Studying abroad is probably something you have always envisioned doing while in college. Getting out and exploring the unknown, but the only problem is choosing where to go. I get it! When I was choosing where to study abroad I knew I wanted something different, something unexpected, and to go someplace that I knew nothing about. It was always one of my dreams to explore a new country and learn something in the process. Studying in Brazil has taught me so many things about culture, a different lifestyle, and myself.
Why study in Florianópolis?
Chances are you’ve never heard of Florianópolis. I hadn’t. But that’s what makes it great. I guarantee it’s different than anywhere you’ve ever seen. The natural beauty is astounding, it’s a beach-goers dream with 42 beaches, and you will learn so much about the culture that just may change your life.
Learning a new language
I wanted to study abroad in a country where I didn’t know the language. When I was choosing where to go, Brazil was one of my top interests due to the beautiful Portuguese language. I was already familiar with Spanish and wanted to try something different. Though Portuguese is similar to Spanish, it has its differences. With USAC I was able to take two semesters worth of language in just one semester! So I was able to learn the language, practice it every day, and get college credit for it.
Learning a new language is hard, especially during this stage of my life. Or anyone’s life. However, if one wants to learn how to speak a new language fluently, that person will do anything and everything to master this new language. For me, learning Portuguese isn’t too difficult. At times I struggle, but Brazilians are really patient with those who are learning their language. They actually want nothing more than to help you. Which is so awesome! It makes learning a new language fun and exciting.
Learning a new language is much easier to do when you are thrown into a place where you are surrounded by it 100% of the time. It is the only thing you hear and see. I have had a few conversations with the locals where I totally understood what they said to me and I was able to respond correctly. And it was the best feeling thus far! I’m learning so much and it is so amazing.
While I’m on the subject of learning, there a few other things that I am learning along with my new found love for Portuguese and Brazilian culture.
A traditional dance in Brazilian culture that is so fun. Think of salsa dancing with a twist. It is fast paced, elegant, and quite a workout. It was a fun thing to learn, especially with Carnaval being such a huge part of the culture in Brazil. Carnaval is like the Brazilian version of Mardi Gras, everyone partakes in the dancing and the festivities that are held all week long.
Talk about a new found love for something this Californian probably should have been doing her entire life. Through USAC, I am able to take surfing lessons every Friday over the course of the entire semester. It is both challenging and invigorating to be able to accomplish something that I had always dreamed about.
Aside from experiencing and learning new things, I also love hiking and I love food. Fortunately, these are just two more reasons that Floripa is a fantastic study abroad destination. Brazilian food is pretty similar to what I eat back home. Lots of veggies, rice & beans, fruit… you get the picture. And everything is fresh – the produce out here is so much better than anything I have ever had in the states. Picked fresh and GMO free! Because this is an island, seafood is incredible. Also, it’s cheap. For example, one dozen oysters cost R$10 which in USD is about $3 give or take some change. I’m not sure if it gets any better than this… honestly. Let me tell you about some other delicious food I have had while living in Floripa.
COMIDA! COMIDA! COMIDA!
Since being in Brazil, I have tried many different things I probably never would have tried back home. Of course, rice and beans are a staple food, but other than that Brazil has many other foods and snacks that are incredible. Snacks in Brazil consist of these little delicate beauties called pasteis (plural for pastel). Basically an empanada filled with some type of meat and/or cheese. My favorite has to be a pastel de camarão (shrimp pastel). And my absolute favorite snack is called pão de queijo. Cheese bread rolled into little balls. I fell in love the first time I tried them. I could eat them every day.
Something else that is pretty popular is lasagna. Shocking, I know. But not just any lasagna. This lasagna (that my host mom makes) is made with eggplant, tomato and spinach. Oh, and cheese of course. Another delicacy that you must try are coxinhas. Deep-fried croquettes filled with shredded chicken and cheese in the shape of a teardrop. These things are delicious and you’ll find them anywhere; the beach, the mall, the little side-cart on the corner… everywhere.
Cake and coffee seem to be a pretty big thing here as well, but enjoying that is in a more formal setting. However, when you’re at the beach and want something sweet, there is always someone walking around (or wheeling his cart around) selling churros. Yep, churros. Churros stuffed with either chocolate, Nutella, caramel or dulce de leche and they have sprinkles on top. (You can get it without sprinkles, but who would do that?) And, they are only R$5! Brazil is pretty famous for their brigadieros. If you like chocolate and truffles, these are the thing for you! Brigaderios are made with condensed milk and cocoa powder – simple! It is something you can find everywhere as well as make on your own.
Another awesome perk to living on an island is having fresh coconut water. So fresh, you drink it straight from the coconut! Other than fresh coconut water Brazil is famous for caldo de cana, a cold drink made from pressed sugarcane. It’s delicious, refreshing, and perfect for a hot day at the beach. While you’re still basking in the sun at the beach you can indulge in another South American delicacy, açaí. Known as nature’s “Purple Gold” this smoothie bowl is full on antioxidants and amino acids. It’s not only good for you, it’s also super delicious! Throw some granola, strawberries, bananas, and coconut flakes on top and you are good to go.
Floripa is a hiking lovers mecca. There are countless hikes available, many of which you’ll have the opportunity to do with the USAC staff and other students. And you can always venture to any of these hikes on your own time.
Córrego Grande hike was relatively easy, just trekked through some mud and arrived at a waterfall within 20 minutes. If you’re not the greatest hiker or you want something light, this hike is perfect. Once you’re there you can take a swim or just enjoy the view!
Costa da Lagoa took about an hour and a half to get to the waterfall which was about 2/3 of the way through. This hike was actually a field trip with USAC! Our Resident Director was our leader for this beautiful hike! It was a little tough, more so than Córrego Grande, but nothing too extraneous.
Lagoinha do Leste is pretty tough yet the view makes it all worth it. There are two routes that you can take to get to a beautiful and famous lookout point. There is a short way that takes about an hour and then a longer way that takes about two and a half hours. The longer way is an incline most of the trip, so if you are in for a tougher hike, this one is for you!
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, Brazil is an outdoors-man’s and outdoors-woman’s dream, you can hike just about anywhere. You can hike to private beaches, hidden waterfalls, and even to some of the greatest lookout points you could imagine. Pick a day, grab a snack, and take that hike that you have heard all about. You won’t regret it.
These were just a few of the reasons I absolutely love Brazil. If you’re looking to experience a new culture, live the beach and mountain life where there’s never a shortage of outdoor activities, then I highly recommend studying abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil with USAC.
Kylie Flores is a University of Nevada, Reno student. She studied abroad in Florianopolis, Brazil.