Dive into Brazilian culture, politics, and society Past Review

By (Poverty and Inequality, Brandeis University) - abroad from 07/27/2015 to 12/01/2015 with

CET Brazil

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes it was worthwhile and I gained probably more than I know from this experience. I gained language proficiency, great friends, exploring a new culture, gained the confidence to get around in a foreign country with few language skills, traveling, and more than I can recall right now. I would go back to Brazil in a hearbeat.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This question is difficult to answer. Evaluating CET for its academic rigor, apart from comparison to other programs, I give the program a 3 star rating. But comparing CET to other known programs, such as CIEE, I would give CET a 4 star rating. Here’s way: CET is still a young program, only having completed three semesters, and still working out the kinks of academics based on each groups feedback from the previous semester. In general classes felt a bit unorganized and lacking coordination between guest speakers. That said, I did learn quit a lot from each course and more than I would have learned taking the same course at my host institution since our CET courses included academic excursions, some overnight, and lecturers who were experts in their fields and willing to share their projects with us. Apart from these courses I took an intense Portuguese class and since I was the only non-Spanish speaking beginner, CET staff were incredibly accommodating and designed a private course for me with one of the best professors I have ever had. Now, in comparison to other programs like CIEE, I believe CET offers more rigor. Several of the students in our program took direct enroll courses at PUC-SP, where CIEE students take all of their courses, and I heard many complaints from students within my group and those within CIEE of how little material was covered, a lack of knowledge learned, and a lack of evaluations. I know it is not my place to evaluate another program that I was not enrolled with, but in comparison I strongly believe CET offers more academic rigor, something I would like to know if I was choosing between these programs.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

CET staff were absolutely incredible. They were by far my favorite aspect of this program. Sergio, Sulia, and Giselda, went far out of their way accommodate our every need and ensure that we had the best semester possible. From organizing elaborate trips to Salvador to taking us to museums in Sao Paulo to accommodating any academic or housing dilemmas to accompanying us to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, CET staff were available for any and everything. I really can’t say enough about them, they were fantastic staff who became lifelong friends by the end of the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

This is a difficult question for me to answer since like any housing it was hit or miss. With CET we lived in apartments with Brazilian roommates our age and other students from the program. I loved the other students I lived with from the US and our Brazilian roommates were very sweet but they were not around enough to talk to. A huge part of housing is gaining language immersion and help through conversation and since our roommates were rarely home we didn’t improve our Portuguese as much as we would have liked. HOWEVER, we were only one apartment of many, other students with CET had fantastic experiences with their Brazilian roommates who showed them around the city, went out with them, and spent many nights having long conversations in Portuguese. One girl on the program dramatically improved her language skills talking with her roommates everyday. So, I think CET should have a better monitoring system, ensuring that all Brazilian roommates are making an effort to talk with their American roommates and show them around the city but odds are if you do this program you’ll get some good roommates and if you don’t, CET staff will be sure to help you find a better arrangement.

* Food:

We did all our own cooking so there isn’t much to evaluate with the food. Grocery stores are decently cheap and there are many corner luncheonettes if you don’t feel like cooking. I really enjoyed the freedom of choosing my own meals rather than being tied down to a bad dining hall or having someone else cook for me.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This question really depends on what you want out of your experience in Brazil. If you want to go out and explore the culture of Brazil and Sao Paulo, it is very easy to do and CET provides you with all the tools and excursions necessary to do so. However, if you don’t feel like integrating into your local society then it would also be easy to sit at home and stay in your own American bubble. So the cultural integration is really what you make of it. Personally, I did a lot of traveling while I was in Brazil to explore other cities, went out on the weekends, and went to several cultural films, museums, parks etc. in addition to the numerous excursions CET offered. These excursions include, but are not limited to, a week long seminar in Salvador, Bahia, a weekend trip to Paraty, RJ, a weekend trip to an urban indigenous village in Sao Paulo, and numerous day trips within Sao Paulo to see museums, cultural centers, art etc.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I, unfortunately, spent several months fighting off different infections so I had plenty of experience with the healthcare provided in Brazil. CET provides HTH healthcare insurance which works through reimbursement so you have to pay money up front for hospital visits and medications but then you are later refunded. I had no trouble being refunded, they mailed me a check, but having to pay upfront can be difficult when hospital visits themselves are upwards of R600. And CET staff were fantastic in helping me get to the hospital, translate my needs, and fill out forms for reimbursement.

* Safety:

I did not feel unsafe in Sao Paulo. Like any city you should take precautions when walking by yourself or in small groups at night and never carry too much money on you, but I was never in a situation in Sao Paulo were I felt threatened or scared. The neighborhood we lived in, Perdizes, was incredibly safe and I never felt scared walking around by myself at night coming back from class. The only situation where we felt unsafe was when a group of us took an independent weekend to Rio de Janiero and got mugged, but that really had nothing to do with the safety of the program.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Very easily, the exchange rate was great (R4=US1), so eating and traveling was cheap and easy. Every tuesday we went to an outdoor market where we bought the weeks produce for less than $10, and the rest of our food was between $30 per week depending on what you buy and how much you eat out. You can also eat right at PUC for R10, roughly $2.50 for lunch or dinner. Weekends away were also very cheap if you take the bus and stay in a hostel or airbnb, we would probably spend in total $200 for a long weekend in Rio or Florianopolis or Curitiba or wherever we wanted to go

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Like I said above when you travel, definitely take the bus and stay in hostels or airbnbs. Its always a good idea to buy water from the grocery store since restaurants charge you twice as much for a much smaller bottle of water (you have to buy all the water you drink in Brazil since its not good from the tap).


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

There are very few people in Sao Paulo who speak English so you'll be forced to use Portuguese alot. But that said it would be very easy to just speak with the other students on the program in English and not go out and practice your language. But as a beginner I had portuguese class 6 hours a week and homework after words so I used my portuguese pretty much every day. Also for academic and recreational CET excursions all the lectures/tours were in Portuguese so I often needed someone to translate for me so I understood everything.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? High school spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Yes, get out there. Just go to a grocery store or a shop or talk to your cab driver, just start a conversation with anyone. Brazilians are incredibly friendly and patient and love to talk, so start up a conversation. If you find Brazilian news, tv shows, or music online that can also really help. Or you can talk with your Brazilian roommates and have them help you with your homework so you can get some practice. But really in order to improve your language it really counts what you do outside of class to practice.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Staff
  • Brazilian people
  • The other students from the US
* What could be improved?
  • Offering volunteering opportunities
  • organization
  • academics
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had a little more background with Portuguese or Spanish before I went since I think I would have gotten more out of being abroad if I had understood more at first and improved to a higher level. There weren't too many surprises with the program and Sao Paulo is like any big city so there really wasn't much more I could have done to prepare. But maybe just make sure you go to CDC before you leave and get your shots and malaria medication if you want to go to the Amazon.