student experience:

Smart Leaders – Smart Cities program

in partnership with the university of illinois and wu university

Smart Leaders – Smart Cities  program, developed in partnership with the University of Illinois – Gies, WU University, Illinois in Vienna Programs (IiVP) and Campus b took place in Vienna from 16 to 26 May 2022.

Four Brazilian students from Campus b’s partner universities  were selected to participate in a virtual program developed by the University of Illinois and Campus b related to smart cities with a focus on sustainability. As participants in the program, which  took place in April 2022, these students were awarded full and partial scholarships to be able to attend the program in Vienna.

gies scholars 2022 virtual program
on-site experience in vienna

In Vienna, Brazilian students joined GIES and WU students, totaling 70+ participants who were distributed into 12 project groups that worked together to present a solution for 3 different personas who presented a problem related to mobility in Austria. Each group was then challenged to develop a 1-3 min video presenting the solution found as the final deliverable.

In addition to the project activities, students participated in classes, lectures with renowned researchers, company visits, CEO talks, and tours. The students also had the support of a mentor to edit the content of the final video.

We asked some questions to our 4 Campus b Scholars who represented their respective universities in Brazil.

In Vienna, these scholarship recipients represented all other Brazilian students who have gone through some activity or program that we have organized over the past several years, especially the more than 400 Brazilian scholarship recipients who participated in our virtual experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Amanda Lara

• Business Administration student at USP (São Paulo, SP)

Fernando Moretto

• Business Administration student at UNAERP (Ribeirão Preto, SP)

Gabriel Brina

• Production Engineering student at UFTM (Uberaba, MG)

Thianna Aragão

• Business Administration and Marketing student at ESPM (Porto Alegre, RS)

1. How did it feel to arrive in Vienna and what were your expectations before the program?

Gabriel Brina

Vienna is a charming city and at the same time vibrates with innovation and centuries worth of history. I was extremely excited to participate in the program, to meet my colleagues who participated virtually in the first part of the experience in person. My expectations for what it would be like to participate in the program were very high. WU has an incredible structure and we were expecting to go through many academic and cultural activities.


“Arriving in Vienna was a very special moment for me, as it was the implementation of all my efforts up to that point. I’ve always dreamed of traveling to another country and arriving there gave me a very good feeling, that all the dedication was worth it. I was really excited to be there, to meet Americans, Austrians and to get to see the city.”


It was an inexplicable feeling. Literally the best experience I have ever had in my life. Being in another country is simply one of the best feelings I’ve ever had, I’m just more sure now than ever that the life I really want is abroad. My expectations for the program were high and they were very much met, especially given the sustainable vibe and being in a smart city.”


Before arriving in Vienna I felt immense butterflies in my stomach, afraid of not being able to connect with international students, fear of not being able to follow certain activities among other insecurities. However, when you get there and see this wonderful city full of culture and opportunities, the butterflies in your stomach go away and I was able to enjoy the beginning of a great experience. I already knew it would be a great opportunity, but I had no dimension of the size of the trajectory that I was starting.”

2. Tell us a little about the process leading up to the beginning of the on-site program: from your participation in the virtual program up until you discovered that you were selected for the scholarship.

Thianna Aragão

"The whole process was a big challenge. Reconciling online meetings, weekly activities, the internal pressure to do well in the project and other responsibilities in life was not an easy task, but the whole process was a great learning experience.

The online program was very holistic and essential for our preparation to arrive in Vienna. We had lectures with great professionals who included extremely rich and relevant content, activities, required readings, the opportunity to solve problems faced by extremely important companies and, finally, and perhaps the coolest thing, the exchange with other cultures. When we got there, we had all this plus the opportunity to discover incredible places and stories that will stay in our memory forever.”


“I learned a lot from the virtual program, I believe it was very necessary for the on-site program, as it gave us a bit of a background on the subject of sustainability. I was very hopeful that I would actually win the scholarship, but at the same time I was very afraid that I wouldn’t, as it was indeed a once in a lifetime experience. But, on a Friday, they announced that I had placed 3rd, and that I would get a partial scholarship, but if I’m being honest, I was initially  very discouraged when I found out, because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to go because I thought that it would be absurdly expensive, but it was such a generous grant that I managed to make it.”


“I found out about the project by chance, because a professor at my college had shared it on LinkedIn. I really wanted to start developing my English and take advantage of opportunities related to education. I liked the project proposal and applied; besides, knowing that there was the possibility of winning a trip excited me a lot. The first session with my American project group was really cool and I was able to begin to understand some cultural differences. We managed to build a great relationship throughout the project, so doing the assignments was a nice time and full of cultural exchanges. We won the first challenge and that really cheered up the whole group. Each one of us sought to contribute to the project. The day we had the final session with the announcement I was so happy, it didn’t seem real. I celebrated with my parents and started counting the days to go to Vienna.”


"The University of Illinois and Campus B prepared a well-structured case competition, where it was possible to come together with a group of American students to develop solutions to a myriad of challenges, over the course of those weeks.

Having been selected to participate in the on-site program abroad was a great achievement. A great sense of adaptability was needed to reconcile the online activities with college and other responsibilities. The recognition showed that, with good organization and intercultural communication, it is possible to achieve individual goals in line with those of the group.”

3. What was the biggest thing you learned during this journey?

Fernando Moretto

One of the biggest things I learned was that I am capable of achieving great goals. Even before I got this scholarship, I didn’t have much faith in myself. Now, however, that’s changed a lot. In addition, I think that, along with this notion that I’m capable of achieving my goals, I learned more about how to get out of my comfort zone and to have fun outside of it, because we miss out on lots of experiences out of fear or laziness to step outside of it. I wouldn’t have done 60% of the things I did there if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone.”


