A Journey from Rio to Tel Aviv: Pursuing a BA at Tel Aviv University

Overcoming Challenges, Embracing Differences, and Achieving Academic Triumph

24 January 2024
Photo courtesy of Ana Correa


Ana Correa, from Brazil, is currently in her final year of the Lowy International BA in Liberal Arts at Tel Aviv University. Her story is one of determination, adaptation, and a pursuit of education against the odds.


From Rio to Tel Aviv: Navigating Challenges and Pursuing Dreams


Correa's journey to Tel Aviv began several years ago. She comes from Rio de Janeiro, a low-income community, a favela called City of God. 


"I always wanted to study abroad, but it's difficult – I didn't have the money to pay for English courses, so I learnt English by myself."


When Ana started looking for places to study, she saw an advertisement online for the Brazilian scholarship fund and decided to apply. The scholarship and the GoFundMe campaign she ran opened the doors to educational opportunities at TAU.


Due to the initial restrictions from COVID-19, she started her studies online in Brazil. It was not until February 2022, when borders opened for students, that she was able to travel to Israel. 


Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, Correa found the city to be vibrant and welcoming. Although initially hesitant, she soon connected with Israeli locals who offered warmth and assistance.


"I didn’t know anything about Israel. When I arrived, l really liked it because people are warm and welcoming."


The liberal and open atmosphere of the city, its friendliness toward the LGBTQ+ community, and the acceptance of diverse expressions made a lasting impression on her.


Coping with Challenges: Rockets and Resilience


In May 2023, Ana experienced her first encounter with the geopolitical challenges in the region, marked by rocket attacks. Although initially unsettling, her coping mechanisms, rooted in her background in a Brazilian favela, allowed her to face the situation with strength. 


Correa (in the middle) in a bomb shelter (Photo courtesy of Ana Correa)


This fall, she arrived in Tel Aviv on October 5, two days before the Hamas attack. She describes her experience of waking up to the sound of the sirens on October 7 as frightening but emphasized that the supportive university environment and constant communication from the scholarship fund team provided her with a sense of security.


"I have a lot of friends here. The university team were showing us that they were there if we need anything. And I also thought that I am not alone in this country – there are 8 million people more here."


Academic Pursuits: A Heavy Semester amidst Uncertainty


Currently in her final year, Correa is undertaking a heavy academic load with ten interdisciplinary courses. Her major in communication, combined with a minor in entrepreneurship, reflects the diverse nature of the program. 


"Having classes is helping me to have a sense of normality – it's better than doing nothing. I think it was a good decision that they decided to start our program because a lot of people were already in Israel."


Not entirely confident about her English language proficiency, Ana was initially worried about her ability to follow the classes. To support her, Correa’s academic advisor Dr Judith Kornblat and BA Director Ayelet Diamant arranged for Ana to take academic writing classes at TAU’s Center for Language Excellence, which she found immensely beneficial for improving her confidence and skills.


Photo courtesy of Ana Correa


"It's not just about getting accepted and getting a scholarship. I need to have good academic performance," she comments.


As Correa nears the completion of her BA, she is contemplating graduate studies at TAU. Considering her experiences and the current global climate, she is leaning towards sustainable development or disaster management for her master's degree.


Tel Aviv: A Warm Welcome and a Safe Haven


Ana describes Tel Aviv as a city that defies expectations. Contrary to her preconceived notions, she found it to be a place where Arab and Jewish cultures coexist harmoniously. The city's diverse cultural fabric, combined with its liberal atmosphere, made Tel Aviv a unique and enriching experience for her.


"There're a lot of people here trying to live a better life. This sense of democracy is very important for me."


Despite the current challenges, Ana Correa feels safe in Tel Aviv. The city's sense of security, even during times of turmoil, has been a source of comfort for her.


"I try to show to my family that if I didn’t feel safe, I would leave, but I love the sense of security here. Unlike at home, in Tel Aviv, I feel safe walking alone in the street at 3 am with my cell phone in my hand," she comments.


Ana Correa with her Jewish friend (on the left) and her flatmates (on the right) at a Hanukah celebration (Photo courtesy of Ana Correa)


Correa recounts instances of people's kindness that made her feel at home. Having arrived in winter, she was surprised to discover how cold it can be, particularly inside buildings. "People gave me winter clothes and jackets," she says.


She adds that she is amazed by how caring the people are: "If something is happening with someone, they will check to ask if something is wrong. Once I fell in the street at night and a police car that drove by stopped to ask me if I needed help."


Facing challenges head-on, Correas's journey from Rio to Tel Aviv is nothing short of inspiring—a story of grit, determination, and chasing education against all odds. Her experience is a reminder that, even in shaky times, diving into knowledge can light the path to a brighter future.



Applications to Liberal Arts BA are now open. Visit the program website to find out more about the program and submit your application.

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