Luana Karl.
Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas

Humans of St. Thomas: Insights of a Student From Brazil

Luana Karl, who graduated in May 2023 from the University of St Thomas in Minnesota with a major in journalism and minor in political science, had to navigate American college life as a transfer student from Brazil. On top of her studies, she had to polish her English skills and work hard to maintain high grades. The Newsroom spoke with her about her experience living in Minnesota as an international student.

Luana Karl, May 2, 2023, in St. Paul. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)

How did you learn about St. Thomas? Why did you decide to go here?

I came to Minnesota with my parents after the company that my dad works at transferred him from Brazil to the U.S. in 2019. Though I was planning to go to college in Brazil, plans changed and I accepted the challenge of moving here with them. My dad wanted me to go to a really good school in Minnesota so I could be close to him and our family. I started researching colleges and universities, and we learned about St. Thomas. We also knew a family friend whose son was committed to St. Thomas so we got to go to the school and learn about it that way.

You created a St. Thomas chapter for a Brazilian student organization. Why?

I was part of the global team of BRASA, the Brazilian Student Association in the U.S. (The Brazilian student chapter) was created at St. Thomas but we don’t have any meetings yet. I got the idea from other local chapters at different universities.

For me, BRASA is an opportunity for Brazilian students in the U.S. to network, connect and thrive during and after college. These relationships matter for international students because it helps create a sense of community and belongingness. Having that on a local level, at St. Thomas, will only bring positive change for both students and the university itself. I will always advocate for more Brazilians at St. Thomas because we know the importance of working hard and finding friends along the way. I hope that’s what Brazilian students after me find here: a home, even if thousands of miles away from our country.

What’s your favorite part about St. Thomas and the local community?

My favorite part about St. Thomas definitely has to be my relationships with my professors. That’s why I decided on St. Thomas over a larger school, just because I knew I could be closer with my professors and I really like that mentor-student relationship. I feel like they really are happy when something goes right. They take the success of students personally.

What challenges have you faced as an international student?

So many. I feel like my English has gotten so much better in college. For international students, I feel you have to do 400 times more than domestic students because you have to overcome (language) barriers. I feel like I haven’t given myself permission to fail in those four years, and I feel like that can be very hard especially when you have other obstacles in front of you. Also, the feeling of belonging, wondering whether you belong there or not, feeling like people are judging your accent or things like that.

What’s the biggest difference between Brazil and Minnesota, besides the climate?

It’s hard to build closer relationships with people from Minnesota. I feel like everyone went to high school together, so they have those circles already created. In Brazil we’re more open and can grow closer relationships more easily. For example, in Brazil, if you just met someone, you hug them. Here, you can’t.

What are your plans after graduation?

Once my work authorization arrives, I will be joining Haberman, an advertising agency in Minneapolis, as a full-time marketing specialist. With the support of OISS (Office of International Students and Scholars at St. Thomas), I got my CPT in October and started as an intern at Haberman. I fell in love with the culture, the job and the people at the agency and realized that I didn’t want to leave. When they offered me the full-time position, I said yes without thinking twice. I am also beyond grateful to have the opportunity to stay in the country that has been my home for the past four years and I can’t wait for this next stage of my life.