Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

I studied Level 1 Portuguese (Intensive), Level 2 Portuguese, Brazilian Foreign Policy (English), Science Technology and War (English), Studies of Sub-Saharan Africa (Portuguese), Privatisation of Security (Portuguese)

Initially I studied the intensive Portuguese course, which is probably the most effective language program I’ve ever done. After a month I could comfortably converse to a basic level in Portuguese and get the gist of my lectures. The only criticism I would have is the timetable. Like most universities, an hour of class time is 50 minutes to give people a break. However the teachers would just keep going, with a short break after 2 ½ hours, meaning that dealing with a challenging grammatical concept at the end of the class probably went in one ear and out of the other. That said, the lessons were genuinely interesting and very practical.

The semester courses were a mixed bag. Overall they were easier than UQ but studying in a second language made up for that. Sadly due to pre-world cup bus strikes, a lot of classes were cancelled near the end of the semester. If classes were on, it was generally less interactive as there were no tutorials but the classes were also small – maximum of around 40 people. This meant the professors were generally easy to approach. Group work was a welcome addition to the normal solitude of arts student life and the main assessment was usually a presentation – far more practical than a 3000 word literature review.

Brazil was, to put it bluntly, pretty awesome. It is a mildly frustrating place to live with copious amount of slow and absurd bureaucracy. Once you got over that…..well….working out for free on the beach every morning, incredibly warm and friendly people, lush, rainforest covered mountains to be climbed throughout the city, arguably more liberal attitudes towards women and gender, football everywhere, shirts being largely optional and a place that is passionate about change. Need I say more, or put that in grammatically correct sentences?

PUC has a “homestay” program, which is not much chop. Despite it being called a “homestay” from personal and anecdotal experience it was just an easier way for landlords to rent rooms. Most students moved out within the first month due to either landlord problems and/or the raft of rules applicable in the ‘homestay’. I was put in tiny apartment shared with a family of four, plus five exchange students, plus maybe the childrens’ partners if they were over. Renting outside on the private market is quite easy, but requires a bit of Portuguese.

Accommodation will cost a minimum of BRL1000 per month in Zona Sul (where PUC is) and supermarkets are marginally cheaper than in Australia (though this varies), although anything imported will cost 60% more at least due to high import taxes. Going out is phenomenally cheap – a 500ml can of beer costs BRL 5, plus public/beach parties are pretty common and cover charges for clubs is about half of what you’d pay in Australia. A basic prepaid phone plan is about BRL 30 per month.

a. Accommodation – If I were to go again, I would stay at a cheap hostel until finding accommodation through friends or (get a premium membership until you find a room)
b. Food – The cafeteria at the university is incredibly cheap (BRL 6 for a plate you can fill with meat, salad, beans, cooked veggies etc.). Brazilian food is generally pretty bland, but trying açaí (pronounced ah-say-ee) is a must, as is going to a churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) at least once
c. Plan on getting robbed (possibly armed) at least once. It happens to everyone, don’t stress. When I got robbed at gunpoint on a lit street in a richer neighbourhood, the reaction of most my Brazilian friends was, “Oh that’s annoying, you’ll have to get a new phone.”
d. Get involved in some NGO work and persist, as often they aren’t particularly forthcoming. Given the substantial economic inequality in Brazil with favelas next to luxury suburbs there are plenty. PUC definitely won’t take up all of your time and this will allow you to see a completely different side of Brazil, plus may give you some amazing experiences.
e. Language – If you don’t speak intermediate Portuguese, do the intensive course. Very few people speak any English at all and you certainly won’t find them while wandering around lost. Portuguese is pretty easy and people will appreciate that you speak their language.
f. Use the rent-a-bike system. It’s something BRL 10 for the month and there are plenty bike paths around the city.

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