Before diving into GMAT preparation and MBA applications, my wife Flavia and I made a pact to embark on this thrilling MBA journey together. However, there was an important family member we couldn’t leave behind—our 8-year-old English Bulldog, Chico. This is the story of our adventure in bringing Chico from Brazil to Durham and the challenges we faced along the way.

Pre-Flight Planning

From the moment I received my acceptance from Fuqua, the challenge of bringing Chico with us became apparent. The bureaucratic hurdles and arrangements required were significant. To navigate this process, I enlisted the help of two Brazilian companies—one for paperwork and the other for logistics. Rules for bringing pets to the U.S. vary based on factors such as the departing country, type of pet, size, weight, and breed. With comprehensive support, we focused on what was best for Chico, a Brachycephalic breed who couldn’t fly in cargo for safety reasons.

Chico, the bulldog of a Fuqua student, laying on the floor of an airport

Choosing COPA Airlines, the only airline accommodating dogs over 20 pounds in the cabin, we planned our route for the fastest option with the least layover time. We flew to Washington, D.C., the closest major airport to Durham, and drove the rest of the way to avoid additional flights. With logistics in place, we followed health and paperwork procedures, including microchipping, dental checks, rabies shots, blood tests, and a vet appointment three days before the flight.

Taking off for Durham

After months of approvals, we were ready to embark on our journey. A friend drove us to the international airport in Sao Paulo, and Chico, surprisingly calm, slept through the ride. Airport procedures were straightforward, and we waited for our flight in a pet-friendly lounge. Boarding was typical, and with the first-row seats, Chico comfortably nestled among us. Playing airplane noises on YouTube worked like a charm, and Chico slept through the night flight, waking up upon landing in Panama City for a pet-friendly pit stop.

The second flight was equally smooth, with Chico receiving attention from a flight attendant. Upon arrival in Washington, D.C., we navigated immigration and headed to a rental car. Our transition to Durham went seamlessly, thanks to a thoughtful MBA student neighbor who provided essentials for our midnight arrival. Chico adapted well to the car journey and settled comfortably into our new home.

A Dog-Friendly Environment

Durham, with its abundant resources, proved to be a pet-friendly haven. Fuqua’s community, with a dedicated Slack channel for dogs, facilitated connections with other pet owners. Events like partner picnics and Fuqua Fridays (outside only) welcome dogs, creating a supportive environment.

Bringing Chico to Fuqua was a rewarding experience. Despite initial anxiety, the preparation paid off, and having my wife and Chico with me enhanced my MBA journey. To those contemplating bringing a pet to Durham, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Seek reliable assistance, connect with MBA alumni from your country, and be prepared for a fulfilling adventure—because at Fuqua, even our furry friends find a welcoming community.