High School Programs in Brazil

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A Guide to High School Programs Abroad in Brazil

Students that choose to join high school programs in Brazil will thrive in the country’s infinite energy and the local zest for life. Festivals, dancing, sports, and museums are just a few of the endless attractions Brazil hosts, not to mention the nation’s immense biodiversity, including pristine coasts, rainforests, and mountains. With great cultural diversity to boot and the official national language of Portuguese, Brazil clearly sets itself apart from the rest of South America. Ambitious and adventurous students with varying areas of interest will benefit from high school programs in Brazil, and gain once-in-a-lifetime memories along the way.


High school programs in Brazil can be found in both cities and rural areas throughout the country. Some of the better known, more popular placement locations include Brasilia, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo.

Brasilia. One of the most urban areas in all of Brazil, the nation’s capital city was planned out to emulate the shape of an airplane from a bird's-eye view. With all branches of the Brazilian government accounted for and a range of innovative architectural masterpieces, political and design-oriented students won’t fail to be impressed by this continuously developing location for high school programs in Brazil.

Manaus. This urban hub sits quite nicely in the middle of the infamous Amazon jungle. You don’t have to be a science geek to appreciate the incredibly diverse ecosystem that makes up the largest rainforest on Earth. Despite the rain and humidity, high school programs in Manaus will most definitely set aside time for exploring the river port and surrounding nature that makes this city one-of-a-kind.

Rio de Janeiro. Rio is not only a top-notch tourist destination, it is an excellent choice for high school programs in Brazil too. Though known for its pristine beaches, Rio has much more to offer, including the pending 2016 Olympic games, the Carnival festival, museums, and music; high school students will find plenty of attractions to take advantage in Brazil’s second largest city.

São Paulo. The largest and busiest city in all of Brazil, São Paulo will invigorate high school students during their time abroad, not to mention it has an incredibly eclectic cuisine and museums to please both foodies and history buffs alike. Students leaning toward a future in the fashion industry may find high school programs in São Paulo during the city’s annual fashion week, the largest fashion show in Latin America, even more beneficial.

High School Programs in Brazil

When searching through high school programs in in Brazil, high school students will generally find that they have two options to choose from: direct-enrollment study abroad programs or immersion-based programs. Which route is best for each student will depend largely on his or her desired outcomes, interest areas, and length of stay.

Direct Enrollment is the most common form of high school study abroad program in Brazil, which requires international students to directly enroll in local public or private institutions. This means students will have the opportunity to experience the life of local high school students and learn right alongside their Brazilian peers!

  • Language. Since students will participate fully in the school’s academic and extracurricular activities, language requirements are often imposed. Conversation and classes generally take place in Brazil’s official tongue, so a basic understanding of Portuguese will be extremely beneficial, if not essential to success in direct enrollment programs. Although, some study abroad programs offer a intensive Portuguese courses prior to the start of school to help jump start language learning for foreign high school students.
  • Schedule. The duration of direct enrollment programs is generally based upon each individual school’s schedule, but typically students can study abroad for a semester or a full year. Since Brazil is in the Southern Hemisphere, the academic year begins in February. The first semester runs through June, with a break from classes in July, and then the second semester picks back up in August and lasts until the end of the year.
  • Academics. Public upper secondary schools in Brazil are designed for students ages 15 to 18 and typically cover core subjects similar to those found in the U.S., such as math, science, history, art, geography, physical education, and also Portuguese. Private schools in Brazil often reflect a more European approach, and focus slightly more attentively on either the arts and humanities or science and technical subjects. 
  • Extracurriculars. Excellent academics are not the only perk of direct enrollment study abroad programs in Brazil, most schools and programs also offer extracurricular activities. These may include weekend activities with international exchange students and/or expeditions to some of Brazil’s most famous destinations, such as Iguazu Falls and the Amazon.

Immersion Programs. Students seeking a slightly shorter high school program in Brazil, and an experience that is not quite as academically demanding, may opt for a more general immersion program. These programs can range from adventure travel to language and cultural immersion.

  • Language. Most language immersion programs in Brazil will be specifically geared toward English speakers, so the need for Portuguese-language skills will not be as immediately relevant as in study abroad programs. 
  • Schedule. Any high school student venturing to Brazil can find an immersion program length that is perfect for them. A fast, but fun-filled two weeks may be enough for some, while others may opt for a longer twelve week program. 
  • Activities. The majority of learning in immersion programs takes place during activities, expeditions, and/or volunteer work. Since Brazil is home to a range of species and environments, students may spend time learning about anything from conservation and sustainability to social issues.

Scholarships & Costs

Basic living expenses, such as food, transportation, and free time activities, will be noticeably less expensive in Brazil than in the U.S. However, if your high school program in Brazil is based in one of the nation’s major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, you can expect slightly higher prices. On average, a gallon of milk will be $3, a loaf of bread should cost just over $1, and a movie ticket will be closer to $6.

The duration, setting or program type, and inclusions will all play a large role in overall costs of high school programs in Brazil. A semester high school program might be anywhere from $9,000 to $12,500, while a full year may be $13000 to $15,000. Luckily, there are scholarships offered for high school students who want to participate in international programs, so students with financial concerns will have plenty of options for assistance.

Generally speaking, upfront program costs will cover the majority of expenses, including: 

  • Accommodation
  • Some or all meals
  • Orientation and in-country support
  • Educational enrollment fees and materials (if applicable)
  • Airport transfers

In addition to program fees, students may be expected to pay the costs of obtaining necessary visas and each student will need to cover all expenses not related to the program (ex. souvenirs).

Accommodation & Visas

Homestays are the most popular form of accommodation provided to students during high school programs in Brazil. Not only will students feel like they have a home-away-from-home, but full immersion into daily family life will greatly benefit students’ language learning and cultural understanding. Host families are carefully selected by each high school program provider, and typically provide students with authentic, home-cooked meals at least once a day! Occasionally, students may be placed in special residences or dormitories with other program participants. This is especially common in immersion programs in Brazil.

Students planning to enroll directly in a Brazilian school may be expected to obtain a student visa prior to arrival. Student visas often require a background check, which can take seven to fourteen days to process, so be sure to check with your program provider about the required steps and set up an appropriate timeline. Additionally, all students entering Brazil will need a passport valid for six months beyond the end of their program.

Benefits & Challenges

Language Learning. Brazil’s more unique national language of Portuguese, compared to the rest of Spanish-speaking South America, will offer students equally unique academic opportunities, and potential professional opportunities too. Although, the language may prove to be both a benefit and a challenge for high school students in Brazil, since some level of Portuguese language understanding before arrival is optimal.

Well-Rounded Boost. Whether supplementing high school academics, preparing for college applications, or fulfilling a service learning requirement, high school programs in Brazil will prove immensely beneficial.

Carnival. Those who choose to participate in high school programs in Brazil during the month of February will not want to miss out on the country’s largest festival of the year, Carnival. It is such a big deal that school start dates actually revolve around the celebration.

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