USAC

Program Reviews

Kayla Johnson
Kayla
9/10

I spent my junior year of college in Heredia, Costa Rica (2016-2017) and after two host families, countless hostiles, and one apartment I returned to the states without regrets.
At the beginning of my study abroad program search I knew that I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country but the only Spanish I knew started and ended at "Hola." Sad, I know but I was semi determined to actually using my Doulingo app during the summer leading up to my trip, which got me to introductions and colors.
Price and location came next but my heart was sold on Costa Rica after watching the hundreds of travel videos on YouTube. I couldn’t believe how picturesque it seemed and I wanted to see for myself. Most people would probably just book a long weekend but no, I dedicate a full academic year to this hunch.
After spending roughly nine months in Costa Rica I can wholeheartedly say over and over again that the country lived up to its picturesque moments with so much more than I could have ever imagine.
This trip changed my life in the most cheesy and redundant way and I owe it all to the beautiful people I met along the way, my program advisors, my squad, y yo, Kayla.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Cameron
10/10

I highly, highly recommend USAC Florianopolis to any student interested in an awesome study abroad experience. Brazil is a rich, beautiful country, and many Brazilians consider Florianopolis (Floripa) the jewel of Brazil. I cannot say enough good things about the locals from Floripa, who proudly refer to themselves as manezinhos. Manezinhos epitomize the open, laid-back attitude of the Brazilian people. Many Brazilians love gringos who immerse themselves in their unique culture and Portuguese language.

USAC Floripa is comparatively cheap to many study abroad programs I researched, but it still offers loads of trips, island tours, and student support through language partners and a really amazing staff. During the Fall semester, USAC students traveled to Iguazu falls. In the Spring, we went on a weekish-long tour of Minas Gerais before the program officially started. This trip was completely planned and organized by USAC and was a great introduction to the country before we were let loose in Floripa. There were a number of fun group hikes and trips once we were on the island of Floripa, but I think the best experiences come to those that use USAC's resources to plan their own spontaneous hikes and beach trips (Check out lagoinha do leste, nofragados, and as many of the 43 beaches as you can!).

USAC offers a variety of classes taught in English, and you can also enroll in classes at UFSC, the local university next-door to the USAC office. This program is good for students from a lot of backgrounds, including natural resources, business, global economy, arts, etc. My semester even had some engineers and pre-med students that finished their gen ed requirements in Brazil, so check the USAC website for course offerings! Personally, I had classes in natural resources management, wildlife conservation, surfing, Brazilian cuisine, capoeira, and intro Portuguese I and II. During the first 5 weeks of the program every student only attends an immersive Portuguese class. After this, you have the choice to keep taking Portuguese classes, but I highly recommend learning as much as you can while you're here. You can go the entire semester only speaking English and partying your butt off if you want, but in my experience it's worth immersing yourself as much in the language and culture as you can. A motivated student can reach fluency or near-fluency in their time here, but a high accessibility for English speakers means this might not be the best fit for Portuguese learners that require an extremely strict environment/regiment to keep themselves on tract. Classes are intellectually engaging most of the time (every class has its ups and downs) and look GOOD on your transcript. My professors were all extremely passionate and inspired me intellectually and creatively. They understand much of your learning takes place outside of the classroom, so your classes will probably look a lot harder on your transcript than they actually are workload wise. Take all of the 1 credit classes (surfing, cuisine, capoeira) that you can because they're extremely fun and easy (meet once a week), and you'll learn about Brazilian culture while making friends with some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Admittedly, I studied in Floripa in Spring '18, before a Brazilian election cycle marked by racism, sexism, and homophobia. Brazil is certainly far from perfect, but I still think Floripa represents a very accepting community for women and members of the LGBTQ community that want to safely experience the country, but are alarmed at the problematic rhetoric of the Bolsonaro government (many Brazilians told me Floripa is among the gayest Brazilian cities and there is a large, generally accepting college community). Like any big city, Floripa has its dangerous areas, but you can tell your family that it is considered the safest city in Brazil. I ignorantly walked home alone many nights and was lucky enough to avoid any really bad incidents, but bad people do exist and bad things do (and did) happen so you should always be careful knowing where you are and walking in groups through campus, the city, or wherever.

