Alumni Spotlight: Paula Cruz

Updated: Jun 28

An interview with alumna Paula Cruz


To which master’s courses have you been accepted? Have you decided which university you will attend? When will you begin?


I have been approved for two master’s degree programs: Human Development and Education Ed.M. at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and Cognitive Science in Education M.A. at Teachers College, Columbia University.


I chose to do my master’s degree at Harvard. I received the Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellowship, which is a full scholarship. I will be there in early August, but classes begin with an online module on June 3!


What are your expectations for this new chapter in your career?

First, I expect many challenges! It will be difficult entering a field I have never formally studied, and at such a rigorous level and being so young. However, I also expect a lot of motivation and inspiration. I’m happy to have the opportunity to be around people willing to change the world. HGSE’s motto is “Learn to Change the World,” which says a lot!

What year did you graduate from School of the Nations? How many years did you study here? Which course did you take after High School? At which university?

I studied at School of the Nations from Grade 1 through my senior year, so from 2005 to 2017. In January this year, I graduated with my first professional degree. I majored in Letras at the University of Brasília (UnB).


Tell us about your academic trajectory.

I always loved School of the Nations. I was incredibly passionate about English classes—primarily when Advanced Placement English was implemented. They—along with other personal stimuli, of course—were why I chose to study and become a professional in Letras, specializing in English.

I passed the midyear vestibular at UnB. On the one hand, I had many advantages over my classmates since I was already fluent in English. I took advantage of that and of the credit allowances I received with my School diploma to explore other optional topics: I took several semesters of ancient Greek (I like to say it's my “minor,” ha-ha) along with some classes in the Music Department, some at the Education College, creative writing, and astronomy, among others.


Then, I studied for a semester as a “visiting student” at Columbia University in New York, which changed everything. I saw the initiatives of the people there and came back with a desire to leave an impact on the world and get involved in social causes. Then, back at UnB, I got involved with literary theory.


In the meantime, I met Patrícia Nakagome, a teacher who works in reading research—a subject I had already explored in high school in my Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone project, called “Reading in Brazil: A Case Study of the Relationship Between Instruction and Motivation.” I joined her study group and worked on several projects, for example, my project on the Programa Institucional de Bolsas de Iniciação Cientifica (PIBIC) and a scholarship at the Brazilian National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).


I participated in conferences and a course for teachers of literature from the Secretariat of Education for the Federal District, among others, always thinking about people’s relationship with literature, how they read (or not), and the role of education in all this.


Now I want to continue exploring these issues, but from the perspective of science and psychology. What is the role of reading stories in human development, and how might this be associated with school practices?

What are your memories from studying at School of the Nations? What do you miss most about the School?


The School was almost my whole universe for a long time. I miss the community, meeting friends every day without having to set a day, belonging—that cliché thing everybody talks about! But beyond that, it was a safe and comfortable environment to pursue what we wanted (and even to make mistakes sometimes), from starting a book club to selling brigadeiros with the girls’ soccer team to spending afternoons on those orange benches doing a pile of homework. Arriving at English class with a class all motivated to talk about In Cold Blood and Julius Caesar was everything for me.


Do you think the education you received at School of the Nations has contributed to your life development, both personally and academically? How do you believe the School has helped you?

Yes, absolutely. As I said, my academic trajectory has a lot to do with my passion for AP English, which was living proof of how stimulating, relevant, and remarkable teaching literature can be. The School allowed me to start researching and “defending” this topic from an early age, especially in AP Capstone and the extracurricular clubs. Another wonderful thing, on the personal side, is that I started taking violin lessons during After School when I was six years old. Then I went to the Escola de Música de Brasília, and I still play. I have even taken part in orchestras at UnB and Columbia.


What advice would you like to give to our Grade 12 students who are about to graduate?


Believe that you can get wherever you want to go and that you can do anything—because you can! We don’t always have such a clear notion of this when we are in high school. You can create clubs about what you like if these clubs don’t exist yet; develop research projects about the subject you want; form personal bonds with your teachers inside and outside the classroom, and much more! This is amazing and more than enough to take you to wonderful places. So, believe in yourself. And use all these opportunities we have at School of the Nations to your advantage.


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