“What SI offers is much more than a scholarship, it’s a real network that bring people together, future leaders and innovative practitioners.”

We interviewed SI Scholarship alumnus Gabriel Madeira about his experience of being a student in Sweden and what advice he has for those who are interested in the SI Scholarship for Global Professionals.
Portrait picture of Gabriel Madeira

Gabriel is from Brazil and worked as a mental health practitioner before coming to Sweden. After years in the health sector, he witnessed how public health was becoming less and less prioritized and underfinanced. After the global covid-19 outbreak and a political crisis affecting Brazil, Gabriel decided to find means to improve his country, and he choose to do so through educating himself first.

Hi Gabriel! Tell us, what was your motivation to study in Sweden?

– Hi, I am delighted to have this conversation! As a start, the wish to study in Sweden comes from my understanding of the high-quality policies for welfare adopted in the Nordic countries compared to developing countries, such as Brazil, that face neoliberalism, underfunding and corruption within welfare. I always fancied the equality that Nordic societies has shown and how they’ve found elegant solutions for public investment in education, health, and public policies to thrive.

– Secondly, when I was working in the hospital sector in 2020, I read a book by a Brazilian journalist living in Sweden, Claudia Wallin, that compared how Sweden dealt with corruption among politicians in comparison to Brazil. This was particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic, when my country uncovered many political scandals related to corruption, money laundry. There was a lack of commitment to the Brazilian society and in taking Covid outbreak seriously. It made me feel sad and angry, wanting to do something and finding different perspectives to address public health in Brazil.

So, you found the SI scholarship, what was it about the scholarship that was interesting to you?

– Besides the financial support and the opportunity of studying abroad, what motivated me to apply for the SI scholarship was the offer of an empowering environment with activities to support our academic and professional career. I came to find out that what SI offers is much more than a scholarship, it is a real network that bring people together, future leaders and innovative practitioners.

You spent two years in Sweden studying the master’s programme Public health within health and social welfare at Mälardalen University, what was that like?

– The experience is never as you imagine it. It’s always much broader. I had the chance to dive deeper into epidemiological and medical aspects of public health. In my master’s thesis I investigated the Swedish mental health sector. Due to the particularities of the Swedish system, working with epidemiological data here is close to ideal; research is taken very seriously in policy-making and public health agencies can more accurately retrieve health indicators from the population, something that many countries, like my own, struggle with. This gave me lots of hope and inspiration!

And besides the academic, what did you enjoy about Sweden?

– Being in Sweden has allowed me to see so many new things and meet new people. It helped me grow personally and be more mature to some things in life. I injured my foot after a sports accident and had my very first medical surgery, so I got to experience health care as well. Nevertheless, I was able to delve into the particularities of Swedish traditions such as Midsummer, Fika, the Lagom-lifestyle, the Swedish language, and so on. I also made a few good friends that will probably follow me through life itself.

What do you take with you after these years? How do you imagine impacting your country?

– I really hope that I can make some relevant impact in decision-making policies involving some of the knowledge I’ve gathered during my time in Sweden. I hope to bring back my experience and benefit my community on many different levels, academically, culturally but also from a political view. I also believe we are not able to fully predict the extent of which our actions will lead to the future, but I trust that whenever you stick with your ideals and the changes that an education abroad implies, that will eventually translate into something very good for your home country.

What is your advice to students considering Sweden and the SI Scholarship for Global Professionals?

– First, I advise you to try! Don’t lose such a precious opportunity to develop yourself further as an individual and a professional. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to bring international knowledge to your local community and to Sweden as well. This experience might open many doors for you. I advise you to carefully read through the program syllabus of your desired master program, see videos about the experience of living in Sweden and do some research about the town you aim to move to. The earlier you start, the less you rush.

– I think I started to learn about the practical aspects of Sweden a year before I applied for the scholarship. Think about yourself and your preferences: would you rather live in a quiet city, or you prefer the rush and chaos of the bigger ones? It always comes with pros and cons. It might be a little more expansive to live in Stockholm instead of a smaller city close to it. Also, it goes without saying how beautiful Sweden is and how that could be a motivation of its own to go through the selection process. Whatever part of the country you choose to be, its landscapes and seasons will never bore you stiff.