Computer engineering major and Brazilian student Henrique Silveira relishes his opportunity to study in “the capital of the world.” A visiting student this academic year thanks to the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, he cites not only his professors and his T.A.’s but also Columbia University administrators with helping him build career skills, navigate the job market, and discover new opportunities. To wit, he just landed his first internship with the award-winning health and wellness information site WebMD. We spoke with him about what he loves about Columbia’s international community, why his first internship is so important, and how being a visiting student at Columbia is helping him reach his career goals.
What were your first impressions of Columbia?
Columbia is an amazing university. I have learned a lot, and I have taken some courses that really opened my mind. One of the most important things I have learned is that I cannot only depend on classes, but I also have to learn on my own. In Brazil, we have a large amount of classes and little time to study on our own. Here, it’s a little bit of the opposite: I only took four classes last semester and had much more time on my own to study and do my projects.
What do you think about the international community at Columbia?
I think that the international exposure I have here at Columbia was really interesting. In Brazil, my university, the University of São Paulo, is one of the biggest. Still, there are not many international students. Here at Columbia, I have met people from the most different parts of the world: Asia, Africa, Europe, South America. I get to find out about other cultures and other customs, which is really nice.
Can you tell me about how Columbia helped you get your current internship?
We had some sessions with the School of Professional Studies staff to help us prepare for interviews and practice our pitches. We had help regarding how to deal with employers, how to prepare for career fairs, how to present ourselves online, and how to write emails to potential employers. Those sessions really helped me. I had no experience in interviews or anything related to work. This is my first job.
I have been working as an intern at WebMD. Being a Columbia student certainly helped me to secure an internship for the summer; having "Columbia" on my résumé really gave me an advantage over other competitors. It’s a renowned university.
And what are you learning at your internship?
Working at a big company like WebMD is really nice because I got to see how a company works – and especially how a technology company works. As someone who never had any work experience before, this was really new. Doing things on my own has really helped me to gain insight into how a company works and what kinds of things I can expect to do when I graduate and try to find a job.
How is Columbia helping you meet your career goals?
Well, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do for my career. But I’m building my professional network here. This is really important for a career.
Columbia University is a really big name to have on my résumé. I’m sure that when I get back to Brazil, it will make a really good impression on employers. Or if I plan to get a graduate degree, my previous coursework at Columbia will be helpful.
What do you think was most valuable about going to Columbia?
One of the most valuable things to me is being able to live here in New York. I was born in a big city – in São Paulo, Brazil. But here in New York, it’s the capital of the world. I’ve been able to meet people from all parts of the world and able to live in a city with lots of cultural opportunities.
It’s one of the most valuable aspects of coming to Columbia and to New York City. I have never lived abroad before. Living here means being immersed in a different language, and this comes from being immersed in a different culture. There’s something special about being here.