Top ten things
Belo Horizonte offers an extensive list of museums and galleries which will no doubt be on the top of your cultural to-do list, but in case you’re looking for something a little less generic, here is a list of the local gems which can offer a more personal experience of the city.
The campus: Although it might sound silly, spending a few hours between classes getting lost around campus is actually highly entertaining. The grounds seem never ending, and wandering around you will find students practising at a drumming jam session, learning how to tightrope walk, or having a debate in an abandoned courtyard. It's also a great idea to check out each department eatery - Music, for example, may treat you to some live samba while you eat your omelette. Also - check out the hundreds of cats in Letras.
Praça do Papa and Parque Mangabeiras: Praca do Papa is a great day out - just make sure you don't go when it's raining as there is no shelter. The square looks out over the city from high in the hills, from a quiet distance. Here you can buy a coconut to drink and you can also go for a walk around the Parque Mangabeiras which takes you even higher up for even better views.
The Estadios (Independencia e Mineirão): If you like football, this is a great way to have a day out and get involved with something that is close to the heart of almost every Brazilian. The smaller of the two stadiums, independencia, is not far from Santa Tereza and hosts local games, while Mineirao, situated near the UFMG campus, hosts bigger inter-city games and sometimes concerts.
Santa Tereza (bridge, square, train): Santa Tereza is the bohemian part of town, where there is always something going on. The suburb starts once you cross the famous Viaduto Santa Tereza from Praça Sete, which takes you over the old train lines and station. The area under the viaduct is used for all sorts of public student-organised events, which includes Brazil’s most famous weekly rap battle (or Duelo de Mcs) which takes place every Friday at about 8.30pm. The main square in Santa Tereza also hosts events, such as live concerts or festivals, as well as being home to some of the best restaurants, bars, or cafes for a lazy breakfast.
Lagoa de Pampulha: The Pumpulha Lake is about half an hour’s walk from UFMGs campus and is the perfect way to spend the morning or afternoon. Next to the lake, you can find a bicycle hire shop where for about £10 you can hire a bike for a few hours. The route around the lake is about 18km has many interesting stop-off points along the way. Most satisfying perhaps, are the works of Brazil’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer, such as his chapel or the old casino (now an art museum)
Ouro Preto: Ouro Preto was Minas Gerais' former capital during colonial times. The tiny city has some of the region's best architecture and museums which offer some of the most significant elements of Brazil's history. It is also a student town, so there are endless parties and events to attend if you know the right people.
Bar do Cabral: Bar do Cabral is a bar situated opposite the main entrance to UFMG and, being open from 10am until the early hours of the morning every week day, is a great place to hang out before, between, or even after class. The bar is run by Cabral, a little old man who will be more than happy to practise his english and tell you some old stories. The drinks are all cheap and there is even a juke box - and next door is one of the city's best pastel shops.
Inhotim: Inhotim is a great place to go for a day trip on a Saturday. The coaches leave promptly at 9.30 from the central bus station the Rodoviaria and come back at around 4.30pm. Inhotim hosts an enormous collection of outdoor interactive modern art and offers a beautiful setting for a peaceful back-to-nature day out.
Parque Municipal e o Mercado: On a lazy, sunny Sunday, the best thing you can do is go for a stroll in the city's main park, the Parque Municipal, followed by visiting the Artesenal Market. The Market dominates the entirety of Avenida Afonso Pena, and sells anything from hand made shoes to Bahian style fried prawns.
Savassi and Praça Sete: For a slightly more upmarket night out, the best place is Savassi, which is home to many more European style restaurants. As well as this, the city's best clubs and bars are dotted around the area, with anything from rock and roll nights to 80's style DJs. If you want something more Brazilian, head to any of the bars nearer Praca Sete, which are identifiable by the plastic garden tables and chairs that spill onto the streets - or, for a student dominated area try the abandoned shopping mall.
The Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais is just outside the centre of the small city of Belo Horizonte. Although the university has its own campus accommodation, this is not usually available to exchange student, but keep in mind that if you have a serious problem and speak to the right people, exceptions have been known to be made! The only secure option therefore, is to rent a room or an apartment in the city for your stay. As Belo Horizonte is very much a student city, there will be many options with short lets, shared rooms, and great services from landlords, however, renting directly from a landlord is next to impossible, even for Brazilians, so don't be put off by student houses, or republicas being run by other students, with cash-in-hand payments and no individual contracts.
