Meet LFC Student Gabriel Esber Elias: "We need to find new ways to live. We need to think in different terms, not just economics and politics"

On his insightful trip from Canada to Brazil, with no plane tickets involved, Gabriel Esber Elias realized he wanted to continue with his studies.

Having got Bachelor’s degree in Business and several years of work experience, Gabriel felt he wanted to do something new that could make an impact. He thus decided to head to Finland to learn more about questions related to social justice and welfare, which is when he found out about the track Governance for Sustainable Change in the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change. Now Gabriel’s goals are to learn as much as he can, both from theory and interaction with people, and apply the acquired knowledge in his home country Brazil. “Stop thinking and apply!”, Gabriel encourages all potential LFC students. Meet LFC Student Gabriel Esber Elias!


Please, tell me about yourself. Who are you, where do you come from, what is your educational background?

– My name is Gabriel, I’m from Bazil. I studied I Business back home. I’m from a city called Ribeiro Preto, which is about 300 kilometers from São Paolo. I studied there at the university, did my Bachelor’s Studies in Business. When I was studying, it was quite common to have an internship. So pretty much from my second year until my last year I worked and studied. In Brazil it is quite common to study at night when you work full-time, which can be quite tough sometimes. But that was my academic life: a mix of working and studies. I finished my Bachelor’s Studies when I was 22 – I’m 30 years old now.

Where were you working? How was that related to your studies?

– It was totally related to my studies. I had three different internships. The first was in the City Hall, the second was in a chemical company and the third was in agribusiness industry. They call the city where I lived the ‘Agribusiness capital of Brazil’, because there are a lot of sugar cane mills, which produce sugar and ethanol from sugar cane. I was working in the recruitment department. I first worked there for one year. In Brazil it is common to have an internship and then become a regular employee, officially hired. So after one year they hired me. I worked there one year as an intern and one year as an official employee. This company was then sold to another multinational company, which is when I moved to São Paolo. In total I worked two years in my city and three years in São Paolo. That is quite common in Brazil that people who work in business move to São Paolo. All in all that was a good experience: I could experience the difference between working in a large family-owned company and a multinational company. In the family company, you have less bureaucracy as you often know the owners. It is easier to get in touch with the owners and sometimes things are faster. In a multinational company there are more processes, more bureaucracy, more managers, more hierarchy…

I really liked to work in São Paolo – it is a very multicultural city in Brazil. Once I moved there, there were people from all Brazil, working in the same office. In Brazil it’s a lot about differences between the cities. The environment in São Paolo is much faster, much busier: it’s all about business. It can be stressful, but also very nice.

Can you tell more about your personal interests? What are your hobbies?

– I love sports, all kind of sports. My favourite type of sport is tennis. I also love football. Now I have been busier with school, which of course is not an excuse, but I like very much running, volleyball, tennis, hiking… I also like to watch sports. Watching and playing sports is one of my hobbies. It’s good for the mind! I also like to travel. Everybody does, right? I have never met anyone who doesn’t like to travel. But I like to travel by myself. I have nice experiences about that. For a while I lived in Canada and I travelled from Canada to Brazil without catching any flights – just by bus or hitchhiking.

Why was this experience so important to you?

– I think it was good for reflection, to think. I also think it’s always about the people you meet. Of course, I went to amazing places, the most beautiful places. But what I realized, it’s always about the people. When I lived in São Paolo, as in big cities, everyone walks very fast, eats very fast, just looks down… Even in the escalators they walk. Although São Paolo is a very big place, people don’t interact that much and people are very suspicious, because it can be scary to live in a big city. The most important thing I learned on my journey was to trust people. Anyone. Talk with people and try to learn from everybody. It was an amazing experience. And that is when I decided to come back to studies. I realized I want to do something else, I want to do something. I have been to many poor places and I was thinking that maybe I can do something. I realized that I don’t want to study Business anymore, but decided to find a programme that is related to Public Administration.

How did you find out Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change?

– I returned from this trip to Brazil in the beginning of 2016, which is when I had made my mind that I want to study. The first option was to study abroad. If it had not worked, I would have studied in Brazil as we still have good universities in Brazil. I wanted to study abroad because, of course, I wanted to learn from the university, but also from the country, the environment. I thought that Finland as a Nordic country can offer so much to learn about social questions and welfare. That was when I started to search about universities in Finland, checking pretty much every university. And when I saw this programme ‘Leadership for Change’ and read the introduction, saying something about the need to do things in different ways and together, it sounded very interesting to me. That was when I chose this programme: I applied only for this programme in Finland.
The reason why I chose this programme is that it doesn’t tackle with just one issue. Many issues, such as social or environmental issues, don’t concern only one specific area. These issues are at the same time broad, but also very specific. I thought that I could get a broad knowledge here and maybe later go into specifics in one area. I really like the idea that we need to do new things. I think that the way we live to day is nearly exhausting. We need to find new ways to live. We need to think in different terms, not just economics and politics. Rather, we have to mix everything: we have to mix environmental approach, business, public administration… It’s all related. I think that is what makes this programme so special.

Why did you choose Governance/Administration track?

– I chose Governance for Sustainable Change because I wanted to see the other side. In my country there are many good things, but somehow things don’t go ahead. There are so many good ideas and good projects, but they are too small or they just die at some point. So I thought that maybe I can learn something and come back to my country and apply there what I have learned, maybe being able to change something.

What are your thoughts about studying in the University of Tampere?

– My first impression was that it’s very informal. On my first week when I arrived, I expected people to be all dressed up, especially the people who were introducing themselves. The informality seemed very nice to me! Another thing that I tell everyone when I talk about the system here is that it is super flexible. You make your own curriculum. Of course, you have some mandatory courses, but you can take any course from any faculty, and I think that is amazing. That is really amazing. I think interaction with people here is very nice. Finland may not be super multicultural country, but the environment at the university, especially in the master’s programme in Leadership for Change, is very nice as you’re able to get in touch with different people. You are not going to learn only from your professors, but you also learn from your friends and colleagues.

What about Tampere? What is your perception of the city?

– I love the green environment. I have been running in the green areas, in the parks, different tracks… And it feels so good! Once I was running on the street, and I noticed the air was so pure. It was Sunday and there was nobody on the street. A car passed by me, and I could feel this smoke. I thought that in other cities you are used to the smoke, but here in Tampere the air is so pure that you can really feel it. I love the nature, the nature here is so good. Also, even though there is this wintertime darkness, the city offers a lot for students. There is always something going on and it’s good to keep you busy. Many things work very well here. For example, I live in Lukonmäki, which some people say is far, but for me it is 15 minutes by bus when the bus is busy! Just perfect. And the bus stop is just out of my building, which is so convenient. I also like the size of the city: it is not small, not big, and you have plenty of options to do. I would really recommend anyone to come here. It is a lovely city.

What do you wish to get from your studies?

– My first goal is to learn as much as I can. And when I mean learning, I don’t mean just reading articles. Like I mentioned, it is also about interaction with people. I think that is part of these studies and part of life experience: learning from professors, students, anything I can. My second goal is that I want to bring to my country and apply there the knowledge that I learn here.

What would you say to people who are considering whether they should apply to this master’s degree programme?

– I would say that stop thinking and apply! This place is amazing. You learn so much. Don’t expect you are going to have an easy life, but it is so great that when you finish an assignment, you notice that you have learned something that you didn’t know before.


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