Lisiane’s story - from Southern Brazil to a Bachelor of Business and a role in international consulting

GBS Students

Lisiane’s story - from Southern Brazil to a Bachelor of Business and a role in international consulting

Posted 04 June

Lisiane is sitting in her home office, helping me set up the interview. She’s just finished a busy day’s work at EY, Ernst & Young, the international consulting firm, a job she successfully secured in the middle of the pandemic following her successful graduation from the Bachelor of Business (Honours) with International Business programme at Galway Business School.

She lives in Galway on the west coast of Ireland with her Brazilian husband, Felipe, and her dog, and is currently working as a Business Consultant Associate within the Finance Competency at EY. We’re running a couple of sound checks and making sure the video quality will be OK. She is totally fluent in English, understands absolutely everything I’m saying. She’s asking what I’m looking to achieve from the interview. She has a light Irish accent as she speaks, and a broad smile.

I’m interested in Lisiane’s roots. How did she come to be in Galway, and so very settled and integrated in Ireland, from her native Brazil?.

Lisiane was born in the municipality of Planalto in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, but she frequently had to move city, as her father, a bank manager, could stay in the same place for no more than 3 years.

“We lived in around ten different towns in the South of Brazil which meant I had to get used to different homes and different schools.”

But above all it was about trying to get included. Whilst that wasn’t always easy, she’s quick to point out that those early struggles to make friends and integrate made her pretty good at it, a skill she found particularly useful when she came to Ireland. In fact, before long, Lisiane had found herself a part-time job in a local restaurant in Galway. It was a confident move to take it on, but she says it only boosted her confidence to speak English further.

But why learn English, why learn English in Ireland, and why Galway in particular? It’s not the first time she’s been asked this, and she responds easily with a smile.

“In Brazil, I was already really into languages and I was particularly good at English and Portuguese. We used to watch a lot of TV series back home like Smallville, Gilmore Girls and Friends. As a teenager me and my friends created a Backstreet Boys fan club so we’d be constantly listening to their songs and singing along.”

She laughs.

“We’re used to talking a lot with friends about travelling abroad, and if your family is able to support it financially, it’s a popular thing to do to study English in another country. I’m very proud of the education, guidance and support my parents gave to me and my siblings, and they really encouraged me to study abroad if I wanted to.”

But with so many quality English language schools dotted around the planet, and with Canada and the USA and even places like South Africa much closer, why would a 25-year-old Brazilian choose to attend a language school in Ireland?

“There were a number of factors. A lot of Brazilian students I knew had gone to Ireland before me. I had a cousin that had decided to study English in Ireland, and she really enjoyed her time here. There’s also something very special about the culture.”

She explains that whilst Irish and Brazilian people aren’t culturally identical, there are plenty of similarities which make you feel at home.

“You get the same warm feeling in Ireland as you would from Brazilians. If we meet someone from another country, we like welcoming them in, we’re excited to get to know them better. We like a good party and enjoy good music and time spent with friends. That’s something which is very, very common to both Brazil and Ireland”.

Lisiane and her classmates visiting a local company in Galway

Lisiane and her classmates visiting a local company in Galway

I want to know if anything really shocked or surprised her when she arrived in Ireland.

“Well the weather was a bit of a surprise! There can be quite a lot of rain. That said, the rain is not as heavy as in Brazil. I remember in the beginning, I’d go out for a walk, and I could see people with their kids out walking in the rain with only a jacket and no umbrella, which in Brazil you’d never see. But here in Ireland it can be really windy, so it’s just not possible to use an umbrella! At first, I was convinced everyone was going to get sick, but that’s just not the case, and you get used to it quickly. In Ireland, if you decided to not do something because of the rain, you’d probably lose the whole day.”

It clearly hasn’t been a lasting problem for Lisiane. She has now been living in Galway for eight years.

Lisiane started her time in Ireland studying English at Galway Cultural Institute. She says she was drawn to the school because there was so much going on in addition to the daily English language lessons. The cultural activities were a big attraction to her, as it was an easy way for her to meet and get to know people from almost any part of the world.