Arriving: As it can be a little difficult and stressful to set up accommodation before arriving, the best thing to do is to check into a hostel or hotel for your first week or so, while you get a feel for the city, explore the transport system, and start searching for accommodation from within. As Belo Horizonte is quite small and not very touristy, the only places you will find to stay will be in the centre.
Some good websites to use for booking and researching hostels/hotels are:
www.hostelworld.com www.roughguides.com www.lonelyplanet.com
And once you’re there, the best place to start looking for accommodation would be either at the university campus itself, where there are many posters and adverts up all over the place, at local estate agents, or online.
Easyquarto is a great website which allows you to look up spare rooms, and for a little extra cost you can maintain more secure contact between you and the people letting the accomodation. However, as explained before, manyrepublicas are organized by students themselves, so the best thing to do is to get talking your new classmates!
Bus - Wherever you live in Belo Horizonte, you will end up having to use the bus, as it is the only form of transport that goes to most areas of the city, and many buses even run all night. However, you will be lucky to find a bus stop with any bus route or timetable information, so make sure to check everything online and ask the ticket collector, who is always happy to help, if you are not sure. Also keep in mind that the buses are heavily affected by rush hour and that journey times can take 2 or 3 times longer at these times!
Despite the recent protests, the bus costs around R$2.80 and there are travel cards available with deals for people who have to change buses.
Internal buses - There are great free buses for within the campus (which is quite big and confusing) for anyone living near the university, near or within the campus accommodations, or even for people who simply need to get from one side to another. However, some buses require special ID, so make sure to find out before you board.
Metro - although there is a fully functioning and quite organized metro system in Belo Horizonte, the areas it reaches are quite limited, and unfortunately do not reach the university. However, in case you are living further out and need to get into the city to get a bus, here is the map. At R$1.80 per journey, the metro is cheaper than the bus, and runs until about midnight.
(please note that when checked on 23/10/2013, only Linha 1 was functioning for the foreseeable future due to building projects)
Pampulha: Pampulha is the area nearest the university, and covers a range of smaller zones (such as Santa Teresinha or Rua Boaventura) which many students choose to live in. Renting in this area is of an average price (around R$400-600 a month), however you should take into consideration that it is a good half an hour from the centre, so if what you're after is more nightlife, this might not be the place for you!
Santa Tereza, Floresta, Sagrada Familia: These areas, especially Santa Tereza, are in the more bohemian part of town. Santa Tereza regularly hosts free concerts or other arts events, and the houses in this area are much older and European-looking, which large green areas and blossoming trees at every corner. Transport is good, and prices are average, so if you want something a bit closer to the alternative student scene, but don’t mind a bit more of a trek to university, this is the place for you.
Praça Sete: Praca Sete is in the main centre of the city, and some great places can be found if you look hard enough, however the area isn’t the safest, especially at night. However, if you can brave this, the area will be great for going out and getting around.
Savassi: Savassi, just south of the main centre, is the more exclusive side of town. Accomodation here will be more expensive but the advantage is the safety and modernity, as well as more classy restaurants, bars, and shopping centres.
Carlos Prates: Carlos Prates is also a popular area for students, for the prices and transport connections. However, be aware that not much really goes on in this area, and apart from mechanics and bicycle shops, there are not many places to hang out.
Catering: Buying food to cook in supermarkets can be a bit of a hassle and a little expensive if you are on a typical student budget, so most people eat out. In Belo Horizonte, most places work with buffet-style food which you either pay for before and take unlimited amounts, or pay by weight. In most departments there are great cantinas, but if you want more value for money make sure to check out the student catering called 'Bandejão', which costs just R$4.20... but remember you will need your matricula (proof of study) or your student visa to get this price.
Things to consider
During your application to UFMG, you should have already chosen between four and eight ‘cursos’ from one particular department, for example ‘Belas Artes’ or ‘Ciencias Sociais’. However, the great thing with UFMG is that upon arrival you can not only change these modules, but mix them up, choosing up to five different classes from five different departments. The vast majority of modules are for one semester only, so if you are staying the whole year you will get the chance to choose again later on.
