Study Abroad Review

Sao Paulo Travel Blog

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Concerning future study abroad trips of this program, there are some changes that I personally would make. I enjoyed the program but there does exist room for improving it.

First, I would drop the required amount of personal blogs due each week. 4 was simply took too much time each week, especially once we reached Brazil where internet access was diminished. This required a decent amount of time spent on writing/typing/posting that could have been spent exploring the cities we were in. They did have a high value because they made us think more about what we were witnessing, but I would drop the number from 4 to 2 each week.

I did enjoy the time off in Florianopolis and Iguazu Falls. The rest and relaxation time there was extremely refreshing and the travel time associated with these visits was well worth it. I would just make sure that future students realize that this is exactly what this time is for and that they actually relax and explore instead of staying in and blogging, studying or reading for class.

Also, I think I would spend less time in Curitiba. 9 days seemed a little to long in a business city. I feel that 5 would be more than sufficient and this would open up a possibility for more time in another city.

Along these lines, I would highly recommend making Rio de Janeiro a stop on the shorter program and not just on the extended one. I am sure that at least some students may never travel to Brazil again any time soon or maybe even ever and Rio is one city that many people have heard of without knowing anything else about Brazil. This city is so associated with Brazil and I feel it definitely should be one of the locations that all of the students get to travel to.

Another potential problem that could arise is the lack of laptop computers. This was not really a problem on our trip because many people brought theirs and these people were kind enough to share with those that did not. However, if by chance only a few people on the trip brought laptops a logistical nightmare would take place. I would encourage everyone with a laptop to bring it and possibly even for those with the ability to purchase one. Obviously it cannot be a requirement but this would help ensure that problems of this nature do not occur.

One addition I could see to the trip would be some sort of student-exploration project similar to our ethnic lunch activity in Sao Paulo. Perhaps within the first few days/week of being in a new city, arrange some kind of “scavenger hunt” that takes students to various points around the city where they have to acquire something, learn something or figure out some point you want to get across before moving to the next one. This would be a fun activity that forces the student to learn the city. Also, I would make groups chosen by the professor to again force them to interact with people they do not know. Maybe even do this type of activity in Buenos Aires during the first week of the stay.

Keep the Argentines or perhaps Brazilians on the trip! Having foreign peers on the trip helps on many levels. They can help tremendously with the language gaps, they add a lot to lectures and discussions and, from a social standpoint; they allow American students to learn a lot about their culture that a lecture, professor or book could teach. It also gives the students a chance to meet many interesting people and to form lasting relationships that could have large benefits down the road.

The last piece of advice that I can give is to be clearer on activities and assignments. I know that it took more than a few weeks to learn what was wanted for our personal and group blogs. Also, this would help the students plan their own activities for the day or week.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself on this trip and have made many great relationships, shared in once in a lifetime experiences and seen many things that I would never have been able to see without going on this trip. I will definitely recommend to others, as I know it will improve from year to year with assignments such as these. Continue to get student input on the program.

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Unlike our stay in only Buenos Aires, Argentina, we have visited various cities during our time in Brazil. This allows for comparisons to be made among the very different places we have traveled to. All of these places have many unique attributes and are easily distinguished from one another. Therefore, we have been able to see the multiple layers of Brazil that makes the country unique.

Florianopolis: This was the first place we stayed in Brazil. We stayed on the island portion of Florianopolis, off of mainland Brazil. Floripa is a tourist city that has many wonderful beaches that attract many Argentines, as well as many other visitors, during the summer months. One of the world’s major surfing competitions is held at Mole Beach, which is one of Floripa’s famous beaches along with Joaquina Beach. It was early winter while we lived here but we were still able to visit these beaches anyway. Floripa has a typical tourist, beach town feel to it that is not much different than many cities in Florida. The city does not have many large industries and is comprised mostly of restaurants, hotels, pousadas and surf shops. Florianopolis also lacked any visible evidence of homeless persons or poverty. Likewise, there was little to no police presence here as well. Overall, I feel that we all enjoyed our stay in Floripa.

