Interview with new Harvard College Brazilian Admit Camilo Vasconcelos

June 19, 2019
By Tiago Genoveze

New Harvard College Brazilian Admit Camilo Vasconcelos

Congratulations on your early admission to Harvard College! Can you describe your thoughts and feelings when you received this special news?

Thank you very much! First, I would like to say it is an honor to participate in this interview. Being a mentee in DRCLAS´ Mentoring and Language Acquisition in Brazil (MLAB) program helped shape my identity and introduced me to many opportunities of which I was not aware. I am proud to have participated in such a program and thankful to DRCLAS and all its staff.

I vividly remember the moment I learned that I had been admitted to the Harvard College Class of 2023. Optimistic as always, I felt like I had a real shot at getting in. Part of that is because my MLAB mentor was --and still is-- remarkably supportive and helped me quite a lot throughout the application process.

However, it does not matter how confident you are, Harvard feels like a dream and not even the most incredibly perfect student would feel sure about being accepted.

December 13th came around and so did my insecurities. As the time for the admissions decision release approached, I decided I would not check my status. I would leave that for another day. Like any other teenager, I opened my Instagram account and scrolled through my feed to pass the time. Little did I know that I followed Harvard Admissions and, to my surprise, I saw one of its posts saying "Welcome Class of 2023." The results were out and now I needed to see them.

When I read the decision, I was shocked and skeptical. At that instant, I thought everything except "I got in." I remember screenshooting the page and sending it to my MLAB mentor as well as the coordinator at EducationUSA to know if I was reading right. Now, after having some months to digest the information, I feel happy and excited about the next four years. I hope to learn much more and navigate Harvard resources to impact peoples´ lives.

Could you tell us a little more about yourself, such as your background and your academic and extracurricular interests?

I am 19 and live in Fortaleza. In 6th grade, I entered the Military School and was exposed to many extracurriculars and could explore interests I did not know I had. Influenced by my incredibly competent teachers, I discovered a love for English. I also learned to love Biology and Science Olympiads while participating in the science club. Because of my academic performance, I was invited to study at Colégio Ari de Sá on a full scholarship. The transition was not easy, but I made it.

At Ari de Sá, I explored my interests even more. Given my interest in STEM, I attended preparatory classes for the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA). However, I quickly noticed that I also liked the humanities and switched classes. I participated in Model UNs, volunteered in a project with kids in my city, and helped edit my class' yearbook.

Now, I volunteer in SuperMentor, a website about the college application process for Brazilian students. There, I edit my colleagues' articles and make sure they are accessible and complete. I am very passionate about this project since I know many high-achieving students that know virtually nothing about opportunities abroad. We want to give these students the tools to change their realities.

You participated in programs such as Primeira Chance and DRCLAS' Mentoring and Language Acquisition in Brazil (MLAB) in recent years. How did these programs, and/or any others, influence your trajectory?

Not everyone has access to the same opportunities in life. In this matter, I think Primeira Chance was particularly important to me. Studying at Ari de Sá is a privilege that I don’t think I would have had without Primeira Chance. Even though I had a full scholarship, there were still expenses I would have to pay: uniforms, books, and meals. Primeira Chance covered all these expenses and also provided guidance and vocational support throughout my three years at Ari de Sá.

DRCLAS'  MLAB program was also vital in my academic journey. Engaging in this program was a truly transformative experience. It gave me the tools to analyze many different perspectives when thinking about social problems. The diverse themes discussed in the immersion helped me discover more not only about the U.S., but also about Brazil – and myself. It taught me to value my roots.

Another great aspect of MLAB was the people I met. Both mentors and mentees were very accessible, and I became friends with many of the participants. Every time we meet is a celebration. My mentor taught me more about applying to American colleges, helped edit my essays, and motivated me when I thought I was not able to carry out this challenging process.

Although these sources were extremely helpful, EducationUSA's Opportunity Funds program was also vital to my acceptance. Even with all the support I had received, I still needed to fund my application. Since it is an expensive process, my family would not be able to pay for all the tests, translations, and books I needed to study. EducationUSA covered all these expenses and is still helping me financially with costs related to preparing to study abroad (Visa, SEVIS fee, flights, and emergency funds). Opportunity Funds also provided me with an advisor and an English Teaching Assistant that were crucial to preparing the entirety of my application.

You'll arrive at Harvard this coming August for your freshman orientation. What are you most excited, curious and/or nervous about as you prepare for your college career?

Overall, I am very excited about arriving at Harvard. I visited the college in April and learned about the academic and extracurricular aspects of the school. I also met some of my classmates and the community of Brazilians that study there. It was an astonishing experience, principally for someone who had never visited another country.

I am also very excited to volunteer in PBHA, meet new people, explore my interests and find new ones, learn other languages, and participate in MLAB again, but now as a mentor. I am curious about which path I am going to take. I want to truly explore and learn more about my own identity.

I am kind of nervous about writing papers for school. Academic papers are very different from the essays I wrote in high school. Nevertheless, I accept the challenge and will do my best to do well in college and make the most of my time at Harvard.

See also: Brazil