Ok this review is going to be very blunt and honest. I'm not going to try and sound a certain way in order to fit in and to stroke my ego like in most other reviews. First I'll talk a little about the program, then the city, and finally the people. All names in the review are fictional.
A little about the program:
I studied abroad there in 2015. Overall it was a great experience, but it could've been a bad choice if I didn't do things my own way, fortunately I did. Studying abroad anywhere is a great investment, and you will learn a lot. When I was there, USAC Floripa was pretty new so there was still a lot of things that needed worked out in their system. They had some woman as their housing coordinator who wasn't very good and caused some problems (thankfully she doesn't work there anymore). The program does a decent job of accommodating you and making you feel comfortable, but in some ways this overextension of accommodation kind of makes you feel like a child, and creates an environment where americans only communicate with americans. It's human nature, but I found it amusing how much Jane Doe and Ashley thought they were being cultural, outgoing, and independent, but in reality did 90% of things in their little nucleus of american friends and were absolutely terrified of being truly independent and assimilating into the culture. If you go, think about how you want your experience to be and do what you want; don't feel pressured to fit into the USAC clique just to fit in, because once you leave you probably won't see 95% of these people ever again. Aside from a couple of good professors, the classes were a joke and really hands on. Expect a lot of presentations and busy work, expect classes to begin at the crack of dawn, and expect to walk to class everyday or take a bus, it could take you 15 to 35 minutes depending on where you live, so be prepared to walk a lot and plan ahead for your classes, because they are all super strict on attendance.
Florianopolis is a great city. It has to be the most versatile city in Brazil; it has the amenities of a big city with the safety and beauty of a smaller city. If you like beaches, hikes, and nature in general you will love it there. Also, if you like amazing parties and beautiful people you will love it there. If you're a straight male, you will fall in love with the city, and be in heaven. The local girls are sweethearts and on average gorgeous. You will see a massive difference between the local girls and the low maintenance american girls in your program. To all guys reading this: if I could give you advice please don't get sucked into the USAC games and try to put yourself out there and meet some local women (and make some Brazilian friends OUTSIDE of USAC). Go to the parties by yourself or with a couple of other like minded buddies and just have a blast, it will literally be the funnest times of your life. As far as getting girls goes there is more opportunity in Floripa than any city in the U.S by far. At the university you will be attending, they have these HUGE parties bi-weekly that have free alcohol and tons of girls. Generally when you go out there will be more girls than guys, and on average they are all gorgeous. But, that doesn't mean that it will be easy. Along with being super beautiful the local girls are also well educated, have a lot of respect for themselves, and have close tight-nit families; they don't need some random gringo guy that is only there for a couple of months and doesn't speak their language or understand anything about their culture. Do as best as you can to learn the language and a bit about the social culture before you go so you can fit in with the locals, it will go a looooong way, and you will regret it if you don't learn some of each. Expect to be aggressive and take the lead when you go out with girls, gender roles are more polarized in Brazil; men are men and women are women. I can't tell you how many american guys in the program were way to passive with the local women and literally didn't date around the entire time they were there, this is pathetic, don't be that guy. Brazilian girls there are used to and like it when a guy takes the lead, so don't be afraid.
I have read in numerous articles how the locals of Florianopolis are the friendliest in Brazil, in my opinion and the opinions of several other americans, this is total garbage. The majority of locals are some of the most arrogant people that you will encounter in Brazil. They are the elite of Brazil, and generally view the rest of the Brazil as being a totally different country compared to 'their south'. The majority also hate Brazil and will look at you like you are crazy for visiting their country. In general, don't expect to be treated like royalty just because you are American, and in some cases expect to get treated rudely. People here see a lot of tourists and will not hold you to a higher regard just because you are foreign. Although all of this is true, there also exists a lot of really nice down to earth people that live there, so don't let this scare you. They are arrogant by Brazil standards, which means they are still cool. Once you meet some cariocas (people from Rio) you'll see what I am talking about. I found it super interesting how much the locals despise Brazil and talk about how it's a shit hole. The locals love everything about America and american music, movies, and entertainment, but once they actually meet an American exchange student the majority of them seem a bit distant and cold at times; they treat you like you are some sort of alien that they can't relate with so there is no point in trying. In general there are two kinds of people on the island: people who are open to meeting exchange students and being friends with them, and people who for whatever reason will not give you a chance just because you are foreign, don't take it personal and find the ones who are open. Think about it like this: at your home university in the U.S, do the coolest people hangout with the foreign exchange students that they can barely even communicate with? No they don't, in fact, they will probably feel like losers if they hangout with the exchange students; people will judge them. Same concept in Brazil. USAC provides local Brazilian language exchange partners from UFSC, but the majority of them are a bit dorky. My advice: learning the language as best as you can before you come completely changes this, and opens up a whole other demographic of locals to hangout with. Do yourself an immense favor and learn as much as you can before you come, put yourself out there as much as you can, and be as social as possible.
If you want to live a versatile lifestyle where you hike amazing trails, visit deserted beaches, and party at some of the best venues in the world with the hottest girls, I'd say go. For the money, USAC does a pretty decent job, but check other programs such as ISA to see if they are a fit for you. Overall the city can get a bit bland and boring by Brazil's standards for a couple of months out of the year (May-September). Since it is a small city, it can get a little bit cliquey at times (a lot of people know each other), but it shouldn't be an issue for a temporary stay. Best time to go would be spring semester, but if you go in the fall you will also have a blast. Both Fall and Spring semester have their pros and cons: Spring semester is super oversaturated with tourists, but it is when the best events are, fall semester is laid back with only locals, but it can get a little quiet on some weekends. Overall the Spring semester will be their summertime and the weather will be the nicest. Don't be a pandering little yes man like most of the kids that attend the program; do your own thing and live your own experience. Don't let Carly the chubby, boisterous American girl suck you into her awkward drama. Do as best as you can to meet your own people and do your own thing outside of USAC.
Stop trying to make the classes so hands on, and try as best as you can to promote an independent student lifestyle for the kids in the program. It's nice that in study abroad programs the students develop strong bonds with one another, but at the same time I think it holds them back from assimilating into the local culture. It's nice that you provide students with opportunities to take dance classes and such, but the classes are mainly for USAC students. Encourage the kids to go out their and find their own things, this is the essence of studying broad and will provide the best experiences. Oh and another thing, the students should NOT be forced to take an intensive portuguese class at the beginning of the semester that counts as a credit toward their transcript. They should at least have the option to audit the class.