I was able to learn the importance of soft skills, even more so in an intercultural context. I realized how important it is to build a good relationship with the group, which made the project easier. I also learned that there is no one right way to do things and it is very beneficial to look at situations from another point of view.”


My biggest learning was that for a city to become a “smart city”, it is necessary to pull from different sources. Not only using the most advanced technologies, as in the case of the city’s subway line, Wiener Linien, but also understanding the cultural characteristics of its people and their history.“


“I would say that it is practically impossible to say just one thing I learned because everything was necessary for the experience to be complete. To have an experience like this is to be sure that we will never be the same again;it is as if a new world of opportunities was opening up before our eyes. Those 11 days seemed like both an eternity due to the amount we learned and experienced and also like it went by way too fast because we were left with that feeling of wanting more.”

4. What was it like to be part of an experience with so many different people and cultures and what can you learn from it?

Amanda Lara

"We are always very accustomed to our own culture and to a single way of interpreting events so it was really cool to know the different ways of looking at such everyday situations. I learned a lot about putting myself in someone else's shoes."


“It was magical. Meeting people from different corners of the world was very magical for me, especially because I have a big dream of living abroad, so being in contact with people from other countries was a very rich experience for me. I learned that I’m very similar to Americans and Austrians, which gave me great inner peace, as it gave me a sense that my place is really out there.“


“When participating in the program at WU, it was interesting to observe how people have different ways of communicating within a project. This could be seen both in the international student community at the University of Illinois and in the Austrian students. Different ways of deciding which route to take to complete an activity, for example. Other more subtle traits like punctuality and tardiness are interesting and I was able to learn a lot from that too.”


“Having the opportunity to deal with different cultures has a number of benefits. It entails learning about the details of that country, developing intercultural skills, broadening our horizons, getting to know the plurality of way of thinking, among many other things. It’s literally getting to know the world from another point of view and I believe there is nothing more empowering than that, to go outside of our comfort zone.“

5. After participating in a virtual and an on-site learning experience, what would you point out as the greatest advantages and disadvantages for each format?

Gabriel Brina

"For the online model, the power of scale is undeniable, making it possible to have experiences with people from Colombia to New Zealand without leaving your home. This allows more people to have contact with one another and allows them the opportunity to participate in these experiences.

A disadvantage lies in the limit of what technology can deliver, since only sounds and images do not translate all of an experience, just as a show broadcast on TV is different from a live concert. Getting to know the Austrian Alps, as I had the opportunity to get to do so in this program with Campus B, is an experience that can only be fully lived in person, despite the advances in virtual reality that exist today. The face-to-face model allows for greater immersion in culture, society and routines. It allows understanding nuances that virtual tools are limited in showing. It also allows you to take advantage of different aspects not limited to the university and lectures, but, as in the case of Vienna, for example, the cultural aspects, cuisine and nightlife of the city. However, it has a much smaller possibility of scale, since higher costs are involved in this type of experience.


""The biggest advantage of the virtual experience is being able to connect with people from different places, which is more difficult in person.

I believe that considering this option makes experiences more accessible to more people. One disadvantage is that it can be more difficult to form bonds. The on-site experience is very enriching. Even participating in the virtual model, I felt that the face-to-face was a watershed for me. It’s wonderful to be with people from another culture, because the conversation flows more naturally. Furthermore, we were in Vienna, so that really raised the bar too! I think one downside is that it can be difficult to reach a wider audience.”


“Regarding the virtual experience, its biggest disadvantage is not being face to face with people. However, its biggest advantage is the ability to participate in a program with a college with a strong name and with people from that region without having to pay anything for it. About the on-site experience, there are simply no disadvantages, everything is an advantage, because you really connect with people and have the opportunity to explore stunning places in a first world country, in addition, learning when you are in person is huge.”


I believe that both models have advantages. In the virtual experience

we can do it from anywhere, we don’t need to stop our life to travel but,

on the other hand, I believe that in person we have the complete experience because we actually get to know people and places.”

6. What is the impact that international education initiatives like this can have on a student's life?

Thianna Aragão

"An international experience has a huge impact on the life of a student. Experiencing other realities, expanding the range of relationships, meeting different people, improving other languages, developing the ability to adapt to different environments.

This is all in addition to being able to add this to your resume when you return to Brazil for professional opportunities as well as networking for opportunities abroad.


""It can have a lot of impact. I believe it's something that can make you stand out in an application process for a job opening. But the main impact it had was being able to make a dream come true that maybe I couldn't have experienced on my own, without the incentive of a scholarship.

Since I was little, I always had the dream of going abroad, and only now I managed to fulfill it. Therefore, the opportunity to study at a beautiful university like the one I studied at, in a first world country that is 9000km away from where I live was simply something I will NEVER forget. I don’t think I ever learned as much as I did during that opportunity, apart from the places I had the chance to visit.”


“I had never traveled by plane and an international experience seemed very far away, so this initiative brought me closer to my dreams and showed me that it is possible. Being in Austria and getting to know such a different culture was surreal and opened my horizons to realize how many amazing things there are in the world. It has also awakened in me the desire to contribute to my country, so that we can have better education and a better quality of life. This experience undoubtedly marked my life and will influence my next academic and professional steps.”


An international experience is extremely important for undergraduate students. Since we are used to our universities and our peers, it is more difficult to see how there are countless ways to solve problems and live in society, as well as different ways of working. Participating in international initiatives such as those at Campus B allows you to learn in practice, with relevant projects, how to exchange ideas and resolve conflicts on different topics.”

Our passion for the academic field has given us the privilege of actively collaborating with more than 80 universities, offering professional and extracurricular experience journeys directly impacting more than 4000 students.

Written by:

Daniela Barbosa - Campus b Team

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