Bom dia! Contemplating studying abroad in Latin America's largest country? With a rich cultural history, booming economy and growing international presence, an experience living and studying in Brazil would be "muito legal!" (very cool!).
Brazilians are also unique because they speak Portuguese and not Spanish...but even if you don't speak Portuguese, don't let this turn you off! Brazilians are some of the warmest, most helpful people in the world, and whether or not you speak the local language, they will do whatever they can to help you.
How to Choose a Program
Although Brazilian universities tend not to place within the top 100 universities world-wide, there is great movement in the country to get more students and more resources into their universities. This would be a great time to be part of change in Brazilian history!
Study abroad programs in Brazil will offer various services - be picky when selecting which one is the best fit for you. We recommend considering the following factors:
Language: Brazil's relatively unique history on the South American content has roots in its Portuguese ancestors - fully understanding contemporary Brazil would not be possible with a grasp of the local language. Consider a course that offers tutoring in Portuguese or teaches all subjects in the target language.
Housing: In Brazil, it is common for students to live at home and commute to their university. As such, there isn't the same college-owned housing system prevalent in the US. But don't worry - whichever study abroad program you choose will most likely be able to help you out! Make sure to choose a program that coincides with the living accommodations that will make you most comfortable. The CIEE program in Rio, for instance, has its students stay with Brazilian families. ISA Abroad offers both homestay as well as private apartment option for their program in Rio.
Immersion and Cultural Activities: Although any Brazilian city will be bustling with great activities and opportunities to better understand the culture, it is a good idea to figure out what activities or events are included in the study abroad program you choose! The CIEE program, for instance, includes the cost of various local cultural activities in its tuition fee. For those who want to venture a bit further from the city itself, the ISA Abroad program might be the way to go. They offer field trips to the Amazon and other regions outside of Rio!
Popular Cities in Brazil
Brazil also has numerous cities in which students can study and have a great time. Whether you prefer the wilds of the city or the wilds of the, well, wild, you will be sure to find a great place to call home while studying abroad.
Sao Paulo: Brazil's largest city and the largest city in South America, might seem like a sprawling industrial jungle... but delve a little deeper and it is a teeming with great bars, nightclubs, and lots of samba! Paulistanos (Sao Paulo residents) love their city, and you will understand why when you visit!
Rio de Janeiro: Rio is another amazing city in Brazil. Located on the Brazilian coast, Rio is nestled between the beach and the surrounding hills - it is a beautiful city, regardless of the weather! It is also Latin America's second largest city and less spread out than Sao Paulo.
Brasilia: Brasilia is the country's capital. It is smaller than both Sao Paulo and Rio (Brasilia is Brazil's fourth largest city), and is a city shaped like an airplane! Many major Brazilian companies have their headquarters here, and much of the policy debates that are shaping Brazil's future take place here. From Brasilia National Park and Lake Paranoa to major cultural and architectural sites like the Memorial de Pavos Indigenous, you won't run out of things to do in your spare time!
Social Life and Student Culture
Samba classes are a great way to become familiar with traditional Brazilian music, and an even better way to stay fit while you're there! The Amazon, which is found mostly in Brazil (but also spreads into Bolivia, Peru, and other Latin American countries), is home to the richest source of animal and plant species in any tropical rainforest in the world. This is not an opportunity to be missed! The beautiful Brazilian coastline runs the whole western edge of the country, so be sure to pack your beach towel.
Though Brazil is a country steeped in history and culture, it is quickly expanding and modernizing! This is an extremely exciting time to be studying in Brazil and benefiting from the best of both the traditional and contemporary worlds co-existing in modern Brazil. Parabems (congratulations) on contemplating studying in Brazil - it will be an experience you'll never forget!
If you are concerned about the high costs associated with many study abroad programs, don't let cost alone be a major roadblock preventing you from embarking on a really wonderful adventure!
If you are a US Citizen, then Boren Scholarships are a great way to put some money towards learning Portuguese!