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How a gap year helped this student find her path in life

Brazilian student Julia Schäfer Barreto came to Europe looking to apply the theoretical knowledge she had gained in her bachelor’s to practical situations. She told MASTERGRADSCHOOLS how her gap year in Germany provided her with valuable practical experience and why EDHEC Business School might have one of the best career centers for students.

In short

Coming to Europe to gain practical business knowledge

After finishing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in her native Brazil, Julia Schäfer Barreto was left wanting more. She had an overview of the business fundamentals, but wanted to expand her knowledge by studying a master’s degree.

“When you do a bachelor’s – particularly in Brazil but also I think in Europe – you don’t have a deep knowledge of the practicalities of the business world,” she tells MASTERGRADSCHOOLS. “You study a lot of theory, you study a lot of the fundamentals, but you don’t have any contact with companies, you don’t have the practical knowledge that a business school can give you.”(00:13)

Unsure of where to go next, Julia sought the advice of friends and family. One member of her family recommended EDHEC Business School in France, where they had already studied. With a penchant for the French way of life and impressed by the school’s ranking, Julia started to look into EDHEC.

“I wanted to live in France because I like the culture, I like the way that people live, but I would say that for EDHEC the main reasons were the recommendations I got and the rankings that EDHEC has,” she explains. (01:07)

A careers center that is a “complete coaching platform”

When searching for a business school, one of the things that stood out most to Julia about EDHEC was their career service. From organizing job fairs to teaching her negotiation skills, she sees EDHEC’s careers center as the “complete coaching platform.”

“In my opinion it’s one of the best career centers in a business school because from what I know, [other] business schools don’t provide as many services as EDHEC. And it’s a service for life, so this is something that really triggered my attention when looking for a business school,” Julia explains. (01:37)

EDHEC’s career center also provided Julia with the direction she needed to plot the next steps of her journey. They helped her to organize a gap year in Germany, which fitted in perfectly with her objective of widening her knowledge about the European market.

“As a Brazilian, I have no European citizenship for instance, so the first thing they help you with is visa issues,” she tells us. “For me, I studied at EDHEC in France but I did my gap year in Germany, so they helped me with this transition.” (03:43)

Using a gap year to find your next steps

The next stage of Julia’s journey took her to Germany for a gap year – but she wasn’t there to backpack around the country. Instead, she used her time to apply the knowledge gained in her master’s program and also complete multiple internships, which gave her valuable insights into the automotive and food industries.

“The gap year provides you with the opportunity first to put into practice what you learned, but also to give you an idea of which industry you would like to integrate after you finish your master’s program,” she elaborates. “It is an experimental phase for me where you can try multiple internships and then figure out what you really want to do for your master’s specialization, but also [what you want to do] after graduation.” (05:44)

Unsure of her next steps, Julia turned back to the trusty EDHEC careers team to guide her. After learning of her desire to expand her understanding of European markets, they suggested a double degree at one of their partner universities. Julia eventually settled on Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

How EDHEC gave Julia the practical business knowledge she craved

Julia arrived in Europe eager for more practical business experience – and EDHEC more than delivered. Her double degree is giving her ample opportunity to gain more professional experience and start to understand the world of business.

“You have both the degree – which is a Master’s in Management – but also a master’s in strategy or marketing or consulting. So in the end you have two degrees in a three-year program, where you would also have professional experience in the middle,” she explains. (11:11)

As part of her double degree, Julia also had to choose a specialization. That gave her the freedom to choose her own path and explore a potential career in entrepreneurship: “I chose Strategy & Innovation because I wanted to create my own startup. This is what I found that would be the best path for me.” (10:13)

When it comes to your career, exploring several different paths is all part of the journey. More than anything, it seems Julia’s time in Europe has given her the time and space she needs to find her own path.

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