Thayna De Lima Costa is Here to Say That it May be Hard, but it’s Nowhere Near Impossible!
By: Jeff Nazzaro
With a financial boost from a UCR University Extension Student Success Scholarship, Thayna De Lima Costa is now experiencing her dream of living and studying in the United States, pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in Engineering Management. For Thayna, this has meant not only leaving her native Mato Grosso do Sul, in the Central-West region of Brazil, but also saying goodbye to her family and a well-paying job. Leaving the comfort zone of her country and culture has been her greatest challenge as she works toward her ultimate goals.
“Dr. Elena Romine generously funded an endowed scholarship to fulfill opportunity…”
Dr. Elena Romine, a UCR University Extension Instructor for nearly 30 years, and well-known Russian author, generously funded an endowed scholarship in the memory of her late husband, Theodore “Joe” Joseph. Thayna was awarded the first scholarship. “It is the generosity of our donors, like Dr. Romine, that helps make these dreams for students, like Thayna, come true. Dr. Romine’s long history with our programs and students gives her a deep understanding of the special challenges international students may face, and we are always grateful for the support she gives,” added Dean Kevin Vaughn.
“The Student Success Scholarship was really important because I am from a humble family. We don’t have much to pay for our studies, and studying in the U.S. is so expensive,” said Thayna. “Being a student at UCR University Extension is one of my greatest achievements ever. I am from a small town and people don’t usually think about these types of opportunities, and how far you can get if you really follow your dreams and go for it.”
Prior to coming to the U.S., Thayna was a recent graduate of the prestigious Federal University of Grande Dourados, with a degree in Food Science and Engineering, working as a Quality Control Analyst at a Bello Alimentos poultry slaughterhouse near her hometown. She loved her job, but didn’t feel fulfilled, as bigger dreams up north called her name. So, after almost a year at the slaughterhouse, she left everything behind for a line of work that had nothing to do with her studies, in a country she knew precious little about.
“Thayna first came to the US in 2019 as an au pair…”
“I came to the U.S. first in 2019 and worked as an au pair in New York. In 2020, I moved to California to complete my second year as an au pair. It was an amazing experience, although so much harder than I ever thought it would be when I was in Brazil,” Thayna said. “You need to live with the host family, who are actually your bosses, and also there is the culture shock, aligned with caring for the kids and studying. It’s a lot to balance on your plate. It was really challenging, especially facing the COVID pandemic, where it was so hard to experience an exchange. However, I don’t regret this experience at all. I’m proud of pursuing this opportunity because it brought me so much more than what I expected. I’m sure if it wasn’t for the au pair program, I wouldn’t have gotten into the PGD program as soon as I did. My English skills improved a lot during my time in New York and California.”
Now, settled into the PGD program in Engineering Management, Thayna is looking forward to completing her studies, and then taking advantage of UCR University Extension’s Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunity, which will allow her to stay in the U.S. for three years while she gains crucial work experience. Following that, while she may well return to the food industry, her postgraduate training in Engineering Management, along with her OPT experience, will open up a lot of additional possibilities, and her career may take a new direction.
“Thayna’s dream was to return to the U.S. and continue her studies…”
“One of the things that brought me to UCR University Extension is the OPT opportunity they offer. As an international student, this is a really important aspect of the program, and a crucial step in my academic journey. I’ll be able to work toward building my career for three years in the U.S. It was an extremely important consideration for me—I was looking for a good school that I could get into that offered an excellent academic program, and the chance to gain professional experience. UCR University Extension checked all those boxes, and I researched schools a lot,” explained Thayna.
Thayna shared, “My acceptance into the PGD program has been such a source of inspiration to my family, and also my community. I have been told by school friends and people outside of my family that my drive for academic success has helped them accomplish goals in their own lives. This has encouraged me to continue to be an instrument of service to both my community back home, and my future community of fellow international students at UCR.”
For now, she is enjoying her studies and honing skills that she sees herself using as an effective engineering manager in the future, even if she doesn’t know where or in what industry. She is excited to see what piques her interest, and where her path leads. “I know my own skills and how good I can be in a variety of work situations, so I hope it can open up an opportunity to work here in the U.S. longer,” Thayna said. “I hope someone will recognize my talents.”
“I see where I am and where I was before, and I’m proud of myself…”
For other international students, or anyone looking to make a bold leap out of their comfort zone and into challenge mode, Thayna stresses, “You should visualize your best future, then maintain your focus on priorities—even when you don’t feel up to it. You have to picture yourself in the place you want to be. I encourage everyone to take the first step. You need to start doing something that leads you where you want to go. Everyone also needs to picture themselves in difficult situations, as well--like it is pouring rain and you need to go to work because you have bills to pay.’
“You’re going to see your friends hanging out on the weekends and you have to say, ‘No, I’m not going because I have to finish this project tonight.’ You need to picture yourself like that because there are days that we are super motivated and want to do everything and change the world, but this is maybe five days out of 100, and when it doesn’t come, we still need to do what needs to be done. Because I have been able to do that, I can look in the mirror and see where I am and where I was before, and I’m proud of myself,” Thayna continued.
Thayna concluded, “My scholarship opportunity has been a game changer in my journey, so thank you so much, Dr. Romine. I may not know today what I want to do tomorrow, but life is a surprise box and I’m excited to open mine, and discover myself as a successful graduate who can tell her story to people who also wish to pursue studies abroad. I can be a testament to show that it may be hard, but it is nowhere near impossible. I’m very excited to watch my future unfold.”
Thayna’s future is well on its way to being something remarkable. She worked hard this year and graduated from her PGD program in June 2022. Now, she is on her way to Bakersfield, California, where she will be an intern with world-famous Dreyer’s Ice Cream on their Research and Development team. We are so proud of her success and will keep you updated as she continues on her journey. Dreyer’s motto, “Bigger Dreams. Bigger Name” certainly applies to Thayna!