Traveling in Rio as an Exchange Student

By Leo Cutting, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For some, the prospect of spending a ten-day vacation exploring Rio’s neighborhoods and relaxing on its beautiful beaches is simply not enough. Those who want to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of Rio, simply put, want to become more than just a tourist.

UFRJ Entrance Hall, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

UFRJ, Ilha do Fundão, Rio de Janeiro, photo by Monica Wagner/Flickr Creative Commons License.

One increasingly popular means of enjoying an extended stay in the Cidade Maravilhosa is to attend one of the city’s universities. This was the option chosen by current Rio resident, Jeff Sobel who completed part of his MBA on an exchange at UFRJ-COPPEAD.

Sobel told The Rio Times about how he was able to combine his time studying with “weekend trips to Buzios, São Paulo and other places throughout Brazil.”

For him, living in a city as exciting as Rio whilst also having the chance to develop his academic understanding of Brazil at COPPEAD was a perfect combination. However, he did warn that, in a city like Rio, remaining a committed student can be difficult, especially “when its 40 degrees and the beach is calling your name.”

Unsurprisingly, a good knowledge of Portuguese will normally be necessary for those wishing to receive a full diploma from a Brazilian university. However, for single-semester exchange students, being fluent in Portuguese may not be so essential.

Some universities in Rio are beginning to offer exchange programs which are taught predominantly in English. Foremost among these is PUC which offers a range of courses, taught in English, covering a variety of Latin American issues.

Exchange students who are not yet proficient in Portuguese are required to take a language course alongside their other classes. This system enables foreign students to gain a greater understanding of the region, in their own language, while also learning Portuguese and spending time enjoying this wonderful city.

Students relaxing on the PUC campus, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Students relaxing on the PUC campus, photo by WikiMapa/Flickr Creative Commons License.

“Studying in Rio de Janeiro is an exciting option for international students,” says Rosa Marina de Brito Meyer, PhD, Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs, International Cooperation at PUC Rio tells The Rio Times.

“Exchange students tend to choose countries like the United States or European countries that usually have similar cultures to their own. In Brazil, both the language and the culture are different which enriches the exchange experience.” she adds.

Dr. Meyer went on to point out the benefits of gaining an understanding of Brazil, given its rapid economic rise, stating that studying in Brazil is something that can “open doors during the future careers of students worldwide.”

The kind of housing on offer to students will vary from university to university. PUC offers to arrange home-stays to its exchange students which is especially beneficial for those wanting to get a quick grasp of Portuguese.

FGV, another university popular with international students, does not provide on campus housing but does offer to help incoming exchange students find accommodation close to their faculty. Fully furnished accommodation can also be found in Rio using websites such as www.okupe.net.

Anyone planning to study in Brazil will be required to obtain a student visa from the Brazilian embassy or consulate in their respective country. Exchange students will need a “Temporary Visa I” whereas those wishing to undertake an entire degree at a Brazilian institution will need a “Temporary Visa IV.”

Neither of these visas allows the holder to pursue legal employment in Brazil though, so those planning to pay for their studies through part time work will need to reevaluate. The full list of requirements for both visas can be found here.

For foreigners, the choice to study in Rio certainly requires a daring disposition and plenty of due diligence. However, there can be no doubt that the opportunity to live, learn and travel in this fabulous city is one which is worth its challenges.

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