Graduation Spotlight: Helena Carvalho Schmidt

International student Helena Carvalho Schmidt (English, communication, political science, ‘18) came to Fort Wayne from Brazil in 2014. She started as a quiet English major who sometimes struggled to understand her professors and make cultural adjustments. With the help of supportive faculty and her ambition to succeed, she graduated this year with an impressive array of achievements: three degrees, a certificate in international studies, an honors certificate, a ton of real-world work experience, and an internship at the United Nations.

Each of Helena’s majors have offered her something valuable. She says the English department is nurturing and comfortable. She developed relationships with her professors and even occasionally had coffee with her advisor, Dr. Mary Ann Cain (English & linguistics). When she enrolled in communication, she found it harder to “leave a mark” in a larger department, which helped her become more competitive. Political science taught her to think critically and to question her own perspectives and goals.

Helena has also had several jobs on campus. She has worked with Information Technology Services, the Office of International Education, and currently works at the Writing Center. She did an internship with the National Student Exchange and another at a newspaper in Brussels while studying in Belgium. This summer, she will be an intern at the United Nations in New York City.

Helena credits part of her success to the faculty and staff who have supported her. Dr. Alison Rynearson, associate director of student life and leadership, has been helpful in giving her real-world experience. She says that Dr. Lachlan Whalen (international language and cultural studies) pushed her out of her comfort zone and helped her “go beyond the prompt” to express her own ideas. Dr. James Toole (political science) also “inspired me to do my best and to do more.”

As for advice for other students, Helena says to “try to push yourself to do more things. Is it uncomfortable? Yeah, but I think it’s going to pay off.” For her, it already is. “I got my dream internship at 22!” She also says that, especially for students with no family in the area, the best way to find support and make friends is to get involved in student organizations.

#WhatsNext for Helena? After the UN internship, she hopes to extend her visa in order to continue working and studying internationally. She wants to get a master’s degree in international relations, and her dream university is in Brussels. Eventually, Helena plans to return to Brazil to work for the government and help “try to fix things there.”

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