An interview with alumna Paula Akemi
When did you graduate from School of Nations? I graduated in 2012. I studied at School of the Nations for nine years.
What college did you attend? What was your major? At first, my desire was to major in Economics. My parents wanted me to major in Law, but I always liked Gastronomy. When I graduated from high school, I got accepted into Law at the Instituto Brasiliense de Direito Público, where I received a scholarship. I didn’t get into the Universidade de Brasília (UnB) at first. I used my results from ENEM to apply to the Universidade Federal Fluminense and the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, but my parents weren’t happy with me leaving because at that time I had some health complications. The following year I took the ENEM again. This time I was able to apply to UnB for Economics and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro for Gastronomy. I didn’t go to Rio de Janeiro, but I did study Gastronomy at the Centro Universitário IESB in Brasilia.
Tell us more about your academic and professional journeys. I have always liked the exact sciences. From the time I was in the eighth grade, I would save money, read about the stock market, and dream of a successful career. After a few semesters of majoring in Economics, I realized it wasn’t what I had imagined—living with that frustration would have affected my health. After that, my interest in gastronomy grew, so that was the career path I chose.
Being happy and enjoying what you do is more important than owning the market. During my time majoring in Gastronomy, I interned and worked in Brasilia with the chef, Paulo Tarso. Toward the end of my course, I worked at Saveur Bistrot with the chefs Denis Sousa and Thiago Paraíso. As soon as I graduated in 2017, I decided to intern outside Brasilia.
I went to São Paulo to practice at a famous restaurant called Maní under the supervision of Helena Rizzo, elected one of the best chefs in the world. I did their four-month internship program, during which I was able to work in different stations in a professional kitchen. After my internship in São Paulo, I went to Salvador, where I interned at the restaurant Origin. It was elected the best restaurant in the city and was headed by the chefs Fabrício Lemos and Lisiane Arouca. Fabrício was elected the newest chef and chef of the year in Salvador, and Lisiane Arouca was elected the best pastry chef in the country. During the internship, a new restaurant called Ori that was opening in the city hired me. I took on the responsibility of being a confectionery chef. After six months in Salvador, I decided to return to Brasilia—this time with plans to organize my finances to go abroad.
When I returned to Brasilia, I focused initially on events and private dinners, but my longing for the restaurant routine spoke louder. I got the opportunity to run the kitchen and participate in creating Paulo Tarso’s new restaurant, my first chef. The restaurant is called Rubio. It is still under renovation and will open later this year. In the meantime, we are creating a menu, pulling together a team, and developing an internship program. The day-to-day of a restaurant is very busy, with many hours working on your feet, a constant rush, a lot of responsibility, and demands from your superiors.
What are your best memories from your time at School of the Nations? To me, the sports championships were the highlights. Traveling to NR Camp is unforgettable. When I was a student, I wanted to take part in all the extracurricular activities. I would spend all day at school, either participating in Model United Nations, preparing the Yearbook, studying for MathCounts, or practicing sports. What made the difference for me at School of the Nations was the opportunity to participate in so many extracurricular activities.
Do you believe studying at School of the Nations positively impacted your personal and professional life? Yes! At School, we learn values and moral principles as well as academic content. When I left my social bubble, I saw how privileged I was for having access to all this valuable information and for being able to have such unique experiences. One thing I value about School of the Nations is the volunteer work they promote. They allow you to see other realities, become socially conscious, and develop empathy. I grew immeasurably as a world citizen.
Regarding my professional life, one thing I remember fondly and that I was very excited about at the time was the cooking class! For my exploratory class, I chose cooking, and it was amazing. I wasn’t the kid who would taste all the dishes, but I loved having contact with food, taking part in the cooking process, and developing cooking skills. To explore classes beyond the standard Brazilian curriculum is a privilege.
Having a bilingual education is a huge differential. Today, I see how positive it is to know another language and to hear it daily–I miss that! Being able to learn other subjects in English broadens your vocabulary. In addition to living with people from different cultures, we also learn how to respect others.
What was it like to see friends and teachers at our Alumni Reunion? The Alumni Reunion is very special. I love visiting our School, a place that was my second home for so long, and where I have so many good memories. I love seeing all these new school improvements. For instance, I loved what they did with the cafeteria. I saw some photos on social media, and I was curious about how it turned out. Same thing with the new soccer field and changing rooms. There is always something new.
Regarding friends, I still keep in contact with most of my classmates. I would say that all my best friends today were my closest friends at school. Seeing teachers is also great! They were great influences on our lives. Too bad we couldn’t see them all!
Any advice or message to our students? Enjoy every moment of your school life, and remember, there is time for everything. Be appreciative of what the school has to offer. Many things you have today didn’t exist back then. For instance, we didn’t have the soccer field you have today, nor could we join a band. Take part in extracurricular activities, appreciate field trips, and always be open to learn more about new cultures—these are lessons for life!