In UFMG there will be both ‘optativos’ and ‘obligatorios’. As an exchange student, you should choose the optativos, as they are far more interesting and are specific to Brazil. At UFMG you usually have to take 5x4 credit modules, making a total of 20 credits, however, some classes will be worth more or less, usually depending on the number of contact hours and workload, so make sure! Modules can be checked on the website.
Assessment, like in King's, is usually a combination of coursework, end of term written exams, and a presentation. As there are so many course options, many classes are a very practical size of about 5-10 students and, similar to seminars, work by reading a text every week, and discussing it openly in class with your fellow students and tutor. An assessed presentation will usually be allocated and will consist of you presenting a topics to your classmates before the teacher expands on it.
The set-up of exams in UFMG is much less formal than what you will be used to, so if, for example, you are feeling a lack of confidence about a timed exam to be written in Portuguese, you can always speak to the teacher and see if they can offer you a less pressurized form of assessment. Attendance and participation is also important, so make sure to show up and give your opinion in class, even if you are feeling shy.
Exams usually happen at the in the middle and at the end of the semester, and again this can be flexible, so be sure to let your individual teachers know if you need to head home or to get to your next semester in another country.
After your initial ‘exchange student’ briefing at UFMG, you will quickly become familiar with the friendly Study Abroad team, who are always on hand to help with any general problems and initial admin. Their office is called the ‘DR’ and they are located in the middle of the campus. However, for any more specific problems, such as obtaining proof of study or changing modules etc, you will have to go to the individual department administration offices, which have much more Brazilian opening and closing times.
If you have any doubts, or need advice on what courses are good to take, you can always write to your department at home who should be able to put you in contact with someone who has been to UFMG before.
As a student at UFMG, you can gain access to any of the libraries on site, which usually have great areas to study in and even free computers.
To print things, you can go to most departments which will print straight from email or via their computers (watch out for the queues for the latter) and they also have their own genius system of documenting any compulsory and optional reading material for every course (book extracts, articles etc) which you can print at a low cost.
At UFMG, there will be many free events (plays and concerts etc), meetings, political debates, and even extra-curricular classes such as yoga organized by students.
If you are on a student budget, there is an eatery called 'Bandejão', which costs just R$4.20... but remember you will need your matricula (proof of study) or your student visa to get this price.
On the UFMG campus there is even a gym with a pool which costs just R$10 to join!
When applying for a Student Visa for Brazil, you will be required
a) to make the application from your country of permanent residence and
b) to give them proof of study and results from your previous semester.
This means that if you completed your first study abroad semester in Mexico, for example, you should make sure to obtain proof of study (which can be a lengthy process) before you go home to make the visa application, or it could be a wasted trip.
During the day on a Friday or Saturday in Belo Horizonte you have lots of great options. One would be taking yourself on the walking tour of Santa Tereza and the Municipal park. Starting in Santa Terezas square, where there are usually bands or events according to the time of year, you can cross the Viaducto Santa Tereza, under which you’ll see one of Brazil’s oldest train lines. On the other side of the bridge, entering the city centre, you will arrive at the Municipal Park, a stunning and peaceful 45 acres of exotic trees, garden, ponds, birds and cats. Many, many cats.
Saturday morning is an especially good opportunity to attempt a day trip. One option is Inhotim, an outdoor contemporary art museum that stretches across 3,000 acres and offers the most bizarre modern artwork, interactive experiences, and impressive natural landscape. The bus leaves from the Rodoviaria on platform F2 at 09.15 and will bring you back at 17.00. A further option is Ouro Preto, one of the country’s most impressive colonial mining towns where you can learn all about the most important period of Brazil’s history in the countless museums, visit one of the hundreds of churches, or venture into one of the old mines. A word of advice: watch out for the very steep hills, and be prepared to work hard to get around.
Sunday mornings are the perfect opportunity to get yourself to the Artisan Market held on Avenida Afonso Pena, in front of the municipal park. The market sells artisanal products ranging from Northeastern traditional foods, to shoes, to furniture – all at very reasonable prices and mostly all hand-made (watch out for fakes!).
Another great morning or afternoon activity is to visit the Lagoa de Pampulha in the North West of the city, right next to UFMG. The lake is outlined by 18km of pathways for visitors to either walk or cycle along which are dotted with amazing views, weird wildlife (including a harmless old alligator and families of capybaras) and lots of architectural treats – the lake is home to five works of the famous Oscar Niemeyer, including an old boat house and one of Brazil’s first casinos.
