Study Abroad in Rio de Janeiro

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in Rio de Janeiro

As far as prospective study abroad locations go, Rio de Janeiro has just about everything an aspiring international student could want. From the classical romance and white sands of Copacabana Beach to the frenetic, flamboyant, yearly celebration that is Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro presents a cultural experience that is unmatched. For study abroad students wishing to learn more about the colorful mosaic of South American culture as well as the Portuguese language, the “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvelous City) awaits you, much like its iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, with open and welcoming arms.

Subjects & Courses

Portuguese Language Studies. Many study abroad programs in Rio de Janeiro focus on learning Portuguese and understanding Brazilian culture. Rio provides countless different programs for expanding and enhancing student’s understanding of Portuguese, for speakers of all skill levels. There are also study abroad programs in Rio that combine classroom learning with excursions into the various regions of the city, in order to gain practice speaking in real life settings. Regardless of the program, students who study in Rio de Janeiro can opt to take Portuguese lessons on the side too, outside of formal coursework.

Business & Economics. The city’s $200 billion economy makes it the second largest economy in Brazil. Since it was once the capital of Brazil, Rio is home to the headquarters of some of the largest corporations in the country too, such as Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company. Rio is also home to the second largest stock market in Brazil, making its financial sector an important player not just within the nation, but globally. An increased understanding of virtually any sector of the city’s economy, easily gained through studying in Rio de Janeiro, is a fantastic way to boost your education in the fields of business, economics, and finance.

Anthropology & Community Development. The greater metropolitan area is home to over 12 million people, meaning studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro provides fantastic opportunities to explore human interactions and society on a community level. Currently, certain areas of the city are facing serious social issues, including poverty, homelessness, and widespread crime, which, though very serious problems, should not deter students from studying in Rio. By exploring the field of development through study abroad in Rio de Janeiro, students will have the chance to get hands on experience in the field and begin building a better future for locals.

Life in Rio

Rio de Janeiro is a city much like any other. Daily life comes with the standard hustle and bustle of a large metropolitan area, as well as the crowds one might expect in a place that nearly 6.5 million people call home. 

The public transportation system offers efficient bus and rail transit. It is safe to use during the day, though slightly less so at night. Plans to improve public transportation in the city are in place and in some instances have already begun to be implemented, specifically to help with the hosting of the World Cup in the summer of 2014 and the upcoming Olympic Games in 2016. 

Temperatures in Rio are very comfortable and range from a daily average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit in July to around 80 degrees  for much of January and February, which also happen to see substantial and frequent rainfall.

While local attractions, such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, are places that nearly every tourist in Rio visits, in between lies Rio itself. Within the densely populated and often crowded city streets, is the true heart of Rio. Brazil is a melting pot nation, much like the U.S., and Rio de Janeiro is perhaps the best example of that blending of cultures. 

Social and economic status varies widely among the citizens of Rio, with ultra-luxurious high rise apartment complexes casting shadows across the poorest of favela shacks. Despite the inequality issues facing the city, it still manages to maintain a sense of cultural identity. Everyone is familiar with the annual festival of Carnaval and the bright costumes and parades that accompany it, but don’t forget that the same culture that spawns that yearly mass celebration of color and sound still resides in Rio for the other 364 days of the year. Finally, world class museums, century old churches, and street vendors selling some of the finest Brazilian cuisine are plentiful throughout the city as well.

Costs & Affordability

Make no mistake, long term living in a city as large and as globally significant as Rio de Janeiro is not exactly cheap. It is among the most expensive cities in the world. A one bedroom apartment near the city center will cost at least $800 per month, but it is quite common for international students to be placed in more affordable housing situations. 

Other goods (especially imported goods like clothing and electronics) can see markups of several hundred percent, so it may be in your best interest to take those items with you rather than purchase them when you arrive. Rio is also a very fashionable place so finding reasonably priced, quality clothing can be extra challenging. Still, products that can be produced locally will tend to be cheaper. Goods such as groceries and other food items are very reasonable, even eating out a mid-priced restaurants can be affordable.

Accommodation & Visas

One of the largest hurdles you may face in studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro is the somewhat tedious visa process. For starters, most students wishing to study abroad in Brazil will need a standard student visa. To obtain a visa you will need a passport that is valid for at least six months, as well as a notarized letter of acceptance from the institution where you plan to study in Brazil. You will also need to obtain a certified background check, showing no criminal activity from your local police, a process that can often be completed online. You will also need to have proof of financial capability to pay for your stay in Brazil, as well as full proof of arrival in and departure from the country, meaning you must purchase your plane tickets before you even find out if you will be granted a visa.

Once you have all these things, an application for a visa can be filled out on the Brazilian consulate’s website and all of your documentation can be submitted for review. If you happen to have a Brazilian consulate in your city (there are 10 located around the United States) you can turn in your application in person. However, it is easy to pay a company that specializes in visa services to do this for you or most times the organization you are studying abroad in Rio with will provide visa assistance. Naturally, these services come with a fee, but they can certainly streamline the process and allow you to have your visa in hand in as little as a week from the time of submission.

University owned housing is available for long term study abroad students. Those who will be studying in Rio for shorter time tables through established programs are often placed with host families around the city. Be sure to inquire with your program directors about the specifics of housing available to you in Rio, especially if your program is shorter in duration. Due to its large tourism industry, the hotels in Rio de Janeiro are consistently among the highest priced in the world. If money is a concern, these should probably be avoided.

Benefits & Challenges

  • Tedious Visa Process. As mentioned above, the visa process may be the most difficult aspect of studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, and it occurs before you even board your flight! Once that hurdle is passed, programs in the city are typically straightforward and very rewarding. 
  • Language Barrier. Of course a language barrier will exist between most students and the locals in the city, and this can also hinder coursework if the student is taking classes taught in Portuguese. However, the city is progressive and connected enough that some English will be spoken, especially in the business and hospitality industries. Plus, even total novices will quickly pick up portions of Portuguese. 
  • Beaches Baby! After you’ve worked hard to make your way to Brazil and began to get a grip on the local language, you will need some time to unwind. What better way to do that than by soaking in the sun on some of the city’s world famous beaches! The Copacabana, Leblon, and Ipanema are all just a short distance from the heart of the city, allowing for easy access to ideal places for enjoying some of that sweet Southern Hemisphere sunshine.
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A Guide To
Studying Abroad in Rio de Janeiro


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