I graduated from TBS in 2013 and am now a senior studying International Politics at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
How do you think TBS prepared you for life at university and abroad?
I owe everything to TBS. The school taught me essential life and academic skills that I use every day at Georgetown. I always say that the school’s true value is the fact that it prepares students for life and not for an exam. Since a young age, teachers inspired me to become a critical thinker and a lifelong learner. It’s not only about a grade in an exam, it’s about actually learning the skills to succeed beyond the vestibular or the IB. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received at TBS was: “before you formulate your opinion, read three different viewpoints, which contradict each other. This way you will be able to make an informed decision”. In fact, the school always encouraged me to become an avid reader. Since I can remember, we were always assigned books. Being able to read critically and efficiently is one of the most important skills to succeed in college, especially abroad. Lastly, I remember that as a TBS student, I would always have to present to the class. Being able to speak confidently and clearly is an invaluable skill.
How important was the IB Diploma on your academic education?
Even though I probably wouldn’t have said this in 2013, now I am a fan of the IB. I am almost graduating from Georgetown and looking back, I feel that the IB was an outstanding preparation for college. I say this because most students come to university completely raw, they have never written an academic paper or done research. In the IB, you have to write an extended essay, which is a great preparation for all the papers you will be writing in college. The IB is also a way to learn how to manage stress and how to manage your time, as you constantly have to juggle multiple assignments at once. This will become your life in college.
When and how did you start to become interested in politics?
I have always been a very politicised person. I think it’s because I have always read a lot. However, my passion for politics was really consolidated through the Model UN programme at TBS. My dad took me to visit the UN when I was nine years old and I became fascinated by it. When I found out about the MUN, I knew that it was a perfect activity for me. So, through my research for Model UN conferences, I began to realise that I truly had a passion for politics and international relations, and that is what led me to apply to the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.
Introduce your website and tell us how and when you had the idea of launching such a relevant tool to demistify politics for beginners?
In addition to loving politics, I have always loved to write. I have always known that I wanted to become a political journalist. While at college, sometimes I felt that what I was studying was a bit too theoretical and I felt the need to apply it in a more practical way. I also began to realise that most young people don’t share my passion for international relations and politics. They think it’s all boring and too complicated. This began to really concern me because we are now living in a very polarised country, where people tend to be very absolute in their opinions. One thing I’ve learnt in my studies is that nothing about politics is absolute. Also, every time something happened in the world, a few of my friends would reach out and ask me to explain to them what had happened because they knew that I study International Politics. So, I would always try and find ways to explain to them what happened in a simple way, and they would immediately become interested. Therefore, I started to think about this and noticed that I had never heard of any blog or website that had the aim of introducing political topics in a very unpretentious way, with the intention of discussing complicated issues in a simple language, so that people who don’t necessarily study this could become more engaged. That’s when Desvendando Política was born.
Young people need a meaningful education in politics. Do you think TBS helped in your engagement and development of critical thinking?
TBS definitely helped me become a critical thinker. As I said before, the school always encourages its students to think outside the box, to read, to consider different viewpoints. The tools are all out there; it’s up to every single student to take advantage of them. The MUN programme made a huge difference in my life because that is where I was first really exposed to the world of international affairs. The school constantly emphasises its mission to educate its students for life, and not just for an exam. That in itself already makes a huge difference because we were always encouraged to challenge ourselves.
Politics can often feel like something which is far removed from everyday life, and something which most young people don’t easily relate to. How do you think we can encourage young people to engage in politics?
The most important thing in my opinion is to understand your responsibility as a young person. Brazil is your country; it is your responsibility to make sure that it has a better future. Yes, I went to study abroad, but I was able to do so thanks to the opportunities that this country gave my parents – opportunities that most people don’t have. If you are privileged to go to The British School and then move on to an amazing university, it is your responsibility to give something back, because very few people have the same luck. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. I feel that many young people want to change the world all at once and get frustrated because they are not able to do so. Small actions can make a huge difference. Read more and learn about what led us here. I feel that there is a widespread sentiment of hopelessness in this country, and this is far more dangerous than the corruption within our political system. You don’t necessarily have to work in politics if that is not your passion but, if it is, go for it! If not, then at least read about it and become as informed as you can. I think that once a sense of pride in being Brazilian is restored, more young people will engage. That is what we have to work on.
What are your personal aspirations and goals for the near future?
My ultimate dream is to become a political journalist. I want to be able to report on these issues, which I have dedicated so much time to understanding. Still, one thing that I have learnt in college is that the more you study, the less you actually know. It might sound counter-intuitive but it’s because there is just so much happening in the world, that when you actually learn something, you begin to realise how much you actually don’t know. Journalists have to be life-long learners, and that is what I aspire to be. I also have the plan to go to Grad School for journalism, in the near future, but not straight after my graduation. In addition, I aspire to continue my project with this blog, which gives me great personal satisfaction. Hopefully, by doing what I love, I will be able to inspire more people to want to learn more about the world. That is my ultimate goal in life.
Giovanna Bellotti Azevedo
The British School, Rio de Janeiro – Class of 2013
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University – Class of 2018