Iguazu Falls: This was our next stop via bus in Brazil. Iguazu Falls is another tourist location for the obvious natural attractions. We were able to visit the falls on a very clear day and see them first hand. While at the national park we went on a jungle tour and a riverboat excursion up to the bottom of the falls. The city of Iguazu Falls had a similar setting as Florianopolis but without the beach of course. However, minus the wireless connection offered at our hotel, Iguazu Falls seemed to lack internet access points, unlike in Florianopolis where it was readily available in town. Also, one day we took a short trip to Paraguay since the city is located at an intersection of three countries, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Iguazu Falls was another pleasant city on our study abroad trip.

Curitiba: Third on our list of cities, Curitiba was very different than the two previous places we had visited. This city is very modern and industrialized with many large buildings and skyscrapers. Curitiba is a very well planned city that boasts an impressive public transportation system. The city is very clean and environment conscious. On every street you could find recycling bins and it became apparent that all of the inhabitants of the city were very concerned with this issue. This was the first place that had a night scene with many barzinhos and pubs in a section of the city called Batel. There were also many cultural attractions across the city as well. We had the chance to see a live, local music performance while there. One surprise of Curitiba was the lack of internet cafes and other access points that one would think should be present in such an advanced city. Curitiba also is a major site for foreign investment and contains many large corporate buildings and plants located here such as Volvo, for example. Given these many different aspects of this city some Brazilians I have spoken with have said that Curitiba does not represent what Brazil really is. They went as far as to say that living in Curitiba was not living in Brazil at all because it is too different. From my standpoint, the city did lack homelessness and other impoverished characteristics that even Florianopolis and Iguazu Falls had. Curitiba is covered with green space and various parks that add to its uniqueness and appeal. Even if Curitiba can be considered to not truly represent jeitinho Brasileiro, I did enjoy my time in this model modern city.

São Paulo: The last location of my trip, Sao Paulo possesses many unique attributes as well. If it can be said that Curitiba is not representative of Brazil, it is undeniable that Sao Paulo is not. Sao Paulo completely encompasses what it is like to live the jeitinho Brasileiro. The city is enormous with roughly 16 million people living in the city alone. When standing on the terrace level of our hotel, the city can be seen expanding in every direction as far as the eye can see. Sao Paulo is a very modern and industrialized city like Curitiba with many large buildings, theaters, malls, hotels, etc. There definitely is a poverty aspect of Sao Paulo that can be witnessed on almost every street in the city. Homeless persons and other poor people can be found in every portion of Sao Paulo that we have visited. In fact, we traveled to a favela of Sao Paulo on one day of our trip. Curitiba had growing favelas on the outskirts of the city, but otherwise favelas were not present in any of the other cities on our trip. Sao Paulo shows the many extremities and inequalities that are associated with Brazil. There are enormous and expensive buildings, poor favelas, rich businessmen, poor bums, cheap alley restaurants and high priced cafes across Sao Paulo that reinforces this sentiment. Also, there can be seen the many different nationalities of immigrants as well. There are Italians, Greeks, Koreans, Japanese, Bolivian, Polish and German populations scattered throughout the city. The many differing ethnicities of Brazil are present in Sao Paulo as well. There are whites, blacks and every ethnic group in between all over Sao Paulo. I am glad to have visited this sort of city that is associated so strongly with the Brazilian way of thinking.

All of these cities vary greatly from one to the other. Traveling amongst them has been a sort of process of progression from foreign tourist to Brazilian local. Seeing these unique and different places allows me to form a more correct opinion and idea of what Brazil is. I feel that each one offers important examples for all of the country and that Brazil is not just one more than the other. To me, Brazil is a sum of the whole. When you combine all of the aspects of each city then you have assembled the true features of Brazil. This is because Brazil is melting pot of cultures, peoples, ideas, industries, local governments and inequalities. Only when you can grasp the concept that Brazil is extremely complex and is unique in this nature, can you understand what Brazil is.

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photo by: Eric