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Home away from home: Student from Brazil experiences Missouri State.

Finding friends and opportunities at Missouri State

Imagine exchanging the quiet tranquility of the Amazon Rainforest and the bustle of a major metropolitan area for a life in a midwestern city surrounded by corn fields and small communities. This “fish out of water” experience sounds like the foundation of a sitcom.

Lucca Barrato, an international student from Belem, Brazil, says it was – in more ways than one.

“I tell people that I was living in a sitcom,” Lucca said. His friends at Missouri State University, where he’s now pursuing his second master’s degree, come from all across the world. “We’re a big, unique family.”

Thanks to the optional practical training program, he now calls Missouri home.

Getting started

“My parents always wanted me to study abroad, and for me, it was a dream,” Lucca said.

This dream came true when Brad Bodenhausen, Vice President of Community and Global Partnerships at MSU, visited Belem to recruit students. After Lucca spoke with him, he was sold, and set his sights on enrolling as a Bear through an undergraduate exchange program.

During Lucca’s exchange at Missouri State, his studies focused on College of Business classes. After his exchange program ended, he returned to Brazil to finish his bachelor’s degree.

When he considered graduate school, the memories of his experience and the people he grew close to made Missouri State an obvious choice.

He completed his master’s degree in professional studies and then chose to pursue another master’s in project management.

“The decision to pursue another degree was strategic,” Lucca explained. “It provided me with three more years of optional practical training, which will allow me to stay in the United States and work.”

Optional practical training (OPT) is temporary employment directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. With this, he now works as a Project Manager and gains invaluable work experience at CKC Data Solutions.

Being a Bear means building camaraderie

“My city is huge, but the community I was raised in, everyone knows you, and everyone has an expectation,” Lucca said.

For Lucca, being able to get out of that bubble helped him grow.

“I want to stay in Springfield, the opportunities are better here.”

Lucca is eager to start a career. While he may not stay in Springfield forever, he would like this to be his home for now.

Apart from staying in Springfield, he is also grateful for the opportunities that MSU has given him. He strongly advocates for higher education and thinks it is an important step to enriching life experiences.

“I think without my years here at Missouri State, I would be the same guy I was before,” he said. “I am proud of the person I am today because of all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had here.”