You have a number of housing options through USAC: single or double room in an apartment with other Americans or Brazilians, or a homestay. I requested to live in a single so I could have more independence. Homestays are a good idea if you're focused on language acquisition, but opt for an apartment if you want greater independence and privacy. I think I got really lucky with my apartment location and roommates because I got to live with Americans and Brazilians near the USAC office and UFSC campus. The location and independence of my apartment facilitated my social life and bonding with other students living nearby, but I did not pick up Portuguese as easily as friends living in homestays. Some friends of mine had less than stellar experiences with their housing or lived far distances away. Still, it is daunting to set up your own housing so it is probably easier to roll the dice, go with USAC housing, and attempt a switch if it's a bad fit. Year-long students can rest assured that they can change their housing their second semester to find some more obscure, cool housing options. If I live in Floripa again, I intend to look for housing outside the city so I can be nearer the beaches and trails of the island.

All in all, Florianopolis is an extremely fun city to live in. The island has a really cool mixture of city life and rural feel with clubs, bars, beaches, hikes, and soccer teams. This experience can really be whatever you make of it. You can immerse yourself in a rich culture while learning a beautiful language and meeting a diverse mixture of people or you can take a single Portuguese class and spend the rest of your semester tanning on the beach and partying with your American classmates. I recommend finding your balance to enjoy Floripa for all it's worth. You're going to make great friends with your USAC classmates. Build and cherish these friendships, but also take some chances and step outside the USAC comfort zone to meet people from more varied backgrounds. Take chances together, step outside your comfort zone, make travel plans around Brazil, learn the language, make some friends, and learn a lot! Study with USAC Floripa and you'll have a semester of self-discovery, fun, and fulfillment.

How can this program be improved?
Make the housing assignment process more timely and transparent. Encourage students to immerse themselves in Brazilian circles a little bit more. Update trail maps and directions. Build a greater connection with UFSC clubs and events, especially Brazilian LGBTQ communities and other support groups.
Yes, I recommend this program
Bryce
10/10

I went to Vaxjo and had an absolutely wonderful time. The education was quite different then what I am used to in the US so I had a lot more free time which was great because I was able to travel all the time! What's the point of going to Europe if you're buried in a textbook?!? The people are amazing, Vaxjo has hundreds and hundreds of international students from all over the world so you get to me so many cool people and make friends and go traveling together. Vaxjo can be super cold/rainy/snowy but the Swedes don't give a **** what the weather is like they're gonna do what they want no matter the weather and you should to. There's no way you cant have a great time if you put yourself out there and just be friendle. Absolutely wonderful time. Going abroad should be a graduation requirement!

How can this program be improved?
First day coordination is a bit lackluster. Finding info on what to do can be difficult.
Yes, I recommend this program
Rodrigo
9/10

This program was amazing. Extremely friendly and very helpful. The staff would answer any question appropriately and were very kind. It seemed like they wanted us to learn of course, but to really take in the beautiful culture of the Czech Republic. The trips led by the program were fun. Every weekend there were a variety of trips either day or overnight trips. I signed up for the Vienna Budapest tour and I would highly recommend going to that. The cities are amazing, which you should visit, but going with the program felt good to be going with people who knew where to go and having to see the ‘must see’ sights. I went on day trips to hockey games. I also ran a race in the middle of the program and it was one of the most challenging races I have ever done but if I go back to Prague, I will run it again because it was such a great feeling running through the woods and being in touch with nature. Awesome experience.

How can this program be improved?
Letting students choose courses with time availability before the program starts.
Yes, I recommend this program
Tina
10/10

I was really nervous about studying abroad in a foreign country, but the staff members and the friends I made through USAC gave me a home away from home. The field trips were really fun and I got to see a lot of the Chinese culture through the field trips. All the courses in USAC program is intensive, however, the teachers are always willing to help if you ask for it. I had grown so much as a person through this program. The warmth given to me by the staff and the teachers will be unforgettable. Only thing I regret is that I didn't explore as much as I should have. Near the end of the program, I started to explore more and go to other cities. It was great experience to visit other places with my friends. I got to see different cities and have fun with my friends while learning more about the Chinese culture. If you do end up going abroad, which I highly recommend you trying during your university years, try travelling every weekend. It doesn't have to be somewhere far every time. I am so glad I went to study abroad in Chengdu. I enjoyed my time in Chengdu so much. I definitely want to go back to Chengdu when I can.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Mireya
10/10

