Alumni Spotlight: Marianna Goncalves Severgnini C’18


Marianna has spent most of her life as an international student/employee. She was born and raised in Brazil, lived in China for 7 years, moved to Denmark, then back to Brazil where she taught English.  When her parents moved to the U.S. she decided to move here. After a few years at Community College she transferred to Drew because she fell in love with its small size, its beautiful campus, and the Semester on Wall Street.

She always loved marketing and has an Associate’s degree in business so she picked Economics as a major because she saw it as a challenge. She grew up hearing her great grandfather speaking Italian to her and she always felt it was a beautiful language but never planned to take Italian as a minor until she met Italian Professor Emanuele Occhipinti who convinced her to minor in Italian.  Marianna is fluent in Portuguese, Italian, and English and is conversational in Chinese and Spanish.

While at Drew she was the Commuter-at-large representative for Student Government, an International Ambassador, worked as a Marketing Intern at the Career Center and for Student Activities.

Some of her mentors included Italian Professor Occhipinti. She said, “I’m so grateful that Prof. Occhipinti did not allow me to give up on my passion for Italian.  He was always supportive and was always there for me.”

Economics Professor Miao Chi was also another one of Marianna’s mentors.  She said, “Prof. Chi helped me so much.  I took one of the most challenging classes, Econometrics,  with her and she did a great job in helping me understand it.  She always offered great support and was always willing to help me.”

Her favorite memories include the Semester on Wall Street because of the exposure to a variety of people in many banks at different levels.  It was a first-hand experience that helped her decide that she didn’t work on Wall Street (for now).  Another favorite memory was the ShortTREC to Cilento, Italy with the Italian department.  Marianna said, “It was amazing! The trip to Pompeii, the beaches, and Ravello were particularly memorable.”

In general, she is so thankful for the opportunities Drew provided. She was about to graduate and was offered a position to live and work in Italy, near Milan, for 9 months teaching, English, economics, and international business, and was able to make amazing friends.  This opportunity came about through Prof. Occhipinti.


What did you do after teaching in Italy for 9 months?

I went back to Brazil for a couple of months and then enrolled for an MBA at Ramapo College in NJ, got my visa and came back. I hope to graduate from this program in May 2021.

Currently I work at Ramapo.  I am part of the student/faculty research group.  I do internal research for the Teacher Education Department.

What do you think is the key to your success?

I’m very outgoing and very hard working and that’s definitely one of the key things to my success.  Once I commit to something, I don’t do anything half way.  I’m going to do whatever I engage in to the best of my ability.  In general, that is something I am proud of.  I dedicate myself to whatever task is on hand. I also take a lot of initiative. An example is when I was part of Shark Tank at Drew and realized how important LinkedIn is and I went to the Career Center to see if there is someone who could do a workshop on it. I ended up getting the Marketing Assistant position at the Career Center.


Can you talk about some of your struggles as an international student in the U.S.?

I think there are always challenges but I had my family here and so much support. I had lived abroad before and knew how to navigate through the experience.  The hardest thing is figuring out the bureaucracy which includes where you can work, what you can do, how many hours you can work, etc.  Sometimes the government will make changes and no one knows because the guidelines are not always clear, so navigating all that is the hardest part at first.  International students sometimes are fearful of doing something wrong because they are sometimes getting conflicting information and you don’t want to jeopardize your status.

What are some of the benefits of being an international student?

I think that because I am an international student and have lived abroad that adaptability has allowed me to navigate certain situations.  Where some people might be shocked when faced with a problem, I was quicker with problem solving.  I also think that the fact that you speak a different language gives you an edge.

What advice would you give to other international students?

Take advantage of INTO.  I didn’t do that at first and they are a great resource. Go to them and ask for help.  Sometimes you are unsure how to conduct yourself.  Just going to INTO and saying you don’t know how to address something, will help you find the answer.  Sometimes students are afraid to speak up. Just reach out.  Drew has a lot of resources.  I feel that we, as international students, don’t take advantage of that. Do internships for credit even if you don’t get paid. Keep yourself engaged. Also, try not to gravitate only to people who are your own nationality.  You need to practice your English with others.  Learn the new culture and step out of your comfort zone.

Fun facts?

I am a person who can’t draw but I am creative so scrapbooking is a great outlet where I can paint all over without the skill of drawing.  I love photography and traveling. I’ve been to 21 countries but the U.S. is the only English speaking country I’ve ever been to.


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