Travelling the world as an international student over 40: Diva’s journey
Diva Helena de Medeiros became an international student at the age of 46, coming to Ireland for a one-year language course.
By Marciéli Palhano
Dealing with the challenge of facing the unknown, experiencing a new culture and a different climate, getting to know people of other nationalities – all these are just some of the reasons why Brazilian woman Diva Helena de Medeiros chose to come to Ireland on a one-year English language course.
Having spent most of her life in Brazil, Diva did a 20-day trip around London and Paris in 2011, and this experience only piqued her appetite for foreign travel. So at the age of 46 the Brazilian left her home to go on a student exchange programme in Ireland.
Travelling to a foreign country alone, without much English (though she studied the language at home, her spoken English was far from fluent), Diva had only SEDA College to count on for support. “Before travelling I came into direct contact with the school and received some very valuable advice,” says Diva. SEDA College accepts around 2,000 students per year coming from over 40 countries. “My experience was great because my English was improving on a daily basis and I lost the fear of speaking,” said the mature student who always participated in the many extracurricular activities offered by the school.
A recent survey conducted by SEDA College showed that most of the incoming students are between 20 and 30 years old. The over 40 audience makes up just over 6% of the overall student population. But this never bothered Diva. “It’s our attitudes and thoughts that make us young or old, and at SEDA College I had friends of all ages,” she said. “I went on a student exchange programme so late because I had never had the opportunity to do it previously, and I am grateful to God that I was finally able to do it! If I had the opportunity to come here earlier, I absolutely would! In my opinion it was a fantastic experience to get to know so many new people from different parts of the world and learn so many new things”.
Another mature student who recently graduated from SEDA is Luis Fernando Salazar, also from Brazil. At 68 he decided to go abroad and learn a language in order to overcome a difficult time in his life. “I was heading for a depression because of retirement,” the man said. “But the course was great for me and I came back to Brazil feeling rejuvenated. It’s too bad I found out about SEDA College so late – otherwise I would have sent my children there. They are now married with young children…”
Luis found the college through a friend who did a course here at 60 years of age. “She convinced me to travel to Dublin,” Luis remembers. “And it was a great thing to do! I met amazing people and I never felt discriminated or left out because of my age – everyone treated me very well”.
For SEDA College’s Marketing Director, Tiago Mascarenhas, this interaction between people of different age groups is productive for everyone involved. “A major advantage of the international student experience is that the focus is not only on language learning, but on a new life experience that makes one expand their horizons and learn about different cultures and generations,” Tiago said. “The students all learn together and they learn a lot from each other. As a school, we are very proud to receive the trust of experienced and mature people”.
Originally published in SEDA News