During Elis Valeria Anginski Cotosky’s first few years studying at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, she had a feeling she would find her way to Silicon Valley one day.
“I always knew I wanted to go to the U.S. for my exchange program, because of its highly competitive business landscape and focus on entrepreneurship,” she says. “I had heard of Berkeley before and knew it was in the heart of entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley.
“When I was in the middle of my third year of university,” she continues, “I discovered the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP). A friend of mine was also studying abroad in California and recommended this program to me.
“As a business major, I knew it would be the perfect program for me. I was also excited for the opportunity to live in the Bay Area.”
So Elis applied to BHGAP and was accepted for the Spring 2019 semester.
What was originally planned to be a one-semester study-abroad experience turned into a yearlong stay in the heart of entrepreneurship and innovation.
Elis, tell me more about your internship opportunity!
A visiting lecturer came to my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class. The woman mentioned that she was investing in this startup called Firework, a video-sharing platform similar to TikTok. She announced that there was a paid internship available that could be a great opportunity for BHGAP students. I was immediately interested and applied—just to see what would happen. I was accepted and was so excited for this opportunity!
There was, however, a challenge: My visa was valid for only one semester. The internship was originally only for the summer and it would require an entirely different visa type. But I was determined to make this dream a reality. Fortunately, the company worked with me and adjusted the internship to be a semester long, beginning in the fall! I was able to return to Brazil to renew the visa.
Once I returned to the U.S. in the fall, I was able to begin my internship. I worked as a Partnership Creator, connecting with well-known social media influencers. My role was to recruit them to join this new platform. It was similar to a sales role. I found it fun being a foreigner in this role, as it created a lot of conversation when doing sales.
This isn’t your first time doing an internship.
In Brazil, it is mandatory to do an internship during your studies. I was an intern at a renewable energy company called EREN do Brasil. After my BHGAP experience and Firework internship, I went on to work at Bain & Company, a management consulting company based in São Paulo, Brazil. This is where I work currently as a research consultant while finishing up my studies in Brazil.
What were the courses like with BHGAP?
The classroom dynamic stood out to me the most. In Brazil, the professors mostly just give a long lecture. With BHGAP, it was more of a discussion than a lecture. Now that I’m back in Brazil, I feel more involved in the classroom. I feel engaged, I raise my hand and ask questions more often. The professors here seem to enjoy the engagement, as well! I felt that all of the teachers were outstanding. I also enjoyed doing my coursework at home and then discussing the subject in class all together.
The courses that stood out to me the most were the Introduction to Entrepreneurship, High-Technology Marketing Management, and FinTech courses. I also took an environmental class called Principles of Natural Resource Management, which I enjoyed.
One thing I took away from professor Andrew M. Isaacs was when he said, “You can Google a lot of things and take many different classes, but what you learn here is more of the mindset, culture and interactions.”
How do these courses fit into your professional goals?
In the future I want to start my own company, so I will be able to use all of this knowledge back with me in Brazil. All the details I learned in BHGAP are important when starting your own company. I learned to not be afraid to fail as that is normal in this field.
What were your favorite memories from BHGAP?
I participated in a case study called Carbon180: Choosing a Winning Strategy for Carbon Removal. I had the opportunity to work on it with Professor Isaacs. Earlier in the semester, I had expressed my passion towards sustainability with him. We then decided to work on a case study that investigated how to be more carbon conscious. We researched NGO Carbon 180, which worked mainly on measures to capture carbon sessions for the atmosphere. This case study was eventually published by Harvard Business School. This was a big accomplishment for me and such a great experience!
What was your favorite program site visit?
This site visit had a large impact on me—it even made me tear up because of how beautiful the technology was! I was so amazed at how they made these images so perfect. This is not something you see every day in Brazil.
What were your top favorite things to do in Berkeley?
Outside of my studies, I enjoyed going to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes at the gym on campus (RSF) with friends. I also had fun going to the UC Berkeley basketball games and even playing on my own from time to time.
I also had the chance to travel around the U.S. My friends and I visited the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Hawaii, San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Lastly, I loved the food-delivery robots called Kiwibots. I loved ordering food from them and was amazed by this technology. I even wrote one of my final school papers on them!
Why should other international students want to go to BHGAP?
The dynamic of the classroom is unique and the professors are all excellent. The international cohort allows you to meet so many different types of amazing people. My best friends in the program were from India and Finland.
We were very different people, but I learned so much from them. We still stay in touch more than a year later!
What advice would you give to a future Berkeley Global student?
Be ready to take on so many new opportunities! There are always new things to do in Berkeley and you should just go for it. If you say yes to more things, then you will get the best out of your study-abroad experience.
Also, take your time and do the school work well. It will pay off in the end. Plus, most school work is really interesting.
“There are always new things to do in Berkeley and you should just go for it. If you say yes to more things, then you will get the best out of our study abroad experience.”
What does earning this certificate mean to you?
It was more about changing my mindset. I think it is also important for my résumé—now I can say I went to a “big-name” university. However, it was even more about the experiences. Without Berkeley, I wouldn’t have found an amazing internship in the Silicon Valley and met amazing new people.