A vida no Brasil March 13, 2016

By (Environmentall Engineering, University of Virginia) - abroad from 01/16/2015 to 05/14/2015 with

USAC: Florianopolis, Brazil - Brazilian Culture Studies, Global Economy, and Natural Resource Management

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned to really embrace who I am. I put myself in many situations where I felt uncomfortable, because I didn't know the language or the people, but I tried to engage anyway. Knowing that I can make friends and have a great time despite the language and culture barrier made me much more self-confident. Also, the experience of being a stranger in another culture made me a more compassionate person. I feel that I am better able to appreciate someone else's perspective. Also, I made a lot of amazing friends during this experience. So, yes, absolutely, it was worthwhile.

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.

The courses were exactly what I was looking for: engaging, informative, but not work intensive. The classes I chose supplemented what I was learning every day about Brazilian culture and Portuguese and added to my immersive experience. It is possible to float through some classes, but it's worth putting in some effort.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The USAC admins are some of the greatest people I have had to pleasure to become friends with. John is brilliant and genuinely wants to help each student fulfill their study abroad dreams. He is also an excellent futebol player. Mariana and Mariele are kind, funny, and easy to talk to and they took the time to help me improve my fledgling Portuguese. Also, they are both incredibly fun people to hang with outside of the office. I really cannot express how much their friendship enhanced my time in Floripa.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family accepted me into their daily lives immediately. The day after they picked me up from the airport, my host sister took me to her Carnaval bateria practice. I picked up a chocalho, became part of the group, and ended up playing in the parade during Carnaval. When I arrived, I knew no Portuguese and so we spoke English at the beginning and transitioned to speaking only Portuguese by the second month. They welcomed me join their family outings to visit other family members and to go to concerts, theater productions, and the market. I had my own room and shared a bathroom. Everything that I needed was provided.

* Food:

The primary cook of the family was vegetarian and so we rarely ate meat, which was perfect as I was transitioning from an all veggie diet to meat eating occasionally. Also, I am lactose intolerant, so my family bought lactose free milk and cheese for me. They made their own granola and yogurt, so breakfast was usually papaya and banana with granola and yogurt. They didn't drink coffee, but they bought some for me to make each morning. Dinner was always different and they made an effort to cook traditional Brazilian dishes for me to try. Also, we usually had some sort of dessert each night. Whenever I was hungry, I was welcome to have snacks. As a disclaimer, my family was very accommodating with food, but some families other people in the programmed stayed with were more strict about how much food they provided.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made it a priority to integrate myself into the culture and I think I did a great job. I did not know any Portuguese coming in, but I was able to communicate pretty well by the end. I took every opportunity I could to immerse myself in the language. I got to know the people in my bateria group and ended up going to a churrasco and partying with them during Carnaval. I played futebol most weeks with a group of USAC and local UFSC students. I took a Brazilian literature course, which forced me to listen and speak Portuguese in class. I also took a dance class with other UFSC students that was taught in Portuguese. I have more examples, but ultimately I met a lot of Brazilians because I put myself in situations where I was the only non-Portuguese speaker, which was uncomfortable at times, but SO worth it. I made many lasting friendships in Floripa and in other cities in Brazil.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

One morning, I woke up and my hand was twice its normal size. The family I was with at the time took me to the hospital. We waited maybe 15 minutes. I received anti-inflammatory medicine for free and a prescription for more medicine, which was approximately R$30 (about $10 at the time). I never contacted the program, but the hospital was efficient, effective, and cheap. I did need to get vaccines before coming to Brazil and I received malaria medicine because I was travelling to the Amazon after the program. I would listen to what the locals say about whether or not to take the malaria medicine if you decide to travel, because the medicine often makes you feel terrible and is not necessary during certain seasons.

* Safety:

Floripa is a very safe Brazilian city. In general, you want to avoid walking alone after dark. Going out at night, I always felt safe because I would meet up with someone or take the bus. With that being said, two of my friends were mugged while I was there. One was during Carnaval during the day. The other, we were walking along the road at night and someone was lagging behind the group and a car pulled up beside him. Neither people were injured, only a hat and wallet were stolen, but crime does happen.

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

Absolutely! The people in Floripa are warm and fun, and the place itself is beautiful. There are lots of hiking trails, beaches, and water activities. The food is excellent and some cool concerts come through town. The people that work in the USAC office are wonderful human beings and they help make each student's experience a lifelong memory.

Finances

* 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)

The partner university, UFSC, provides lunch and dinner. The meal tickets were R$1.50, equivalent to 50 cents per meal while I was there. You can eat pretty cheaply. Obviously, you spend more when you go out to eat or treat yourself to snacks, buy clothes, or go out to bars, but I think you can do all of that cheaply if you are conscious about your spending.

Language

* 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 many opportunities to hang out with local Brazilian students and each person gets a language partner if you want. The encouragement is there, you just have to take advantage of it.

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
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? Do not worry about sounding stupid, just use the words you know and try to speak. Most people I talked to enjoyed helping me and found my Portuguese funny (in a good-natured way) so it was often I good way to meet people.

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
  • Americans
  • International Students
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?
  • he people of Floripa and my host family
  • John, Mariana, Mariele, and Tiago and my other study abroad peeps
  • the food (fresh fruit and cheap coffee)
* What could be improved?
  • More engagement with UFSC students
  • More futebol games
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Learn some Portuguese before you go. It makes your study abroad experience infinitely better.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.