Weekend evenings are a great time to check out some of the city’s finer eateries. Heading into town towards between Praça Sete and Savassi, you will find an array of colourful and very different places. Most restaurants in Minas work with a ‘buffet’ system, where you can pile as much as you want on your plate and just pay for the weight of the food, or if you’re lucky, a set price. You will also see lots of places which will be referred to as ‘copo sujo’ – which refers to the tacky plastic garden chairs and tables and lack of anything on the menu that isn’t beer. But don’t be put off, these places are great for get-togethers; they are cheap and cheerful and you can order a great deal of tapa-style dishes to share.
Shopping Malls are also a great option for eating – they usually have a whole floor dedicated to restaurants and fast food. If you prefer something a bit more upmarket, Savassi will offer just that, with traditional European style restaurants with table service and excellent dishes.
For a great night out, Savassi and Praça Sete are the places to stay. Either stay out in the bars or hit some of the area’s clubs such as Velvet or Na Sala. On a Friday night it is worth checking out UFMG’s own local bar – Bar do Cabral – where students stay until the early hours dancing to the jukebox.
Here I am, coming to the end of term, and it has been exactly seven months since I returned from the last leg of my travels through Brazil, and almost nineteen months since I first set foot on the tarmac at Mexico City's international airport. So what are my thoughts?
For anyone who watches the Big Bang Theory, post-travel syndrome will have been understood as Wolowitz’s incessant bragging and reminiscing. Is this a reality? Absolutely. In the past seven months, I have constantly found myself, much to everyone’s annoyance, thinking about how one year ago today I climbed a volcano or one year ago today I was celebrating Mexican Independence Day and so on and so forth. Unlike Wolowitz however, I have mostly learned to subdue my reliving of the past, and keep it between the people who I travelled with.
Does this mean that my year abroad is now sitting calmly in the back of my mind alongside all the other forgotten bits of history? Of course not. In fact, I would go as far to say that my year aboard experience has shaped almost every decision I have made since arriving back at King’s. The first thing I did, for example, was apply for and take on a part-time job at the study abroad office as a Peer Advisor – my main jobs being to help other students about to go abroad, and to help incoming exchange students settle in. However, this probably encouraged more of the Wolowitz-esque obsessive talk than necessary.
To be completely honest, coming back at first was not at all easy. After seeing and learning so much, falling in love with so many aspects of the places I visited and settled in, and having so many freedoms, it was excruciating to have to return to something old; to stop learning and seeing as it were, and to settle back into a normal life of routine and responsibility. For one, I made the bad habit of never living in the same place for more than about a month for fear of settling in too much and not having the courage to leave again.
But speaking from the other side of this experience, I can say that it was entirely worth it. Academically, the year abroad was absolutely priceless. The direct contact with Mexican and Brazilian culture gave me a basic but genuine passion for my subject that I had never had before; it has given me direction in my degree and final year dissertation and, to many people’s surprise, a desire to continue in post-graduate education. It meant I could make the most of my time at King's, something I now appreciate all the more. And, let’s be honest; my spoken Portuguese is now so amazing that people believe I’m Brazilian if I say so.
Spiritual and academic awakenings aside, I must take the opportunity to underline just how exciting the near future is looking. I am just about to finish my degree, I have applied for an English teaching assistantship placement through the British Council in Chile, and in about ten days I will be going to Argentina to tour a couple of universities that I might apply to for a Master's. For someone who not long ago wasn't exactly very aware of the world, not so great grades, and no idea of what she wanted to do in life, I can safely say that studying abroad was most literally the best thing I could ever have decided to do.
And most importantly is the improvement to my love life. I am now in a deep and meaningful relationship with Tequila.
Top ten things
Centro: Spending time wandering around Centro in Rio may not be high up on a tourist’s checklist of things to do, but some of the most beautiful and historical buildings can be found in this bairro. A walking tour through Centro is the best way to learn about Rio’s history and enjoy the architecture from Rio’s Belle Époque. Catete Palace, or the former presidential palace, is another must see, as is Confeitaria Colombo, one of the most beautiful and luxurious cafes in the world! Be sure to get a picture of the café from the upstairs for the best view.
