- What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? I took classes on a variety of subjects, including Ecology, Brazilian Culture and History, and Globalization. I felt that the classes, while more relaxed, were also more participatory than at UCSB, and the students were involved in a sort of discussion with the professor rather than the professor just talking at them. Also, all of my classes were in Portuguese and with Brazilian students, which gave me perspectives on topics such as international relations that I probably couldn’t have gotten back home.
- What was your favorite class abroad? My favorite class was probably my Ecology class, because at the end of the semester we did a 2-day research trip to the countryside to study ecological systems.
- How would you describe your host institution? PUC has an absolutely beautiful campus, with lots of lush foliage, a river, and wild monkeys! It is definitely a wealthy school, and most of the students were from the upper classes of society. However, there were quite a few other students in a sort of financial aid system. It was really interesting befriending them and understanding their stories.
- Describe your housing situation. For the first month, I lived with a Brazilian host family. Afterwards, I decided for various reasons to move out and ended up getting an apartment with a mix of Brazilian and international students.
- Where did you eat most of your meals? I ate a lot of my meals at botecos, which are casual little eateries all around the city. At school, I ate at these little blue food stands on campus, which were super cheap and delicious! I also cooked my own meals at home a lot, which was also very affordable.
- How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? In Rio, you can eat on a budget and get good quality food for cheap. However, there are also a variety of more expensive options if you are craving something specific (sushi, etc.) or for a fancy night out at a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse).
- Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? I think that you probably would miss out on a lot, since Brazilians absolutely love their meat and cheese. However, there are definitely options available, if you look for them. A lot of traditional dishes consist of rice, beans, kale, mandioca, and other vegetarian ingredients.
- Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. I have a few, but probably churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ), a small Amazonian eatery in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, or some of the DELICIOUS homemade food that I tried in the countryside of the interior of Brazil.
- What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? So much, including coxinhas, churrasco, pão de queijo, acarajé, feijoada, and of course the delicious açai that you can buy around the city.
- Describe your host city. Rio has the nickname of “cidade maravilhosa,” or “marvelous city” and it is not an exaggeration. The enormous and vibrant metropolis is tucked between lush green jungle and beautiful sunny beaches. The best views are from Pão de Açucar or Mirante Dona Marta.
- Was it easy to get around? It is fairly easily and affordable to get around. The metro connects most of the city, there are Ubers everywhere, and for only about $5 a month you can have unlimited biking from a company called Itau Bike, which I used often to get to school, the beach, or my friends’ houses.
- Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? Despite Rio’s reputation as a dangerous city, I felt pretty safe. There were definitely times when I felt like I should be more careful with my stuff, but if you know how to act/where to go, it really is just like any other large city.
- What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? Carnaval was definitely a highlight, as was Festas Juninas, which is essentially a Brazilian autumn festival. I also went to soccer games, went to the beach, attended lots of parties and music festivals, went to museums, and did some breathtaking hikes in the lush hills above the city.
- Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. Since I have family in Latin America, I was used to a more warm Latin culture. However, I noticed that Brazilians tend to be very cordial and will do anything to avoid displeasing you- much more than other culture’s I’ve experienced. This can be both a good and bad thing. They are also very direct with their feelings, which can also be a good and bad thing. Somehow these two contradictions exist, which makes complete sense if you get to know Brazil or Brazilians.
- How did you handle culture shock? I didn’t experience too much culture shock, since Brazilians are very friendly and made me feel at home. However, the times when I was homesick, I just called family or friends or watched American stuff on Youtube.
- What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? Definitely the warmth and friendliness, and willingness to engage with anyone. I literally made friends just walking on the street, friends who I still talk to today.
- Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. I have so many, but one of them was probably when we arrived to a small town called Trindade without a hotel. We walked around with our backpacks and eventually found a place, then dropped off our stuff and had a delicious dinner of seafood. Afterwards, we had some drinks at a bar, made some Brazilian friends, and ended up swimming in the warm sea underneath the moonlight. Or seeing jaguars and alligators in the wild. That was definitely really cool.
- What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? I was a little bit worried that I wouldn’t make friends, or that I would feel alone. However, after like 2 days in Rio I had already realized that this fear was unfounded. Brazilians are crazy friendly, and the other people that I met in my program were in the same boat as me and we easily bonded.
- What was your biggest challenge abroad? My biggest challenge abroad was probably mastering the language. In the beginning, it was hard to adjust, however after a few months I was able to communicate fluently.
- How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? I feel much more confident in my abilities to adapt to any situation. I also have a much better understanding of myself, and what I want to do with my life. I cannot understate the amount of times, since returning to the US, that I have thought back and seen a connection between my current successes and my growth during study abroad.
- What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? Put yourself out there, and do things that scare you. Communicate with others around you, bond, make new friends from all around the world. Be grateful for the opportunities you have, and seize them. And most of all, have fun!!!