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.
“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.