Study Abroad Recs

Sao Paulo Travel Blog

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Rachel’s Study Abroad Argentina/Brazil recommendations:
 

Part 1: Buenos Aires

  1. Keep the amount of time spent in Buenos Aires comparable to the month we spent there this year.  

Reasoning: I felt like Buenos Aires was a wonderful city to spend a large period of time in for many reasons, excellent public transportation and safety being two of the most important. By spending several weeks in a location you have a chance to stop being a tourist who sees only what he wants to see. For this reason, and because Buenos Aires offered so much for everyone, I would recommend not limiting the time in Buenos Aires to anything less than three weeks.

  1. If at all possible, while in Buenos Aires, vary the starting times of classes.

    Reasoning: During the week, starting classes after noon limited the activities you could partake in to     primarily
            night life. If the time in Buenos Aires gets limited in the future, starting classes earlier would be beneficial
            because it would allow students the opportunity to maximize their days. Perhaps starting earlier Monday
            through Thursday and having later starting times on Fridays (more comparable to the night life schedule in
            BsAs) would be good. Of course, this all depends on the University and classroom schedules. 

  1. Residencia: Keep the residencia situation only if the stay in Buenos Aires is longer than three weeks and if an understanding between staff and students is reached.

Reasoning: First, an explanation. The Residencia is a beautiful location with easy access to the subway and is only an hour’s walk away from just about anywhere you would want to go in Buenos Aires. Living in the residencia also helps break the feel of being a tourist and helps you feel more like someone living in Buenos Aires which opens you up to more experiences. Living with other Latin American students was wonderful, though when the UGA students came I think English became the predominant language spoken in our residencia. The crowded situations really aren’t that difficult to manage (I had three other roommates in a room the size of a large walk-in closet) and the benefits the residencia offers are worth the cramped living. 

However, a few things need to be clarified before I would delve into living in the residencia again. First, upon arrival and throughout our stay in the residencia we were never once offered a list of rules or obligations as a resident though we were often reprimanded for not doing things as the owners would have had us. Second, I think it would be beneficial for the entire group to live in the same unit if at all possible. The split between the three residencies made group work difficult to facilitate and social coordination was hampered because of the lack of easy communication method. Third, I think that at the beginning of the student’s stay in the residencia they should be introduced to the staff, know whom to talk to when problems arise, and be provided with the wireless access information (if it even exists!!!)

  1. Assuming the stay in Buenos Aires is longer than 3 weeks, keep the single long weekend.  

Reasoning: After staying in Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks, most people are really ready to get a break from the city and see a little bit more of Argentina. Since Argentina does have much to offer and students all have different tastes, providing the long weekend helps students individualize their program and get exactly what they want to from Argentina. I would, however, plan the long weekend dates ahead of time so that more ambitious students have the opportunity to complete any needed planning.

  1. Provide students with information regarding where and how to take Spanish lessons/classes in Buenos Aires 

Reasoning: I understand the limitations the School of Modern Languages places on the program because they offer Spanish language, but an informal recommendation to students as to where and how they could improve their Spanish would be fabulous. Additionally, an informal introduction to Argentine pronunciation/slang would be useful to all students. Maybe there is some way of pairing students up with English speaking university students and allowing the possibility of coffee hour meetings where both parties benefit from the exchange.

Part II: Brazil

  1. Severely limit the amount of time spent in Florianopolis or eliminate it entirely.

Reasoning: 

Culturally, Florianopolis had very little to offer. The public transportation was not efficient and if the weather is inclement, there is very little activity in Florianopolis during the off season. I felt like the 10 days we spent in Florianopolis weren’t really spent in a foreign country but in any other beach town in the world, and while the scenery was indeed gorgeous, it was too far south to really enjoy the beach. The Portuguese lessons weren’t particularly beneficial to me. I felt the progress we made in ten hours could have been made in one, concentrated two hour session. The lectures at the Federal University of Santa Catarina should not be repeated… though Jeff Casen’s lecture was a pleasure. 

Instead of spending time in Florianopolis, I would suggest taking everyone to a beach town of greater significance or to a better beach closer to Rio de Janiero. However, should you return to Florianopolis, our living situation was wonderful. Having kitchens and utensils was fabulous and Lagoa was close to the beaches and had plenty of good restaurants.

