity. For Carolina "Carol" Verissimo, this sentiment rings very true, as she is a long way away from her home of Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
However, Verissimo has found her niche at West Virginia Wesleyan College as part of the Methodist Institution Student Exchange Network program through her home university, Universidade Metodista de Sao Paulo.
The MISEN program aims to connect institutions in the Methodist tradition by allowing students to spend time studying abroad. Verissimo, a junior public relations major, came to Wesleyan as part of a one-semester program and is taking advantage of all the college has to offer. She is involved in The Pharos, in which she has developed a column about international students at Wesleyan. She also attends meetings of the International Student Organization.
"I feel like I have grown a lot academically," Verissimo said. "This semester has helped me develop skills that I will need for my profession, such as video production and graphic design, in a really short period of time. The faculty is concerned about stimulating critical thinking, which is as important in my profession as having technical skills."
Along with the academic lessons she is learning, Verissimo also is gaining valuable life skills while at Wesleyan.
"It is incredible how the simple fact of having to take care of yourself in a country that is not your own and having to live and function according to an unknown set of norms can change a person in a matter of months," she said. "Because of that, I had to learn to be a lot more flexible than usual in many different situations and open to every new experience."
With all the positive experiences Verissimo has had, she has met a few challenges along the way.
"Living in a dorm room on campus is a completely new experience for me," she said. "In Brazil, that is not so common. I am an only child, so I had to learn how to respect my roommate's boundaries and adapt to sharing a room. I also come from a big city, so it was quite a personal growth experience to live in a smaller town among people from completely different backgrounds. I have learned a lot about respecting and understanding people's differences."
As Verissimo's time at Wesleyan has been a fruitful experience for her, she encourages other students to take part in this partnership program and spend time at her home university in Brazil. She now understands that an overseas experience can make a huge difference in an academic experience.
"We learn a lot more from people who are different from us," Verissimo said, "and that is a great way of seeing the world through the eyes of its own people."
More information on the MISEN program is available online at the websites www.gbhem.org/education and www.metodista.br/ english.