Meet Letícia Vargas from Rede Brasil-Suíça

Letícia Vargas, co-founder of Rede Brasil-Suíça, shares more about the importance of the Network, why to host the 1st Conference Brazil-Switzerland, and the different strategies used to strengthen the connection between the two countries.

The founding group of the Rede Brasil-Suíça (Brazil-Switzerland Network) is made of Brazilian researchers and professionals living in Switzerland who have come together to support the local Brazilian community by publicizing work and study opportunities, as well as promoting the creation of a network for exchanging knowledge and contacts.

The Rede Brasil-Suíça de Integração Acadêmica e Profissional held its first meeting in June 2022, followed by several general meetings until culminating in the 1st Brazil Switzerland Conference in September 2023.

The event brought together representatives of academia, government, and civil society to debate current issues concerning Brazil’s insertion in the world (especially in Switzerland), mobilize and establish dialogues with the main representatives of the two countries on the chosen topics, and deepen the engagement of the diasporic Brazilian community in the issues to be addressed by the Conference.

The Conference welcomed more than 200 people, with 30 panelists, at the University of Zurich, who took part in eight panels on a wide range of subjects, from biodiversity, cities, climate, and innovation to education, health, law, technology, and communication.

Letícia Vargas, Ph.D. in Organizations and Culture at the University of St. Gallen and Program Manager at Leading House for the Latin American Region, tells us a little more about the Conference and the future of the Rede Brasil-Suíça.

What motivated the Conference?

When we leave Brazil, we lose all those contacts we’ve developed over the years: classmates, work colleagues, teachers, friends, and family. All these people help us look for a job when we need one, choose a course when we want to study, and navigate our professional lives. Recreating this Network can be a Herculean challenge and is not trivial.

Organizing a major event that could draw the community’s attention and garner the support of partners seemed essential to establish the Network as an organization capable of strengthening the Brazilian presence in Switzerland. Right from the start, we had the support of Swissnex in Brazil, which became our primary partner on this journey.

The idea was to bring together representatives from government, industry, academia, and civil society daily to discuss issues concerning Brazil’s insertion into the world, especially in Switzerland. We prioritized Brazilians who are making a difference here, with their work recognized at leading Swiss universities and large corporations.

We also celebrated the 10th anniversary of AIT Brazil (Academia-Industry Training), a startup exchange program organized by Swissnex and the Leading House for the Latin American Region at the University of St. Gallen.

Did the Conference achieve its objectives?

We are very pleased with the reception of the Conference by the community! We received very positive feedback from the participants and our partners. We were all very enthusiastic about the potential of events like this and the motivation of Brazilians living here to participate and contribute even more to our initiative.

What will be the next steps for the Rede Brasil-Suíça?

We are now preparing for our general assembly at the end of the year and starting to draw up plans for 2024.

The aim is to continue developing these spaces for exchange and networking, whether through events, workshops, publicizing opportunities on our LinkedIn page or in our WhatsApp group. We also want to develop strategies to act as a bridge between Brazil and Switzerland, promoting cooperation between the two countries in terms of education, research, innovation and the job market.

We have a million ideas and a lot of desire to keep working! Our team of volunteers is committed to making the Network grow and become stronger. We have a lot of ground to cover.

Why did you decide to map Brazilians living in Switzerland?

We decided to map Brazilians in Switzerland because this information doesn’t exist. There is no source of data that tells us who we are, where we work, what we study, in which regions we live, and our socio-economic profile. Such data is essential if we are to plan activities that suit our audience. Knowing the profile of Brazilians here is fundamental for the Network to grow and strengthen itself as a serious organization based on research.

The Rede Brasil-Suíça aims to support the Brazilian community in academic and professional matters, disseminating information, organizing events, and providing an environment for the exchange of experiences and knowledge, connecting researchers and professionals who are already in or want to come to Switzerland. We are a bridge between Brazil and Switzerland for the labor market, education, technology, and innovation issues.

We took the opportunity to announce the preliminary results of the mapping at the conference. We are still collecting responses and would like to thank everyone who participated: questionnaire (the questionnaire is anonymous, and the data will not be shared with third parties).