São Paulo: The Ugliest City You Will Ever Love! Past Review

By (Business Administration, Trinity University) for

CIEE: Sao Paulo - Liberal Arts

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I am very interested in Latin America and Brazil is the richest and largest country of Latin America. It goes without saying that if you are interested in doing business in Latin America you must know Brazil and this study abroad program is a great way to do it. I might be moving back to São Paulo after graduation to experience more of the business side of this country.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Most PUC students try to get at least a 60, a 100 is rarely if ever given, try to go for an 80 which is very good. CIEE translates that into the normal American grading scale. The academic building itself is in extremely poor shape but it has a great view to the one of the several São Paulo skylines. All classes are in Portuguese. The professors seems to be very happy to help you out since Brazilians always appreciate it when foreigners are learning Portuguese.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The São Paulo program director is extremely sweet, nice, and helpful. She will go above and beyond for you just to have a good experience. If it was someone's birthday, she would always buy a chocolate cake (I think chocolate is her favorite). We went to her house a few times. She is always willing to answer any questions and deal with any situations. I am pretty sure she is aware that most people enjoy the classes at CIEE but do not like the classes at PUC. I heard she is trying to move the program to USP (where they used to be 10 years ago). Apparently since USP is a public university, it made CIEE leave for some government reason and they had to go with PUC instead. The program is probably going to be around 25 people, so somewhat of a smaller program. The program director has two assistants (one of which is a young Brazilian-American who can really help with cultural issues and whatnot).

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I didn't really have a good experience in Bahia since my host family limited my internet use and served me small portions of food. It felt I was more of a client than a guest or family member. It was ok since I was there for just one month. My São Paulo family was really great. My host dad was an older guy and much like a lot of older guys he was pretty wise and always had good advice to good. I really like my independence so I didn't interact as much with them as I could have, and they were understanding of that. The food was good and they served me three times of a day instead of the required two times a day.

* Food:

The quality/quantity of food balance was good. If I was really hungry I would go to an all you can eat sushi place in the neighborhood which was about $20 (for São Paulo standards not badly priced).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program arranges for you to go to Rio and it was a great cultural experience being atop the Sugarloaf Mountain and Crist the Redeemer. There are only 3 weekend cultural trips during six months though (I studied abroad in another country and it seemed like we had 7 weekend cultural activities over 4 months).

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

São Paulo is a dangerous city, no one is going to deny that. Just don't be flashy and you'll probably will be good. São Paulo is so diverse that most people can be seen as locals. If someone is going to rob from you, which is certainly a possibility, just give them your stuff. Just use common sense, this isn't Spain or Japan, it's Latin America.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? At least $100 per week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? BUY electronics, clothes, watches from the US. Prices for these goods usually are at least 3 times more expensive in Brazil than they are in the US. São Paulo is a very expensive city, I heard it's the 10th most expensive city in the world. The Real is the most overvalued currency in the world sothat doesn't help either. If you are a guy expect to pay a lot of money for going out at night. You're really lucky if you are a girl in this city since it so much cheaper.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
Language acquisition improvement?

If you want to improve your Portuguese this is the reason to go on this program. The fall program takes place for one month in Salvador, Bahia and the other 5 months in São Paulo. That said, it is really a long study abroad program (it really is summer + fall) which really helps improve the language. Both of my professors in Bahia and in São Paulo were amazing, kind, funny guys that really pushed you practice Portuguese. I loved the classes so much I actually sat in extra class sessions just to learn more stuff here and there. The people who actually administer the program will only speak to you in Portuguese, which can be hard at first but you'll get used to it at the very end. You live with a host family so that also really helps with Portuguese. Most of them speak little to no English or Spanish. The bottom line is that if you want to really improve your Portuguese you should without doubt do this program. Plus you get to see to sides of Brazil if you are doing the fall program.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The language improvement
* What could be improved?
  • The local university (CIEE is trying to move it to USP)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you want to improve your Portuguese this is the program for you!