But in coming to Canada, she discovered a sense of personal safety and well-being that opened her eyes to a new realm of possibility.
“Being in Canada, you’re safe and you don’t need to worry about small things—like if you forget to lock your door when you leave, it will probably be fine,” she said. “Back home, it’s not that way. That gave me space in my mind to think about other things, like what I wanted to do, what my aspirations are, what my hobbies are. I had been so busy at home worrying about being safe and being OK that I didn’t really have the brainspace to think about those things before.”
Relocating to Canada full-time was a lengthy process for Tavares, travelling back and forth between her new home and her country of birth several times before finally settling permanently in Canada in 2014. In the interim, she obtained an industrial engineering degree from Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, switched into the Edwards School of Business and will now attend U of S Fall Convocation after completing her commerce degree with top marks in her class.
The changeover was challenging, Tavares said, but she commended the university for helping during every step of the process—everything from having a recruiter on standby to answer her questions, to sending someone from the International Student and Study Abroad Centre to pick her up at the airport.
“When you’re an international student going to a different country, there are already so many challenges that no one will be able to go through for you, like the language barrier or missing your family and friends,” she said. “But everything the U of S could take care of for me, they did, so I could face those other challenges and take care of them by myself.”
Tavares proved an exceptional student of commerce, finishing with an average of more than 85 per cent and turning her co-op placement with the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority into part-time work throughout her degree. But she holds her work with Young Women in Business (YWiB) among her biggest achievements.
YWiB is focused on bringing together emerging female leaders and young professionals, giving them a safe space where they can build skills, network and foster community. Tavares, inspired by their success, founded a Saskatoon chapter in 2016. “I’m a big advocate for gender equality,” she said, adding that bringing YWiB to Saskatoon secured her a nomination and finalist spot in the under-29 category of the YWCA’s 2017 Women of Distinction Awards.
“I still don’t think we have a level playing field, and if we want equal representation in the higher levels of companies or boards or anywhere, really, we need to start way before,” she said.
Tavares is now a vendor operations manager with Vendasta Technologies, happily stepping into the working world full-time after years of juggling classes, volunteering, a part-time job and squeezing in time for a social life. Scheduling everything was hectic, but she stressed that anyone can accomplish it, if they stay focused on the task at hand.
“You have to get it right at first, when you don’t know if you’ll have time to study before the midterm,” she said, laughing. “Just being present, focus on learning, asking questions—it all helps so much. When you’re at work, be there. When you’re studying, focus there.”