Spotlight on Matheus Freitas: From PUC-Rio in Brazil to SLU in Florida

April 15, 2015

Freitas, 23, is our first exchange student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro to use a scholarship that funds a semester of study at Saint Leo University. PUC-Rio, like Saint Leo, is a private, Catholic institution, and the shared bond has helped lead to a cooperative spirit between the two universities.

When Freitas realized a scholarship was available at Saint Leo and that he would be able to study human resource management at University Campus, he was excited to apply for the funding. When he first enrolled at PUC-Rio, it was with the intention of becoming an industrial engineer. But after two years of study, he realized that he found the working environment in the field too impersonal, and that management better suited his personality. His mother’s own career in human resource management was an instructive point of comparison, and he found the HR management specialization at Saint Leo attractive. (His father works in industrial design). Since he also harbors the desire to someday open his own restaurant, he wanted an international experience during college.

All those factors made Saint Leo a good fit for his semester abroad. He has been able to enroll in a full schedule of courses including human resource management, international business, training and development, French, and the introductory course to hospitality management.

He has encountered a different approach to college while in America, he says. In Brazil, instructors tend to lecture, students then read materials to reinforce the lecture content, and then face a midterm and final exam. That often leads students to cram for exams, he said. At Saint Leo, he has found that students are expected to read the relevant coursework before the classes, and that students participate in class far more through discussions. Additionally, students write papers, complete assignments, and take quizzes throughout the semester to help them acquire the course content. “They are small tasks, but they sum up the course by the end.” Freitas also took on the extra opportunity of working in a team with other students to make an academic presentation on the LinkedIn social media site during the International Business Conference in February hosted by the Donald R. Tapia School of Business.

A student’s day at University Campus is also much different. In Rio, he lives with his family and commutes to school, as is typical at the urban university. He and other students also take a course load of eight or nine courses at a time. The result is that classes last into the evenings and people manage hectic daily schedules. At Saint Leo, “it is more calm, and it is more quiet. Most students live on campus, so you have social interactions after classes.” And as he lives in an apartment suite on campus with roommates, he has the convenience of having a walk of less than 10 minutes to the dining hall and to classroom buildings. In his free time, he has enjoyed getting to know other students, watching some sports, and taking in events such as a recent festival in nearby Tampa.

After the semester is over, Freitas will return to Brazil. He has about a year and one-half of college studies to complete. Having enjoyed such a positive experience, he will encourage other students at PUC-Rio to come to Saint Leo for a study-abroad experience.