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UEL Road to Rio: Physiotherapy student Bruna to return to her homeland to volunteer at the Olympics


Bruna De Figueiredo, a Brazilian-born second-year physiotherapy undergraduate, can’t wait to get back home this summer after landing a job as a volunteer at the Rio Olympics – with funding from UEL’s Going Global scheme.

“I’m very excited to go back to Brazil and volunteer at the Olympics,” says Bruna, who is hoping to put her physiotherapy skills to good use if the right opportunity comes along.

“My plan was also to try and get an elective placement at Team GB but they decided not to take any students.

“I sent an email to the Olympics consulate, explaining that I was already volunteering at the Games, to see whether I could get a placement in physiotherapy in any other team.

“At the moment, I am still waiting to know what’s going to happen. If they’d find me a placement at the Olympics it’d be amazing. It would be a great opportunity for me personally and professionally and it’ll look good on my CV as well.”

In addition to her volunteering role, Bruna has also secured a five-week elective placement in her home city of Fortaleza in north-east Brazil. She will be working at the Antonio Prudente Hospital and the MM Thera Training Clinic – a private institute for children’s rehabilitation.

“I don’t know exactly the agenda yet but I know that I’ll be experiencing all the different fields: respiratory, neuro, orthopaedics etcetera. Also, I’ll be following up some patients, which means that I’ll be seeing them inside and outside the hospital.

“This kind of placement is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “Respiratory and neuroscience are the two fields I really want to specialise in. Thanks to a friend of mine, I was given this opportunity and I accepted it straight away.”

“It’ll be good for me to make a comparison and see how physiotherapy works in Brazil. I volunteered in a centre for dementia in my borough for three years before starting university so I know how the NHS works here but funnily enough I have no idea about my home country.”

Bruna moved to London 12 years ago to pursue her dream of becoming a physiotherapist.

“I don’t want to go back,” she says. “My whole life is here now. I’ve got three children who speak Portuguese with a very English accent and see Brazil only as mum’s country.”

Bruna is very enthusiastic about UEL and the course she is studying. Being a single mother, it hasn’t always been easy to manage. But, despite a few ups and downs, Bruna has always been determined to continue her studying.

“I’m a big fan of UEL. I think my course is outstanding and the support I’ve received so far has been great. Coming from Brazil, I know what it means not having any kind of support in education and I can say that what I have experienced and am still experiencing here is the complete opposite.

“When I started university, I had very difficult personal problems and I didn’t know whether to continue with my studies or not. In the end, I decided to stay on and had to do resit in the summer but I managed to pass. My lecturers were really supportive throughout that period.”

“One of the things I like the most is the fact that amongst 40 students, lecturers really recognise your effort. When I came back to UEL last September, my lecturers decided to give out trophies to students who really work hard. The grades didn’t really matter – it was just about the effort we put in.

“I wasn’t expecting to win but I was so happy when I found out I did. I thought I was doing just fine and that lecturers didn’t really notice my hard work, but they actually did. All the lecturers complimented me and said they were glad to see me succeed considering my initial situation.”

With summer just around the corner, Bruna is almost ready to pack for Rio.

“I’ll be away from July but I’ll be back in September just before the beginning of my final year. I’m not sure about what I’ll be doing after UEL.

“My little one is only six and I’ve spent four years in education without stopping, so maybe I’ll take a break and then do an MA. One thing is for sure, I really want to work for the NHS and make a difference.”