Beaches: Rio is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world- with Ipanema and Copacabana being the most famous and the busiest. But there are many beaches a little bit further out that are well worth a visit as well, such as Barra da Tijuca, Rio’s largest beach, and São Conrado, where you can organise hang-gliding trips. There are lots of different sports on offer on most of Rio’s beaches such as beach volleyball or football, and you can head to Copacabana or Ipanema to have a go at stand up paddle-boarding as well. Make sure to spend an evening on Arpoador, or the rocks that separate Ipanema and Copacabana, to watch the sun set over the Dois Irmãos- it’s a beautiful view and everybody applauds as the sun goes down!
Santa Teresa: Santa Teresa is one of the oldest parts of Rio de Janeiro, and it’s nice to spend a day wandering around the cobblestone streets and taking in the colonial architecture. Santa Teresa is also home to the famous Escaderia Selarón, the set of steps that are covered in thousands of different tiles with all sorts of different designs and patterns. I was excited to see lots of tiles from the UK, including several from my hometown of Liverpool! You can also climb the steps all the way to the top and visit the Parque das Ruinas, which has a beautiful view of the city.
Weekends away: One of the great things about Rio de Janeiro is the number of beach towns nearby that are perfect for weekends away! Whilst in Rio, I visited Paraty, Saquarema, Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis which were all absolutely beautiful places that were less than five hours by coach away. Coach travel is cheap in Brazil, especially if you book in advance, and really nice beachside accommodation is a fraction of the cost of hostels in Rio. Paraty and Ilha Grande were my highlights- both offered amazing all day boat tours of all lots of different islands for the equivalent of less than ten pounds! There are also activities such as trips to nearby waterfalls and surfing.
Carnaval: Nothing can prepare you for the spectacle or the madness of Carnaval- it officially lasts for around five days but the celebrations go on for much longer, with street parties starting from as early as 9am and going on well into the night. These samba-based street parties, called blocos, take place all over the city for the duration of Carnival and are often themed- there is a famous Beatles themed bloco in Gloria and even a Super Mario one in Santa Teresa! Of course, the famous parades in the Sambódromo are a must see, but if you don’t feel like spending lots of money on a ticket, do what the locals do and watch the rehearsals for the parade for free the week before.
Brazilian food: There are so many foods that I had never even heard of before I arrived in Brazil that quickly became a regular part of my diet- feijao, a black bean stew, and farofa, are Brazilian staples that come with absolutely everything that you order, even in KFC. At the beginning of my stay, I wondered why everyone was so keen on farofa, which to me seemed to look and taste like sand, but by the time I had to come home it was one of my favourites! I also loved the fruit stalls that are found on most street corners that sell the freshest juice and the delicious acai na tigela which is all you need during the boiling hot weather during the summer.
Caipirinhas: The most famous Brazilian drink is, of course, the caipirinha- and the best way to enjoy one of them is to go to one of the many kiosks that line Rio’s beaches. Many different types and flavours are available, with pineapple and passion fruit being the most popular. If you find you are keen on caipirinhas, make sure to check out the Academia de Cachaça in Leblon.
Nightlife and Samba: Nights out in Rio often start out right under the Arcos de Lapa, the arches of the old aqueduct in the region of Lapa. Here you will find hundreds of stalls with beer and cheap caipirinhas of all different flavours, and crowds of people standing around having a drink. There are also many clubs in Lapa, including some famous samba venues that are as popular with the locals as they are with tourists. Rio Scenarium is well worth a visit despite the queue that can often stretch down the street- it’s a club spread over three stories of a beautiful old building that has to be seen to be believed! Carioca da Gema is a less fancy but very traditional samba venue, where people of all ages come to dance to the incredible live music. Another way to enjoy Rio nightlife is to attend one of the Rodas de samba, which are street parties that take place every week with live music, dancing and lots of caipirinhas- Pedra do Sal is one of the most famous and takes place every Monday.
The nature: One of the best and most unforgettable aspects of my time in Rio is the sheer beauty of the city and the nature that surrounds you everywhere you go- seeing monkeys climbing the telephone poles by my building was a common occurrence that I loved! Rio is also home to a rainforest called Floresta de Tijuca, which has some absolutely stunning views of the city as well as waterfalls and all kinds of wildlife including monkeys, hummingbirds and toucans. You can organise jeep tours of Tijuca forest fairly cheaply or just take the bus to the entrance and hike. Another way to enjoy the nature and wildlife of Rio is by spending a day at the Jardim Botânico where you can find all kinds of different animals, an orchid house and a beautiful outdoor café.