This study abroad was amazing. Chengdu is a great location to be in. There are areas where you can see old Chinese culture as well as modern Chinese development. There are so many places to see. I recommend taking advantage and trying to go somewhere new every weekend. It is so easy to do. Chengdu is filled with lots of great food, tea places, and neat neighborhoods. Don't be afraid to go out, Chengdu is a very safe city. If you are trying to build your language skills it may be a little difficult talking with older people because of their dialect. However, you can easily find people to practice Chinese with, especially with college students. There are many opportunities to find a language partner. I suggest getting a language partner because they also teach you a lot of culture.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Alex
10/10

This has been one of the best experiences of my entire life. I got to learn so much about myself and the world. I got to visit so many amazing places and I made some amazing friends. The staff here are wonderful and go above and beyond to make sure that the people here are taken care of. The trips they plan are a lot of fun and educational. They are a great way to see England. There is also a lot of time to travel on your own and see the world. It is well organized and helpful. I honestly made friends that I plan on having for the rest of my life and people I would gladly travel with again. It has been the best thing I have ever done. I am upset I couldn't stay longer. I would recommend the program to everyone. It was an amazing time that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Marlo
10/10

Before studying abroad, I thought that I wanted to go to a city that spoke English, or somewhere that was touristy so that it would be easy for me to get by without learning the language. Once I arrived in Bilbao, I realized how grateful I was that I did not follow through with that first idea. I knew almost no Spanish before studying in Bilbao, but after my first few weeks of Spanish class there I could easily communicate with locals because of how helpful my professors were. This experience even inspired me to add a Spanish minor once I returned home. Bilbao is a beautiful city with very kind people, and even after traveling to other cities on the weekends I would always be excited to return home to Bilbao. The USAC staff at Universidad del Pais Vasco are extremely helpful and will assist you with anything you might need while you are abroad. I could not be more thankful to have chosen Bilbao as my city to Study Abroad in!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Anthony
10/10

Everything about this program, from the initial application to the very last day in Spain, was absolutely phenomenal. The USAC staff, both in the US and on-site in Bilbao, are super nice and very helpful. The program sets you up with the basics and provides plenty of advice and guidance while still allowing you the freedom to venture on your own and study abroad the way you want to study abroad. You can have as much independence from the other students and staff as you want, or you can be fully immersed in the program offerings. With that being said, there is an excellent excursion included in the price that allows you to tour parts of the area and learn about the culture and history. In addition, there are many smaller activities (such as touring the local bullring) that occur on an almost weekly basis. Bilbao and the Basque Country is an absolutely amazing area of Spain and along with the assistance, support, and fun offerings from USAC, makes for the perfect study abroad experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Christie
9/10

Studying abroad was a dream of mine since high school, and USAC helped achieve that. I had always heard great things about USAC and I looked forward to the day I would get to apply and see what it was really like. Bilbao is located in the Basque Country of Spain and is full of culture! I loved every minute I got to spend in downtown Bilbao and on the beaches of Getxo. The food was amazing and the on-site USAC staff was always there if we needed help. I chose to stay with a host family, and in my opinion, I got the best one. I had a host mom and a dog that we would walk by the beach every night after dinner. My host mom took great care of me and even encouraged me to go out on the weekends and explore more of Spain. She improved my Spanish skills and now I am more confident than ever to speak Spanish to anyone. There were so many great activities to take part in and USAC did a wonderful job of making sure every student was prepared. I never felt alone or lost, because there was always someone there to direct me if I needed it. The town was also extremely safe and clean. I made friends that I will have for a lifetime and I miss them everyday. If studying abroad is on your bucket list, don't hesitate to apply with USAC! It will give you everything you've imagined and more. Thank you USAC for an unforgettable experience!

How can this program be improved?
More USAC organized activities on site like beach volleyball days or tours of other towns nearby.
Yes, I recommend this program