Brazilian student reflects on financial struggles en route to graduation
Bruno Vieira shares his story of perseverance and triumph
Jun 9, 2011
By Bruno Vieira
Brazilian student Bruno Vieira graduates on Friday with a master's degree in finance and his path to earning his finance degree was not an easy one. For the past two years he has done everything in his power to get to earn this degree and serve as an inspiration to family and friends. Here, he shares his story of perseverance with Compass readers.
My journey to this point has been particularly difficult. Growing up in a poor neighborhood in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, my family has always been really close to the poverty line. We never had a car and almost never left the city of more than 2.5 million people.
Almost no one from my neighborhood went to college because it just didn't seem possible for people like us. Education was a low priority for people like us, and our attitude was that we were born poor and would die poor.
My life changed when I earned a full government scholarship to attend college in my hometown after scoring well on a government issued test for high school students. It was the first year the scholarships were awarded and I didn't know about the scholarship opportunity when I took the test, so I benefitted from random luck.
After using the scholarship to earn my bachelor's degree with honors in business administration in Brazil, I received the opportunity to come to Ohio University on a Graduate Recruitment Scholarship based on my academic performance.
I arrived in the United States in August 2009 to earn my master's degree in finance at Ohio University. When I first arrived, I dedicated most of my time to classes in finance, economics and accounting and was particularly engaged in a student organization called the Student Equity Management Group.
After a couple months in Athens, my wife Poliana and I ran out of money and my parents couldn't help me. My father Henrique was fighting prostate cancer at the time and only had a monthly retirement income of about $300. To earn extra income, he collects empty bottles and my mother, Neide, cleans them. They sell the bottles to earn a small profit.
At this time, I was already working the maximum 20 hours per week as a student, and all of the money I had saved in the previous four years was gone. This unfortunately forced my wife to pack up and return to Brazil just six months after we got married.
I tried everything to get to the end of my courses. My many jobs included: working at Nelson Dining Hall; proctoring exams at Crewson House; translating documents from English to Portuguese for the Department of Physics; serving as an international peer adviser for International Student and Faculty Services; and creating and teaching an online Advanced Microsoft Excel class (ECON493) for undergraduates. I even participated in several paid experiments on campus, including one that required me to wear a cast on my left arm for four weeks last fall. Poliana also managed to work a job in Brazil so that she could send me a few dollars every month.
During this time, I have found an amazing community in Athens. My three roommates financed my rent and food costs for a while, and several people donated food, money, clothes and other necessities. My roommates and I ate free at local churches twice a week and furnished our entire apartment with things from trash bins. When people asked us about the origin of our plates, cups, table, mattresses and chairs, we used to joke around by saying that we found them at "Trash.com."
Despite all of my efforts to survive on a limited budget, I still would have been forced out of Ohio University if my personal story had not been published on Brazil's largest news media group's website. My story ended up being the main headline on the site and resulted in significant monetary donations and additional interview requests by the Brazilian Ministry of Education.
My story also became part of Brazil President Dilma Rousseff's successful 2010 election campaign, as she used my story as an example of how her political party's college scholarship program was benefitting me. She promised to continue the education program if she was elected as the country's first female president.
A few months ago, I took a new worldwide finance test called the Bloomberg Assessment Test and ranked among the top scores nationally. Because of my success, I was hired by Bloomberg L.P., which sponsored the test and is one of the world's largest financial firms, as a student ambassador for the exam. This position eventually led them to offer me a generous finance job near Princeton, N.J., which I will assume on June 17. Poliana and our dog, which we call our daughter, will join me.
As the youngest of five children, I became the first to go to college, the first to speak a second language (English) and the first to travel abroad. My family and friends have supported and inspired me the entire way.
Now I feel like I have made a difference. I have also inspired my family and friends to pursue an education and reach for their dreams.
Two of my brothers and a sister-in-law have attended college after witnessing my success. One of my best friends also said he is attending college now because of the inspiration he received from me.
My future would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Graduating from Ohio University will be emotional, because of all that I have learned and the friends that I have made here.
My Ohio University family — students, faculty and friends — has been a big part of my life, and I cannot wait for commencement. My parents, who have never traveled abroad or boarded an airplane, and Poliana will be there to see me graduate.
Até logo e muito obrigado (which in Portuguese means "See you soon and thank you very much")!