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Exploring New Worlds With Cultural Competence

Leonardo Paranhos is thousands of miles away from home in Brazil and adjusting to his new life as a graduate student in London, Ontario where he’s enjoying the breathtaking scenery and local parks. He’s also appreciating the diverse cultural environment of the region and the wealth of opportunities it brings in terms of his education and professional development.

“I do miss my family and friends back home though,” he said. “Brazilian people have this human warmth that I haven’t found here yet.”

Leonardo Paranhos in London, Ontario
Leonardo Paranhos in London, Ontario

Paranhos is a graduate of the Global Training Initiative’s Developing Cultural Competence student certificate program, which he participated in while finishing his civil engineering degree at Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná. The DCC course was very different from his usual STEM courses, and he enjoyed having the opportunity to work with students from all over the world.

“If it was just a course with other Brazilians, I still would have learned something,” he said. “But as there were people from all over the world – I believe there were 18 different countries in my session – everyone shared their personal views, and I could learn from that as well.”

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December 2020 DCC Zoom session

Growth of DCC Across the World

The DCC program has been expanding its reach across the globe and providing NC State students with experiences to work effectively on a team whose members represent diverse backgrounds, experiences, values and perspectives. There were at least 49 countries represented in the DCC sessions this past academic year, with 632 students completing all the requirements to earn the certificate.

“The DCC certificate helps students consider diverse perspectives and build connections with peers in other parts of the world,” explained Program Coordinator Becky Cibulskis. “Students can apply what they’ve learned from DCC to their field of study and to their personal lives.”

Real-World Applications

Paranhos said the knowledge and skills he learned in the DCC helped during the graduate school application process. He utilized what he learned to inform how he approached the prospective faculty supervisors in Canada to ask about scholarships and funding for graduate school.

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Paranhos graduated from Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná

“In Brazil, we have a more informal way to treat professors because there’s not as strong a hierarchy here,” he said. “But we learned in DCC that we should understand how other countries value formality and hierarchies, so that helped me try and put myself in the professor’s shoes and try to understand what he or she would want from a prospective master’s student and what should the student have to be a competitive candidate for a scholarship.”

As a result, he secured admission and a full scholarship to Western University where he is pursuing a Master’s of Engineering Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Paranhos’ tuition is fully covered with a living stipend provided. He continues to apply what he learned to help with his adaption to a new country and culture in Canada, reviewing some of the materials from the DCC program before he left Brazil and studying more about Canadian culture on his own.

“I did my part to mitigate the expected cultural gaps when I arrived (to Canada),” he said. “But I was still surprised by the difference in how to respect other people’s personal space. Every time I’m commuting somewhere, I observe other people on the bus and they won’t sit on a two-seat bench if there’s someone already there. They would rather stand than possibly bother someone. In my home country, if you’re coming back home from work and there’s an empty seat, people wouldn’t care at all if there’s a strange person seating next to them.”

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Applications Open

The DCC Certificate Program will run throughout the summer as well as the fall. Visit the GTI website to apply now or add your name to the interest list for future semesters.