  1. Foz do Iguacu: Ciudade del Este makes it worth the visit…  

Reasoning: The falls were in and of themselves quite spectacular, and I can’t imagine someone choosing not to visit them. Ciudade del Este, however, should be made part of the course curriculum. If you are talking about doing business in Latin America, I felt like the several hours I spent in Paraguay were very much worth my time. I would, however, consider flying from Buenos Aires to Foz do Iguazu and then bussing to Curitiba and then the beach… but I’ll list more of that later.

            The hotel in Iguacu was very nice, had spectacular breakfasts, and WiFi, all of which would lead me to                 recommend it for future stays.  

  1. Curitiba, Brazil… spectacular planning, but not such a spectacular city to visit: Don’t spend so much time in Curitiba in the future.

Reasoning: Curitiba felt a little bit too much like Atlanta. It was a good place to visit, for a couple of days. But living in a hotel there for ten days made you feel like a tourist in a city with very little to offer tourists. The site visits were informative and relavent to the Doing Business in Brazil course, but in the future I would recommend finding a way to speak to an actual architect or urban planner or even a graduate student or professor with knowledge of Curitiba. 

Our time in Curitiba was also rather drawn out by long days filled with site visits that, while interesting, weren’t the most intriguing visits... and by long days of class and studying. To avoid having such a long stretch of mundane time, I would strongly suggest not taking such a long break from classes as we did when we visited Florianopolis and Foz do Iguacu.    

  1. Sao Paulo, Brazil… very worth the time we spent there… by all means, do not reduce the time in Sao Paulo 

Reasoning: I felt like Sao Paulo was the first chance I had to taste some of what I expected Brazil to be. Granted, Curitiba and Florianopolis helped me see that Brazil isn’t all what I had pictured, Sao Paulo was incredible to experience. The visit to the MST was by far one of my favorite days from the trip. Please continue taking students to the MST. Our visit to the favella felt a little bit odd in the respect of being tourists to poverty, but I guess bringing the food helped assuage some of the guilty feelings. Perhaps in the future there could be some way to organize a volunteer activity in exchange for a visit to a favella? Regardless, both the trip to the MST and the favella really helped me comprehend the levels of poverty in Brazil and the living situations many people are in. And having this opportunity was incredible.

Even though things in Sao Paulo are much more expensive than in other cities we visited, it’s worth it. I would even consider extending the time spent in Sao Paulo to a week or at least to include a weekend day to see the markets. 

Having Jeff with us in Sao Paulo was wonderful. His expertise really showed, and it was very nice to have him with us. He was Brazil’s equivalent of Gabriel, who was also fabulous. 

 

In General:  

On the amount of travel in Brazil:
            I would aim to increase the amount of time spent in some singular place in Brazil. Small trips are nice because they help you appreciate the diversity that Brazil has to offer, but in Brazil I felt more like a tourist on vacation than I ever did in Buenos Aires, and I didn’t very much like that feeling, especially in Curitiba.  

On blogging:
            The blogs were a wonderful evaluation tool, and I greatly appreciate their presence as opposed to a final term paper. I felt like the blog questions were all very relevant to the material we were reading and what we were experiencing. Doing weekly research in these areas really helped increase my comprehension of the material in ways that had I been required to write a term paper I would not have. What inevitably happens when a final, culminating project is assigned is that students wait until late in the game to start work and don’t reap the same application benefits the blogs gave. I would recommend, however, to alleviate student’s complaints about internet costs in Brazil that instead of giving back money for food, giving students some of their refunded money specifically stating its use for internet. I would also personally recommend that students bring with them a lap top and flash drive.
            Students should have the opportunity, however, to work in the same group throughout the program if they so choose. I understand the desire to create diverse student groups and encourage intermingling among the students, but when some students enter the program with specific grade expectations and others have higher or lower standards, it increases the frustration in completing the blog assignments and if groups are not at a certain level of understanding, someone still ends up doing more work than is fair.
            I did not feel that four personal blogs a week was too many, though I know that many students felt it difficult to write that many. 

 

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photo by: Eric