If you’re reading this right now, I can guess one thing about you. You’re either:
1). Curious about studying abroad in Brazil before you apply
2). About to embark on your adventure to Brazil and doing mounds of research
3). Also interested in blogging for USAC and looking to see what you could blog about
Don’t worry about which category you fit in, I was in each of those categories once, and now I’m in Brazil finding out things you won’t see in a travel blog from a Google Search. So, here are the things I forgot to pack when I was planning for my study abroad in Brazil:
More long pants, sweaters, and a blanket. Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, meaning the seasons are the opposite of the U.S. When the U.S. is experiencing summer, they’re experiencing winter. The winter here doesn’t consist of snow, but it does get pretty chilly. Brazil is close to the equator, but as a large country, the winter is different in every region. You’ll be in Florianópolis, which is in Santa Catarina, a southern state. While the weather here is ideal for any winter, you’ll still want jeans and long-sleeved shirts, especially at night when temperatures sometimes drop to around 12 degrees Celsius. You should also bring a blanket for these nights. One lesser known fact about Brazil is that their buildings do not have any central heating. Your homestay or apartment will provide comforters, but if you’re the type of person that gets cold easily, I highly recommend bringing that blanket.
A good pair of hiking shoes. I’m hoping to get away with a pair of my Nike sneakers, but if I could offer my past self (and you) some advice on foot gear, pack a pair of shoes that are good for walks and hikes. Floripa has a wide array of beaches, but also offers a good amount of places to hike. A group hike is planned on one of our Saturdays so you’ll want to set yourself up for a good time which means a good pair of shoes.
A Budget. This one might sound weird, but you won’t realize how important this is until you’re down to your last dollar wondering where all your money went. The exchange rate between American dollars and Brazilian Real is pretty good (right now it’s 3.73 Brazilian Reals for 1 US dollar). However, you’re probably going to want to taste and buy everything. Brazilian cuisine is a mix of a lot of different cultural influences. They have the second biggest Japanese population outside of Japan, a huge Afro-Brazilian population, as well as a strong European influence. Their juice is also freshly squeezed from fruits and one of the best things I’ve ever encountered (and it wasn’t even a part of a detox or body cleanse). This means that everything you see is mouthwatering. While at first, it may seem cheap to buy things for 4 or 5 Brazilian Reals, this all adds up quickly. Leave home with a set amount of cash you’re going to exchange and then budget this once you receive all the information about bus fees, lunch fees, and tours/trips you’ll be going on. It might make you a bit less quick to buy every pudim you see (it’s so good though), but you’ll be happy when you can buy a nice souvenir from a feda (which is like an outdoor flea market type event).
Yellow Fever Vaccine. You won’t need one to travel to Florianópolis because this area was never exposed to Yellow Fever. However, this program recommends you have this vaccine if you want to travel to northern states in Brazil. A lot of students travel to the Amazon and Rio on their own (with provided information to USAC beforehand,;there is a whole process you have to go through to travel anywhere outside of Florianopolis to ensure your safety. It is also strongly encouraged you never travel alone). For these areas, the vaccine is strongly suggested. It takes 10 days before the vaccine becomes effective so plan ahead. Also if you arrive without it, you can get one at a clinic for free.
Okay, now here are some things I brought that you should strongly think about:
An adapter. The outlets in Brazil are very different from the ones in the United States. Your phone charger and laptop charger will definitely have trouble trying to fit into an outlet without an adapter. You can get a nice, inexpensive one like I did from Amazon. It has USB ports so I can charge my phone and a port for me to plug in my laptop charger. A quick note: The electricity from these outlets varies across Brazil. You can get away with plugging in your phone and laptop, but if you bring a hair straightener or blow dryer or anything else, they probably won’t work. If you can, try to figure out a way to thrive in Brazil without those. If you seriously can’t go without a blow dryer, you can purchase one here.
A small wallet. If you’re a girl, you probably have a bigger wallet that fits a lot of stuff in it. A big tip I have is to buy a smaller, pocket-sized wallet so you don’t have to worry about it. By this I mean, if you have a smaller wallet, you can stick it in your front pocket (you’re strongly discouraged from leaving anything in your back pocket) and eliminate the need for a purse. This means you won’t have to keep track of the purse all day and you’ll probably only walk with the money you allotted yourself in your budget. In your orientation, they’ll tell you not to leave any of your things unoccupied because unfortunately, everything has a value in Brazil. If you have a smaller wallet, trust me, you’ll have fewer things to keep an eye on and more time to experience Brazil.
Toilet Paper. I’m only putting this here for awareness sake. If you’re not doing a homestay, you will be provided with a list of things. Your apartment will come with a room (with sheets, a comforter, towels and washcloths), a full kitchen with plates and cups and silverware, a washing machine, and cleaning supplies. What won’t be provided is toilet paper. You should pack light, so I’m not saying pack toilet paper, but consider this when planning that budget I talked about earlier. There are a few markets close to the apartment that sell toilet paper for relatively cheap so don’t worry, it will be easily accessible.
I hope you can find some use in these tips above. They could prove rather helpful in adjusting to your time abroad. Remember, there will be an adjustment period so don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. Discomfort equals growth and that is one of the main goals for studying abroad. Embrace the fact that you’ll discover a great amount about yourself, your packing skills, and those around you.
Faithe Beadle attends Temple University. She studied abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil.