Student voices: A successful career that started when she was 11...
Studied in: U.K. and Germany
Sol González is 22 years old and in her final year at the prestigious University of Bath, United Kingdom. She also did her exchange with the prestigious H.E.C. Montréal, Canadá. Sol was chosen as chairman, and delegate representative of both her faculty and academic program, and is today considering job offers in several multinationals from different countries, including Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Sol speaks fluently: Spanish, French, English, Catalan, German and is learning Portuguese. She did her schooling in Spain (Barcelona), UK (Scotland) and Germany (Bavaria). During her school years, Sol obtained all “As” in her A-Levels, received the Duke of Edinburgh award, broke the butterfly record in Scotland and was invited, but declined, to join the prestigious British National Dance School. Sol, talks about her experiences and her career that took off when she was only 11…
One month after this interview Sol graduated with a “First”.
What was your reaction when you learned that you were going to leave home to go and study abroad?
I was 11, they had sent my older brother previously so it was obvious that my turn would come eventually. Nevertheless I did feel a bit uneasy, I was well established at my local school, I had my friends, different activities, sports… It seemed challenging to have to start over somewhere else where I did not know if I would have any friends or if I could continue playing tennis and horseback riding, my two passions back then.
When you arrived, was it what you expected?
It was a bit shocking because of the language, forced to speak a foreign language the whole day, while living by all these rules and schedules that had to be strictly followed… Moreover, each student had also a set of responsibilities they had to take care of, which I wasn´t used to at all. I was accustomed to have everything done for me at home. For example after a normal school day I would arrive home, throw my backpack, shoes and wait to be called for dinner while doing my homework. In my school in the UK I had to do my own bed, tidy the room, take care my clothes were being washed, set the table and pick it up, do the homework alone…
How should one prepare oneself to go and study abroad?
The best recipe is to be open-minded to new things without complaining or building up expectations and prejudices. I think that the best way to go about it, is to be prepared to participate in anything and engage in everything. This is the best way to integrate quickly while taking advantage of an extremely valuable life experience.
Nevertheless, one thing that did help me to adapt much more quickly was attending the previous summer a summer school program in a British boarding school the director of The Georgian Manor House, Miss Vinamata, chose for me. There I became familiarized with the life in a boarding school, different food (not “Mom´s food”), British education, living away from home, socializing with other people (not your usual circle of friends), sharing a room or speaking another language. This was a preliminary experience that helped me to adapt.
How did you integrate so fast without quickly becoming the “weird foreign girl”? What tricks are there to speed up the process of integration?
Like I said before, I faced the situation with an open mind without ’sticking to my guns’ or being negative simply because I had to adapt to a lifestyle I was not used to have at home. It was not that bad, actually it was fun.
But the truth is that I was lucky because the team of The Georgian Manor House chose the right school for me, the one that best fitted my personality. I am a person who is passionate about sports and the arts (I actually discovered this last point there), they sent me to a school where I could develop my creativity and above all discover talents that I did not know I had before. This is important, because for example my brother hates sports, and in my school he would have have been miserable, truly (laughs)...
Shortly after arriving I joined the dance company and discovered “theater” which brought me a very strong group of friends. I learnt violin and piano, played sports at the national level such as hockey, tennis, swimming, I participated in survival courses in the Scottish highlands, sailed the northern sea with a sailing team and began to learn German... The Georgian Manor House would later send me 6 months in an exchange to a fantastic school in Bavaria where I improved it. Actually I enjoyed it so much that I asked my parents to send me every year. This happened till I finished getting the GCSEs. So far, this has been the best time of my life.
You broke the butterfly record in Scotland, you have the Duke of Edinburgh award and you were invited to join the National British Dance School, one of the best in the world... You are someone with a natural talent.
Actually, I could do this because Miss Vinamata, the director of The Georgian Manor House and the school both presented me with the opportunities to participate in these activities and pushed me to get there. I had at my service; the infrastructure, the tools, the networking and the professors or specialists who knew how to identify and potentiate my talents while pushing me to compete and be better every day. Otherwise I would have not achieved what I achieved because I did not even know I could do it! Just to let you know, before living in the UK I had never swam seriously, played hockey nor even danced.
Why did you decide to stay?
Honestly, I found a place where they helped me discover everything I was capable of and pushed me to succeed. The school in my home country became simply too mediocre for me... In my new school I could play sports, learn musical instruments, do theater, dance or even had subjects like: philosophy, psychology, politics, economics or anthropology, which in my previous school were totally unknown things.
Did you miss your parents?
When I arrived I did miss them, but when I realized that every month and a half I had a 10 day vacation, and at the end of each quarter I got almost a month, I was actually seeing my parents more than before. Moreover when I came back we were spending more quality time together, as they wanted to take the most out of it.
After the university, why choose England?
Studying in England opened the doors to a whole new world of universities, places that before I didn’t even think about. Oxford and Harvard belonged to the American movies not the real world (laughs)... But thanks to my British education and the A-Levels I realized I could access any university in Europe, USA or Canada that I wanted! I decided to apply to England. At the end I was accepted in the best; London School of Economics, Warwick, Lancaster and Bath. I chose Bath because the international management program is considered the best in the UK. Then I left in the third year to Canada (Montréal) for an exchange.
You speak Portuguese, why this language and how did you learn it?
It was a combination of the opportunities I saw coming up in new and emerging markets and the tips of The Georgian Manor House. Also I have been sent to German courses in Munich and Berlin.
The Georgian Manor House selected for me the best intensive summer course in Lisbon, where I could also learnhow to surf. Since I did not want to stay in the school´s residence, they put me in a beautiful and very modern apartment with a view. There I could invite my friends over and enjoy my time in Lisbon, which is a beautiful city, I recommend it to everybody!
How do you think studying abroad has changed you? Do you think your life would have been different if you had not gone abroad?
Well, I was totally changed, if I had stayed I would be a completely different person now. Studying abroad took out my silliness, I realized that I was not the queen of the family and had to take care of my things like everyone else. I became more independent, organized, and tolerant but above all I became self-confident
Studying abroad has widened my goals and my targets; I opened up my views and realized that if I wanted I could reach the top.
What are your future plans?
Right now I am about to graduate from the university and packing my bags as I am going to Brazil, Sao Paolo, for a job interview in a big multinational ...
Why would you recommend The Georgian Manor House?
For many things, first because they are there to guide you through the most important and critical moments in life, times when you have to take important academic decisions that might determine your future and may be the rest of your life. They study your academic profile, personality and qualities and look for the academic paths in schools, academies, universities, that maximize your talent constantly pushing you to succeed. They selected the best for me.
Secondly because everything they do is tailor-made. It is just so convenient. For example: I want a German course in Munich with nineteenth century literature, or Portuguese with surf in Lisbon and alone in an apartment, I know that they know what I like and are going to design and organize it just as I want it and its going to be the best. They are obsessed with high quality.
Finally because they act as a second family when going abroad, if you lose the plane, you get sick or simply you fight with your roommate and you want to change rooms, you know there is a person you can turn to all the time, someone always on your side who will solve the problem… That is good to have specially when you are a foreign territory.