Also, the location of Galway Cultural Institute is quite special:

“The building is beautiful. You study in Salthill, looking out over Galway Bay, with the promenade in front of the school. That’s really my favourite spot in Galway.”

Lisiane tells me she booked her course through a specialist study travel agency back in Brazil. I ask her how the travel agent narrowed down the options for her.

“I was shown Galway and Dublin as two main options. I chose Galway because it’s a university city so there’s lots of young people around, and because of the culture here and all the social events. There are really lots of events on in town, lots of festivals, like art festivals, and that was something I found very interesting compared with Dublin, though I’m not saying Dublin is bad!

“I like being in Dublin too, it’s a beautiful city but it’s a big city, and I wasn’t used to a big city in Brazil, so Galway seemed like a better fit.”

She explains she chose Galway Institute for a number of reasons.

“It caught my attention for the quality of the building, the location, the lecturers, and the feedback I was getting from the agency and from the other people that I knew had studied there.”

As Lisiane relaxes into the interview, her English becomes even more fluent. I point this out and ask her if she remembers what it was like to get to that level of English.

“When I arrived in Ireland, I had that feeling that I didn’t know how to speak English at all, in spite of all the years I’d spent learning English in Brazil. The accent, and the speed at which people spoke to me just put me off and I was like ‘What is this person saying?!’. You kind of realise that actually, it’s because in Brazil, you probably learn English from a Brazilian person, which is not bad, but you’re learning from a local.

“I took English courses in Ireland for a year with Galway Cultural Institute. I remember going out and talking to Irish people where you pick up all those extra little words you’d never learn at home, and you gradually start to get the inside jokes. When you reply to them for the first time is when you’re like ‘I’m getting this. I can hold a conversation’.”

Galway Business School on Salthill Prom

Galway Business School on Salthill Prom

I ask her how that feels. She smiles.

“It feels amazing. You’re speaking another language in a different country, and you realise you have really left your comfort zone. Even now, I sometimes stop to consider what I’m doing. I’m living and working, and thinking in another language, and it feels as natural as if I were speaking my own language. You realise that there are a lot of people around that probably wouldn’t be able to do what you’re doing.”

So she became fluent, and she now finds it easy to be around Irish people and converse naturally with them. But she didn’t stop there. Lisiane went on to take a Bachelor of Business in International Business at the same institute. I ask her how that came about.

“I’d taken a physical education degree in Brazil before coming to Ireland to study English. I wasn’t entirely sure about that direction though. My mom had her own business back in Brazil, and my dad was involved in business too, so I guess it felt a natural step.

“I was considering Bachelor of Business courses in Spain or Brazil, so I was looking into those options. But I liked Galway, I was still working in the local restaurant, and I figured that I could fit the degree in around that work. Galway Cultural Institute shares the building with Galway Business School, meaning it would be very easy for me to transition from having studied English there, to studying a business degree.”

We discuss how learning a whole new subject, like business studies is trickier when you’re not doing it in your own language. This is CLIL, content and language integrated learning, where a subject is taught in the target language (in this case, English) rather than the first language of the learners.

“It was a little bit challenging because in the beginning I found myself trying to translate everything to Portuguese, and then try to link those terms of business into Portuguese, which didn’t work that well for me. In the end I just said to myself ‘I'm doing this year, it is in English, that’s what it is, just focus on learning about business from an English language perspective’.

“What is great of course is that with something like a Bachelor of Business degree, you’re not expected to know about business before you take it. You build your knowledge from the basics up, so that was great for me.”

Another element Lisiane wasn’t expecting was just how global the bachelor of international business programme in Galway is. Galway Business School is connected to Galway Cultural Institute, and the students for the English classes in Galway come almost entirely from other countries. This means Galway Business School, unlike many business schools in Ireland, has a particularly international perspective.

Lisiane explains:

“It means that you don’t feel you’re an international student attending a business degree programme mainly intended for Irish people. There were lots of different nationalities on the bachelor of business degree, including people from Italy, Spain, Pakistan, Brazil. Of all the business modules I studied, I found I was particularly interested in financial and strategic management, and global strategy.

