Indiana State University Newsroom

Study abroad experience at Indiana State leads student back to campus for full degree

November 3, 2014

Gustavo Sandri Heidner's semester study abroad experience at Indiana State University in 2012 had him itching to get back on campus before he'd even returned to his native Brazil.

Almost two years later, the 29-year-old exercise science major from Porto Alegre - Brazil's southernmost state capital - has a graduate assistantship at Indiana State while he pursues a Master of Arts degree in exercise science.

"It was fun to do all of the research my first time at Indiana State, and having gotten to know the professors and the university, I realized I really didn't want to leave," Heidner said. "A professor (at Indiana State) recommended that I return to Brazil and graduate and come back for grad school because he could see that I was hungry to learn and I'm glad I'm back."

Heidner joins several former exchange students whose initial experiences on campus led them back to Indiana State to complete a degree, including students from Morocco, Egypt, China and South Korea.

In 2012, Heidner graduated from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil with an undergraduate degree in exercise science and received an assistantship offer from a university in Brazil, which he turned down so he could return to Indiana State for a master's degree.

Heidner first came to Indiana State as part of the Brazilian Scientific Mobility Program - a one-year, non-degree program that has given more than 4,000 of Brazil's best science, technology, engineering and math undergraduates a chance to study at more than 300 U.S. colleges and universities worldwide.

Thanks to the relationship between Pontifical Catholic University and Indiana State's languages, literature and linguistics department, Heidner was introduced to professors Will Barratt and Leslie Barratt, who presented a talk about Indiana State at the same time Heidner was deciding what university to attend through the Brazilian science program.

"Even though they were talking to grad students in linguistics about attending Indiana State, it was recommended that I and two friends who were studying biology go to the talk and get information because we knew we wanted to travel and get into the program," Heidner said. "With help from the Barratts, I went through the application process and got accepted to Indiana State, though I got here late - about a month into spring semester 2012 because paperwork needed to come back - but it all worked out."

In contrast to what he'd heard about undergraduates in the U.S. often not getting to do research, Heidner managed co-author one national peer-reviewed publication, and is co-author in another paper currently undergoing review for publication as part of his experience at Indiana State.

"I'm a big fan of research and had three years of research experience in Brazil before I came here," he said. "Since I was spending about half of my time inside the labs at Indiana State, I talked to my advisor and other professors about it and was able to participate in three research projects here in 2012."

The work Heidner was able to publish included research looking at the impact of resistance exercise training on women with fibromyalgia, how weight training impacts athletes' cardiovascular functions, and stretching and power output. He is also presenting research data on Nov. 7 at the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Merrillville.

"In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton sent a letter to Robert Hooke in which he talked about his scientific endeavors. In the end, it read: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.' This is how it feels to be back to Indiana State University - to once again stand on the shoulder of giants," said Heidner, who plans to graduate in 2016. "I am proud to have as my alma mater one of the best universities in Brazil, but the access to better labs (at Indiana State) and very knowledgeable professors is something that have made me work very hard to come back. Another thing I like here is the dynamic of the school system, with an open campus where students live around campus and there's a community feel."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or