From the tropical regions of the north to the quaint German towns of the south to the tourist hub of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is as diverse a country as one can find in South America. If you’re thinking about studying abroad in Brazil, prepare yourself for a country that goes far beyond the stereotypes of bikinis and soccer balls — by overwhelming you with a plethora of hugs and kisses, sun, music, delicious food, amazing beaches, caipirinhas (the national drink of Brazil) and the nicest people you’ll meet in the world.
Food & Culture
A big part of a Brazilian’s life is music — meaning that if you study abroad in Brazil, it will be a big part of yours too. The Brazilians have actually created their own genres of music. From axé (pronounced ash-shay) to samba to alternative, Brazilian music can get you on your feet to party with 10,000 people at Carnival (Brazil’s Mardi Gras) or propel you to a jazz club to chill with friends for a couple of hours. At first, when you hear the Carnival music with all its trumpet fanfare, you might ask yourself “what is this?” But when you’re in a group of thousands, pounding your feet to the same beat, you realize this might be the best music ever and could possibly explain why Brazilians are such a happy people!
Although a majority of Brazilians take English classes in high school and college, most of them do not speak a workable level of English. There’s good news, though! Portuguese is not a difficult language to learn if you put your mind to it. If you can even slightly communicate in Portuguese, Brazilians are much more likely to open up to you, and you will do better in every aspect of Brazilian life. Brazilian professors love having foreign students and are extra willing to help you learn the Portuguese language.
Brazilians typically have small breakfasts of coffee, toast, juice, and fruit, then hurry out to their jobs or school.
Studying in Brazil
Brazilian universities typically have day and night schedules that students can choose from. Morning classes usually run from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the evening classes from 6 to 10 p.m. So if you choose the morning schedule, your day might go like this. Wake up at 6 a.m., eat a quick breakfast, hop on the bus to school (usually two reais), go to your three classes that morning, come home for a big lunch (as lunch is the biggest meal of the day in a Brazilian household), and then the rest of the day is yours. The evening schedule is obviously better for late sleepers!
In Brazil, the best universities are the public universities, and the private universities have a bit of a lower reputation. This is because admission to public universities rests solely on an intensely difficult admission test — those who can’t pass the test pay tuition at a private university.
The most popular cities to study abroad in Brazil are Florianopolis, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo. Programs such as ISA, CIEE, and Bridge Abroad all run great programs in those cities. Another option for those looking for a less traveled experience, check out programs in Salvador da Bahia. This northeast city has amazing beaches, great seafood, and a completely different culture than that of its counterparts in the south. It all depends on what kind of experience you would like to have. If you’re looking for a purely academic and Portuguese learning experience, Sao Paulo might be the place for you (with the clearest accents and most prestigious universities). If you’re looking for the party, Rio is your town.
Saudade. This is a Portuguese term that has no English equivalent: it means a longing for a love that is gone. Most people who have attended Brazil’s amazing festivals, learned Portuguese from the locals, or sipped a caipirinha while listening to samba — find that they experience that longing after they must leave Brazil. Studying abroad in Brazil will definitely rank as one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of anyone’s life.