“The international make-up of the course came in very handy because you’re there learning about all the theories and approaches you need, whilst simultaneously getting a lot of extra context through the perspectives of the students there from other countries.

“Contrast that to if I’d studied for a business studies degree in Brazil, for example, where I would have only Brazilians in the classroom. You’d be discussing commerce in Brazil or at least only from a Brazilian perspective, whereas on the bachelor of business degree in Galway, you get a lot of insights from different cultures which is great. It’s natural knowledge.”

I’m curious to know whether Lisiane felt in any way disadvantaged compared with the native Irish students on the bachelor of business programme.

“Yeah, so that’s something I found interesting. As English was not my first language, I thought I would feel less capable or do less well than local students, but that was really not the case and we could see that myself and other colleagues from other countries did really well, and in some cases better. I was also awarded Student of the Year in 2019 and 2020, so I'd say being an international student or being local doesn't make a difference when you are studying there.”

The best news of all is that Lisiane is now working at world-renowned consulting firm, EY. It’s not every business graduate that can land a job like that. I want to know how she got that job, and what it means to her.

“When I was nearly finished with the bachelor of business degree, I was worrying what I was going to do. By now I was working as a supervisor in the restaurant. It was relevant experience in terms of soft skills but not the type of work I wanted to do. So I was very concerned about what my first job would be.

“And then, in the last year of college, the pandemic hit. I was like ‘That’s it, this is a disaster, I won’t be able to find a job.’ But then there was this amazing opportunity to work at EY. And some days I still can’t believe I’m there. I just figured I’d be working in a small local office somewhere, trying to get more experience. It was my dream job to be working in a multinational company, and assumed it would be years before I’d get there. I think it paid off that I worked so hard and put in the effort on the business degree, but also Galway Business School helped enormously.

Lisiane at Graduation Day

Lisiane at Graduation Day

“Not only did they prepare us, and give us the knowledge to apply for jobs, but the lecturers and staff at Galway Business School are also incredibly well connected. They know the people that are recruiting, what kind of people and skills certain organisations are looking for, who can refer you, who to send a CV to.”

There is also something in Galway too of a winning combination of local and global. Galway is home to some of the world’s most prominent international companies such as Boston Scientific, EA Games, HP and Coca Cola. In somewhere like London, it may be difficult ever to find a way in, but the way people do business and connect with each other in Ireland still relies a lot on personal contacts and recommendation.

Our hour together is almost up. It’s a Friday evening and time to relax. I ask how friends and family have reacted to the fact that Lisiane now seems pretty settled in Ireland.

“They spent a few years asking when I’d be coming back, but in the end they are very, very happy for me. I have a lot of friends coming to visit me in Ireland and staying with me here.

“They’re also really proud and very supportive of my goals and achievements, and so is my family. I’ve been getting lots of nice messages from everyone congratulating me, which is very important to me.

“My twin sister also came to study English at Galway Cultural Institute and was highly influenced by me (she laughs). She stayed for a year and half, so she obviously enjoyed it a lot as well.”

When I ask Lisiane if there’s anything else she’d like to say about her time at Galway Business School, she gives a recommendation for the bachelor of business course.

“For anyone considering studying the Bachelor of Business in the business school, I have to say that it represents an amazing opportunity. It’s a great course, it will prepare you workwise and you get great opportunities from it. You’ll be able to learn in small classes where you have a lot of support from your lecturers.

“The subjects are very relevant to what you’re going to be doing in your career and, just as a tip, get involved with the course, try to connect with the other students to build your network. I became class representative for the course which really helped. Study hard and you’ll come out with great results and a great experience.”

I thank Lisiane for her time, as she agrees to record a few testimonials in Brazilian Portuguese too. She’s worried that her English wasn’t good enough. I reassure her that her English is amazing, and thank her again for her time. Good luck, Lisiane. We have a feeling you’ll go far.

Lisiane studied General English and Cambridge English before going onto the Bachelor of Business (Honours) with International Business.