Similar to most of my students at IE University, I come from a diverse background. In fact, I consider myself to be somewhat of a Third Culture Kid (TCK). I was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to a Brazilian father and an American mother. We lived there until I finished high school, traveling often to the US to visit my mom’s family. I did my undergraduate studies and my PhD in the US, and then moved to Singapore to teach. I love books, food and scuba diving.
Living a life following the words of Socrates
Patrick Luiz De Oliveira has been part of a diverse culture from the very day he was born. He was born in Brazil and lived there until he finished high school. But during those formative years, he spent a lot of time in the US visiting family. When the time came to choose a college, Patrick wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. So when he was presented with the opportunity to go to the US, where you could declare your major in your second year instead of before applying like in Brazil, he jumped at the chance. He packed up and moved to the University of Kansas, in the state where his mom’s family is from. Patrick loved the college experience so much that he took an extra year to graduate, finishing with a double major in history and journalism and a double minor in French and peace & conflict studies.
After five years in Kansas, Patrick moved to New York City to spend some time working in the publishing industry. During this time, he kept feeling called to pursue the so-called “life of the mind.” This led him to Princeton University, where he earned his PhD in history, focusing mainly on France from the 1789 revolution to the present day. He also researched urban history, the history of the South Atlantic and the history of technology. Ultimately he wrote his dissertation on the history of aeronautics in France during the nineteenth century, and spent what he describes as a few glorious years exploring archives in France, Brazil and the US.
With a dissertation under his belt, Patrick shifted into the world of teaching. He started teaching on the Princeton Writing Program before heading to Singapore in 2020 to teach at the Singapore Management University. In 2023, Patrick decided to move to Spain to teach on the Bachelor in Humanities at IE University. Why the shift? Patrick likes to follow a life inspired by Socrates’ idea that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”
Patrick chose humanities to help students find a way to “ascribe meaning to this crazy brief journey we all have on this planet,” explaining that as humans we are likely haunted by this type of existential challenge. To Patrick, the humanities are about thinking rigorously about how to do just that—to take this question of finding meaning and thinking about all the other questions that stem from it. According to Patrick, “Students who pursue a degree in the humanities will develop the skills to think through these questions and come up with their own answers to them.” Good questions are key, especially because in order to arrive at a good answer, you must first ask a good question.
Part of his passion is helping students interpret evidence and develop synthesized, compelling and persuasive answers. If students can do this, Patrick believes his work is done, as these are skills that will serve them in their professional and personal lives. But before arriving at these questions and answers, students should be ready to enter university with an open mind to think about issues that transcend today’s mundane pressures. His hope is to help students come to the realization that their future jobs will only occupy part of their lives, and that they should spend more time in thought.
As Patrick continues through his journey, he works to make sense of new feelings he has when asking the tough questions: “Why is it okay that someone has to sleep on a bench while I snuggle under the covers in my air-conditioned room? Why is it assumed that I have more in common with people with whom I share a passport than with people across the world?” Although he knows that studying the humanities won’t answer these questions, he wants to clue students into the idea that it will make them feel less lonely when thinking about the tough things.
During their studies, students will be joined by the likes of William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Ibn Battuta and Michel de Montaigne. Driven by his own passion, Patrick acknowledges that his own life would be so much more impoverished if he hadn't come into contact with those great minds back in college. And more than a learning journey, Patrick considers a degree in humanities as one of the most adaptable ones out there—it cultivates self-learning and emphasizes critical and synthetic thinking, all traits that will serve students well in an unpredictable labor market.
When Patrick isn’t deep in thought or helping his students think in new ways, he loves books, movies, TV shows, flavorful food and scuba diving. He also loves Madrid and enjoys spending the afternoon roaming a museum—he sometimes still can’t believe that he’s just a 20-minute walk from the Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza.