Thais de Miranda Grochocki didn't choose to come to Missoula.

Grochocki, of Brazil, was chosen. She applied to study overseas through an institute, and it matched her with the University of Montana.

"I'm really glad I came here because I love this place," said Grochocki, who wore Griz earrings. "And I love the University of Montana."

When she got word she'd be headed to Montana, she and her mom jumped on the computer to Google everything "Missoula." They found many videos to their liking, including one with a song about Missoula.

Just one thing worried her.

"I was really scared about the winter because we don't have snow in Brazil. I was like, 'Oh my God. I don't know if I can do it,' " Grochocki said.

Last winter, though, she bought boots and a down coat with a warm hood, and she went snowboarding in Whitefish.

The biomedical sciences major is one of a record number of international students to attend UM in the most recent school year. Grochocki, of Brasilia, will head home this summer, but she plans to return here for a doctorate in neuroscience.

"In my case, I'm working with health, so I can improve the health in Brazil," she said.

Grochocki feels safe in Missoula, as opposed to Brasilia, a large city with 3 million people. It can be dangerous, and the smaller population here has grown on her.

"It's so small, so it was a new experience for me, and I'm loving it. I think I prefer a small city," Grochocki said.

She knows UM is interested in the tuition she brings, and she, in turn, is pleased Brazil is investing in her and allowing her to study in the U.S. The government pays for her tuition, meals and housing, and it also gives her a $300 monthly stipend.

"It's really good, because it's a lot of money," she said. "It's not just for university, but for Missoula because we go to restaurants here. We go to bars. So it's a good thing."

While in the U.S., she visited California, and she missed being in Montana. Here, she said, people are more friendly, and they like to talk: "That is really my place."

For Grochocki, the only downside about being in Missoula was feeling homesick. She developed both personally and professionally, though, in part because she was forced to deal with her loneliness.

"I really grow a lot here, more than I imagined could happen," she said.

Late last week, she was headed to Yellowstone National Park.

"It's my first time, so I'm so excited. ... I've never saw a wolf," Grochocki said.

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