The night before David Santos was to leave his hometown of Ouro Preto, in southeastern Brazil, for Gettysburg, his father, as fathers will do, sat him down to talk about his future. He was a bright guy with some college-level work under his belt, having studied engineering at a university in Brazil. He had chosen Gettysburg in part because of programs in engineering the college offered through partnerships with several leading universities, but also because Gettysburg wouldn't just be about engineering. A big part of leaving Brazil, he says, was a feeling that he "should be something more."
"I wouldn't be surprised," his father told him that night, "if someday you wind up working at the U.N." Neither would we.
At Gettysburg David discovered economics and fell in love with it. Sophomore year he studied abroad in Copenhagen. He examined globalization, studied the European Union, and took classes from a professor who ran an international consulting company. And he was hooked.
"International experience is great not just for academic and cultural exchange," says David, who has traveled to 19 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East since enrolling at Gettysburg, "but for your profession as well. It opens doors anywhere in the world."
In Denmark David took a side trip to Scotland to attend a conference of the Model United Nations, which engages international teams of college students in competitions where they debate issues of global significance. Upon returning to Gettysburg, he set out to get the college more involved in the program.
Junior year he joined Gettysburg delegations to Model U.N. conferences in Beijing and Cairo. In Cairo he was on a committee representing Japan's interests in negotiations about debt relief. One challenge was arguing Japan's position on the issue. Another was doing so on a committee whose members were from Yemen, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.
"You try to mobilize all this intellectual capacity behind a country none of you are from," David says. "Not only am I trying to push Japan's position on somebody representing Great Britain, but I'm also trying to convince Mohammed the Egyptian on my team that this is the right thing to do." In the end, David's "Japan" was a persuasive intermediary between developed and developing countries, negotiating a compromise all could live with.
Now a senior, David is completing work on a triple major-yes, triple-in physics, economics, and globalization studies. After he graduates, he plans to get experience in the corporate world. After that he'd like to get an MBA, and down the road maybe he will indeed wind up working at the U.N. One thing he's sure about is that he doesn't want to sit still.
"I don't want a job where every day I'm doing the same thing I did yesterday," says this young man who will sail off into his future with a boatload of interests, experiences, and talents. "Gettysburg gave me the tools to do very different things in life, and that's great. I think that's what a college should do."