Ligia is a Brazilian professional living in Sydney, Australia with her husband, Augusto, and working as a marketing manager.
She has put herself through plenty of challenges and emerged from them all triumphantly but it says an awful lot about her that the first thing she wanted to talk about in our interview was her family and what they mean to her.
Not your usual study abroad story (fortunately!)
“I think firstly I have to mention that I have a “special” brother. His name is Vitor and he was born with cerebral palsy. I am just starting off with this, because this fact makes me and my family’s dynamic slightly different from everyone else’s. Everything that I do in life is related to him and to my family in general. I’m very attached to my family. It may sound clichéd, but everything that I do – when I think about and make a decision – is based on what’s better for them, not just for me.”
Towards the end of our interview, these opening remarks had a special significance as it became clear just how much Ligia missed being close to family and to Brazil, and illustrated just how determined and resilient she is. She has been familiar with the world of business from an early age as her dad works with an insurance company in Brazil in the customer success management department, and he was her first point of contact with business. She quickly realised that she needed to do something that actually earned her some money so she could support her family. But she also liked the idea of working in that field – a good job, a career and a commitment to family – so a decision was made early when we often don’t know what we want to do in life.
“My choice of place to do my bachelor when I decided, at 17 and straight out of school, to start studying was a great private college in Brazil called ESPM, which translates as ‘Superior School of Advertising and Marketing’.
The undergrad course in Advertising and Marketing is consistently ranked the best in Brazil, where private colleges are usually better than public ones. Everything started there in terms of my career and my relationship with business and marketing.”
Going above and beyond the call of duty
“My first work experience was in my college in Brazil: they have a junior business company – more like a junior consultancy company. It’s a real organisation, with real clients and they offer marketing and business consultancy for small, medium and large companies. At 19, it was my first experience of working in business and I have to say that I still use examples of what I experienced there in interviews and work situations nowadays. And that was 10 years ago. So I can say that I have 10 years’ experience now.
The degree was four years and it was great – great college, great subjects… and I met my actual husband there and my lifetime friends as well! I learned new things and I saw how marketing worked in the real world, how social communications and advertising and the real corporate environment works. And I didn’t change my mind about what I wanted to do – when I decide something about my life, I usually stick to it. Of course, I had some romantic ideas about the course, what work-life is really like and how beautiful business is, which have become more realistic, but I don’t think I have changed over the bigger issues.
When I decide something about my life, I usually stick to it. Of course, I had some romantic ideas about the course, what work-life is really like and how beautiful business is, but I don’t think I have changed over the bigger issues.
Halfway through the course I had to do my regular internship. In Brazil, we have paid internships which are mandatory to finish the bachelor. I had the internal work experience in uni at that junior consultancy company and then after that, I went straight into working at Novartis as a marketing intern and for my last year and a half at college I was working and studying at the same time. I graduated when I was 21 years old and promoted to a full-time contract at Novartis as a marketing analyst. From there, I went through a few different departments within the company and ended up staying a total of almost five years (including the internship).”
Waving goodbye to the comfort zone
It was evident that this period prepared Ligia for the vigours of her time abroad. She was working full-time on the internship at Novartis, working from 9am to 6pm and then going in to college to complete her degree, often working up to 11pm. Once she had finished her degree, she was in a good job with a good life but rather than settling for that, she clearly relished further challenges.
“In 2014, I decided that I wanted to live abroad for a period of time. I think I needed the experience of living by myself, living independently because I was living with my parents and I had everything I needed.
I think I needed the experience of living by myself, living independently because I was living with my parents and I had everything I needed.
It’s hard to explain. I needed something different. I think it was more to have this experience to just pop into the world and see what the world is like outside my bubble, my shelter. And because I am so attached to my family it was hard, but I needed something just for me, just to push myself. And of course, the chance to live in a first-world country, improve my English and try to have some work experience internationally as well.
So, I think that my first desire was to get outside of my comfort zone and have the experience of living by myself in a different country, with a different culture, with different people, be somewhere I don’t know anyone else and live an international student life – which is very, very challenging. This was my first thought, but after the first year, after settling, everything changed.”
Oh, Achilles heel…
Clearly, Ligia loves a challenge! To read about her international study experience, go to her Western Sydney Uni profile page. I had the feeling that Ligia wasn’t quite finished with testing herself and wondered what challenges she was intending to set for the future?
“No idea. I don’t know, maybe having a child would be a big challenge, the biggest one! Everything has been challenging since coming to study and work in Australia. But at the same time, I was able to manage very well. So I think the next step would be starting a family.” Ligia was 23 when she first went to Australia and she was living with her partner, so there were two people involved in the decision-making process. I was curious about how that worked out.
“It was very much down to him that I made this decision. We were dating back in Brazil and have been together since 2010, so he was one of the biggest reasons that actually pushed me to go outside my boundaries and say, ‘hey, you can do it. Let’s do it together’ and we came together to Australia. So we experienced one of the biggest things in our lives simultaneously: different culture, different city, different people and living together with my partner at the same time and ever since.
When he first came, he did his diploma in film at Sydney Film School for a year – the whole of 2015. And then after that, when I started to do my MBA, he was able to work full time because when you do a postgraduate course in Australia, your partner can work. So, he was able to find work in this field and work full time.”
When I started to do my MBA, he was able to work full time because when you do a postgraduate course in Australia, your partner can work. So, he was able to find work in this field and work full time.
Ligia and her husband are still living in Sydney; renting a house, working and living an established life, reaping the rewards for the hard work they have put in, the challenges faced and the risks they took. So the decisions they took were the right ones.
What advice for people following in her footsteps? “Just go ahead if this is something that you actually want to do. Be aware though that it requires a lot of dedication. It’s not easy. A lot of people think that you come to Australia and it’s just party, and beach and holidays. Well, if you come with this mindset, you’re not going to do a Masters, because it’s not possible. Of course, there is that side of the Australian culture as well during the weekends, maybe. But everyone is a hard worker and especially if want to do a Masters or a degree. The course is not easy. You have exams and assessments with strict deadlines. And if you are an international student, it’s even harder to overcome all the barriers: the English language barriers and the cultural barriers.”
A lot of people think that you come to Australia and it’s just party, and beach and holidays… but everyone is a hard worker.
And then we returned to where we started: how has she, and they, managed the geographical separation with her family, and especially her brother? “This is a very hard topic for me to talk about, because obviously I miss them a lot. It’s one of my biggest difficulties because I think about them every day. We talk a lot of course, and thank god for the technology that lets us see each other and talk in real time because I think that actually reduces the distance a little bit. Already, they have been here twice to see me, overcoming all the potential travel challenges regarding my brother’s situation, and they are planning the third visit. I have returned to Brazil twice as well, so we manage to see each other regularly and they are very supportive of what I’ve chosen to do.”
I think there’s a long way to go with Ligia’s story and I hope to learn the rest of it as time passes, but she’s already achieved a huge amount. When we signed off our interview, I had a powerful sense of admiration for her courage, intelligence and determination. She deserves the happiness and quality of life she has now – it has been earned.
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