Our Testimonials: Maria

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Our Testimonials: Maria


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Meet Maria Clara from Brazil

Student of Human Rights and Multi-level Governance


"Besides being a charming city, filled with beautiful historical buildings and piazzas, the city combines the traditional Italian culture and a young and diverse university environment with international students from worldwide"


Meet Maria Clara

About myself 

My name is Maria Clara, I am a Brasilian lawyer and former Master's student at UNIPD. After 3 years of working with criminal defense, I decided to dig into the field of Human Rights and joined the master's program during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. During the first semester, I followed the courses fully online from Brasil, facing language and time barriers. Finally, in April 2021, I was able to move to Italy and get to live the full experience of studying abroad, which has always been a dream.

Besides living in Padova, I spent a semester abroad in Antwerp, Belgium, as an Erasmus Mundus mobility student. At the University of Antwerp, I followed courses on European and International Law. During this exchange period, I had the idea for my master's thesis about the role of Regional Human Rights Courts in dealing with structural obligations through collective reparations that could lead to institutional change. Back at UNIPD, I had Professor Sara Pennicino as my thesis supervisor.

I am happy to say that last November I concluded my master's with honors archiving the maximum grade, while also experiencing a wide range of activities and having the opportunity to know different cultures, people and places. Now, graduated, I wish to pursue a career in the legal field in which I can combine my experience with criminal justice and valuable knowledge on human rights and institutional multi-level interaction. Currently, I am back at my hometown, Vitória, an island in the southeast of Brasil.

My greatest passion and hobby is literature, both reading and writing. I think literature can be an amazing way of experiencing different perspectives and developing empathy. I have as a moto "to love and to change the things interest me the most" ("Amar e mudar as coisas me interessa mais") from the Brazilian singer, Belchior. I hope that my personal, academic, and professional trajectory will always be able to transcribe that.

    How to make the best of your years at unipd?    

To enjoy the most your period at UNIPD, you should first build connections with the city. The starting point for that is to familiarise with the Italian language and customs. Speaking the language opens many doors to interact and get to know locals and, consequently, connect with the place you are living in.
As an international student, it is essential to be open to know different cultures, not only the Italian one. Be ready to face cultural shock and linguistic misunderstandings. To deal with that, one should learn to respect and value differences and be interested in other people’s cultural practices. Besides all the theoretical and specialised knowledge, dealing with diversity was the greatest lesson I took from my master’s course period.
Additionally, establishing a healthy balance between personal and academic life is crucial. The Italian system can be very competitive and focused on grades, but do not be overwhelmed and find time enjoy your life in Padova. Also, be open to extra-curricular opportunities since they complement the mandatory courses and help you to design academic and professional paths that makes more sense for you. Those activities are also very nice to meet people from other programmes, other professors (or to get closer with professors from your program) and even from other universities.
I truly believe that the University should be seen as an extended experience of in-class activities, extra-class events, and of the enjoyment of the city.

    Why did you decide to study in Padua and how have you found the experience?    

After 3 years of working as a lawyer and facing situations of injustice and gaps within criminal justice system, I decided to focus on Human Rights and do something that was already a dream of mine: to study abroad. While searching for a master program in Human Rights, I found the University of Padova. The programme called my attention for its interdisciplinarity and the blend of theoretical and practical courses. Additionally, being awarded with the Padua International Excellence was decisive on accepting my place in the program, since it made possible to quit my job and move abroad to fully dedicate myself to the master.
The programme was, in parts, what I expected, in special the combination of legal, political sciences and economy courses. What surprised me was the multiplicity of professional backgrounds and nationalities of my colleagues and the rich discussions this diversity always brought to classes. This has taught me to value differences and made me realise how many interesting and creative solutions arise from a diverse environment. In addition, I took advantage of many extra-curricular activities offered, such as live simulation courses, study groups, and advocacy seminars which made my experience at UNIPD even richer.
Concerning my experience of living in Padova, besides being a charming city, filled with beautiful historical buildings and piazzas, the city combines the traditional Italian culture and a young and diverse university environment with international students from worldwide. It was possible to both dive into Italian culture, and to get to know students from all around the world .

    What activities related to your degree have you made during your studies?    

Besides mandatory courses, I took part in the UN-based Simulation “Padova Model UPR”, first as a participant, and in the following edition as part of the organisational team. From February to November of 2021 a group of students, under the coordination of Professor Paolo de Stefani, dealt with all the matters concerning the establishment of the simulation, from drafting the Handbook, which was published in the United Nations Human Rights office, to the practical aspect of the simulation.
I also participated in the Advocacy Seminar organized by Scholars at Risk Italy. The seminar was a great opportunity to learn about the importance of academic freedom and to develop advocacy campaigns that involve the community and government representatives. In that year, we advocated for the freedom of Ahmad Reza Djalali and Patrick Zaki, a professor and a student illegally arrested in Iran and in Egypt, respectively. The students from the seminar also organized an in-person event, the first edition of Advocacy Day, to raise awareness on the topics mentioned.
Additionally, from August to November of 2022, I worked as a Tutor buddy of Refugee students from Ukraine and Afghanistan and as an academic tutor of the master program HRMLG. While I was concluding my master’s thesis, I also took part in the PhD Summer Course on Human Rights and Innovation. The experience was essential to figure out how to develop my research topic and to exchange ideas with master and PhD students from all over the world.
In November 29, I had the honor to deliver a speech for the “Award of the 2022 HRG Prize for the Contribution to the Defense and Advancement of Human Rights and the Rule of Law” to Judge Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights.
My last activity as master student was the presentation of a report of a research project in partnership with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Project was a follow-up activity for students that participated in the Live Simulation Course "Combating Human Trafficking Along Mediterranean Migration Routes" that took place in Vicenza, Italy. The research took a year and comprised an analysis of the legislative framework (national and international), action plans and relevant case examples of Human Trafficking from across the OSCE region.

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