Embracing the Uncomfortable
Adventure and growth often present themselves through the door of discomfort. That’s what Dhillon School of Business alumni, Felipe Civita Ferreira (BMgt ’15), learned long ago.
At age 17, that philosophy drove him to leave Sao Paulo, Brazil and journey to Calgary. Now 25, Ferreira was recently named to the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 Under 30 list, and you might say that his ability to embrace discomfort is what led him there.
Felipe Civita Ferreira embraced discomfort and adventure throughout his educational journey. “When I finished high school, I wasn’t sure what to do next,” says Ferreira. “I sat down with my parents and decided a good way to kick-start the first year out of high school was to study language abroad.”
That soon became a plan to go to Calgary for five months, study English and return to Brazil for undergraduate studies in international relations or business.
“My biggest and first adventure was coming to Canada,” he says.
So, he left his home city of 22 million people and headed to Canada, without proficiency in English. Two months into his stay, Ferreira saw an opportunity to study in Alberta. He passed his English proficiency exam and started looking for universities.
“It sounds funny, but it was kind of meant to be,” Ferreira explains.
He describes waiting for a bus one day when he saw an ad for the University of Lethbridge.
“I went to my professor at the English school and asked him if he knew about the university. He said he had a few good friends that had gone there, and that it was a great school in a smaller city.”
Ferreira applied to the International Management degree program within the then Faculty of Management and was accepted.
“That’s how the journey started,” says Ferreira. “I never left Brazil intending to get a formal education here.”
Ferreira did, however, always intend to study internationalization.
“I recently went back to see my family in Brazil and found an essay I wrote when I was 12 that talked about globalization,” he explains. “I thought, what a nerd! Who at 12 writes about this? It’s been a passion my whole life.”
The interrelated aspect of global business management enlivens Ferreira.
“The international business field changes all the time, and everything is so incredibly interconnected – how a war in country A has an effect in country J. I wanted to study how cross-cultural management applied in the real world and how to effectively conduct business internationally without angering people.”
Studying international management in a positive and nurturing environment was also important.
“The fact that uLethbridge is a smaller school, classes are smaller, the cost of living is lower than most major cities and the community is really good – I care about that. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with faculty and staff, so for me the University of Lethbridge was an easy choice.”
But easy choices weren’t what Ferreira made throughout his degree.
Ferreira and a friend established Wandering in the Wilderness as a way to help immigrants cope with the stress of coming to a new country. “I wanted to find places that would take me so out of my comfort zone that I’d have to be patient, resilient and adaptable,” he says.
Ferreira recounts the work-study trips to Malaysia, Hungary and South Korea that he took as part of the international management program. The effects of those uncomfortable experiences were life changing.
“They positioned me to adapt to other cultures, and they positioned me to where I am now and the job I got after university – consulting for two-and-a-half years. The experiences at the U of L set me up for success beautifully.”
Dhillon School of Business International Management/Policy and Strategy professor Dr. Luis Escobar says that Ferreira often spoke to other students about his international experiences and the value they added to his education and professional career.
“He motivated students to take the risk and embrace the international exchange opportunities offered in our program and to learn by being exposed to a different culture,” says Escobar.
Ferreira also believes that small acts of benevolence have the potential to drive widespread, positive change. Addressing social responsibility, a core value in the Dhillon School of Business, Ferreira says, “there is a lot of talk about big changes – climate change and social problems we’re having in the world. For individuals living in Canada, it’s quite terrifying. How am I supposed to contribute to changing this?
“When I look at social responsibility in a global environment I look at the small scale – what can I do in my own reach that will impact my surroundings? By doing this, you contribute to the bigger picture.”
His words come from lived experience. As a newcomer to Canada, Ferreira admits he struggled with mental health. While living in Calgary after graduation in 2017, he and a friend wanted to do something to help newcomers to the country.
“It’s stressful, it’s heavy,” Ferreira says about the immigration process. “I think a lot of new immigrants can’t find ways to cope with that because they’re working so much and have a family to take care.”
So, Ferreira and his friend decided to create a program where newcomers to Canada could alleviate their stress through an educational hiking tour in the wilderness. The two contacted the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society (CIES) and outlined their plan. Outdoor companies would provide supplies for the participants and Ferreira and his friend would guide the hikes. CIES gave them its blessing and Wandering in the Wilderness was born.
This past summer, two groups of eight travelled to the Alberta backcountry for the first Wandering in the Wilderness excursions. Leaders, including Ferreira, focused on educating the teams on the environment they were in, its history, trail etiquette and how they could return without formal guides. The initiative earned Ferreira recognition from the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation. Ferreira says plans are underway for another cohort of hikers to go through the program this summer.
Ferreira, who is currently pursuing a Masters of Global Business (MGB), credits his parents for his incredibly adventurous and courageous spirit.
“They’ve always been telling me that you’re only as good as your next adventure. I learned I can’t just stop at one place because you’re only as good as what you do next. And if you sit down and wait for something, chances are it won’t come. You have to go after it.”
Thoroughly embracing adventure, even when it feels uncomfortable, is Ferreira’s best advice.
“Every experience is a good experience. There’s always going to be a positive. Even if it may not look like it at first, later on it makes sense.”