Being a tourist: Some of the best views of Rio can of course be seen from two of the city’s most famous landmarks and most popular tourist destinations, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. You can buy tickets for the cable car or the train to get to the top of each attraction- which are half price with student ID- but it is possible to hike up both, which is a great way to see even more of the wildlife! I was very excited to see iguanas up close during my hike up Morro da Urca, the smaller of the two peaks of Sugar Loaf. Make sure to visit these on clear days to make the most of the stunning views.
UFRJ does not have student halls for exchange students, so you will have to organise your own accommodation. This was a daunting prospect for me before I arrived in Brazil, as contacting landlords and arranging viewings in Portuguese definitely felt like being thrown in at the deep end, but I managed to find a really nice flat right on Botafogo beach within two weeks of arriving.
Arriving: I would recommend booking a hostel for the first two weeks of your stay, but you can always extend this for longer if you end up needing more time. You can use websites like hostelworld to compare prices and locations of hostels really easily. When it comes to location, it’s best to stay within Zona Sul- the southern zone of Rio. This is the safer side of town, and is also where you will find most of the more popular tourist destinations and beaches. After you have settled in, the first thing on the agenda is setting up a Brazilian phone. Bringing a cheap pay-as-you-go phone with you is a good idea, but will not necessarily be compatible with Brazilian SIM cards- I ended up having to buy a new phone for about 40 reais (£10). Then, you can buy SIM cards from the newspaper stands dotted around most main streets, but you may need to go to a mobile phone shop with your passport to get this activated. Once your phone is sorted, you’re ready to start your flat hunt! This may seem scary- I always found speaking on the phone more challenging than speaking in person- but it’s a great way to practice your Portuguese, and you can always ask for them to confirm certain details with you, such as addresses, via text.
How to find accommodation: I used a website called easyquarto.com.br to search for places, and it was really useful because you can upload a personal profile onto the website which allows landlords to search for you whilst you are searching for a flat. This is actually how I got my flat- my landlady saw my profile and sent me a message, and it ended up being a really nice place right on Botafogo beach. I would therefore definitely recommend filling in your profile as thoroughly as possible to increase your chances of being contacted by flats whilst you are flat hunting yourself. As well as easyquarto, there is a website called bomnegócio.com which is like a Brazilian gumtree, and I knew lots of people that found their flat that way. As well as these websites, there is an exchange student society in Rio that is similar to Erasmus called REI (Rede de Estudantes de Intercâmbio) that run a Facebook moradias group which posts new flats every day and is a good way to meet other exchange students also looking for somewhere to stay.
When you arrive, the task of finding somewhere to live may seem quite daunting, as lots of flats seem to be snapped up almost as soon as they are advertised, but don’t worry- the key is persistence and to be using your phone rather than email to get in contact with landlords to get in there as quickly as you can! I also think it’s worthwhile to hold out until you find somewhere that you feel happy with. Accommodation in Rio is not cheap compared to other Brazilian cities (I paid 1200 reais a month, or £300) so you should try and get your money’s worth!
In terms of where to stay, the general advice given to exchange students is to stay within Zona Sul as it tends to be safer, but of course this is a generalisation and you can find nice accommodation in lots of different parts of Rio. Many exchange students live in Copacabana or Ipanema, which is great for proximity to beaches but these are very touristy neighbourhoods. Botafogo, Humaitá and Jardim Botânico are bairros with more of a laidback feel and lots of traditional bars and restaurants to enjoy, but you will have to catch a bus or the metro to get to a non-polluted beach. Transport is very easy to negotiate in Rio- you can buy a travel card that works just like an Oyster to use the buses and the metro, neither of which are expensive- and everywhere in Zona Sul is pretty well connected.
Modules: You will provisionally sign up for a few modules before you arrive- this is just so they can register you with whatever faculdades that you will be studying within. However, these choices aren’t set in stone- you can drop and pick up different modules from within the faculties you’ve been registered in once you arrive. Different faculties are based at different campuses with Letras, Artes and Arquitetura being based at Ilha do Fundão. This is a forty-minute bus journey from Zona Sul, but buses are quite frequent and not too expensive. You will have an enormous range of modules to choose from- UFRJ will send you an email containing a huge handbook with all of the options- and you can take Portuguese language lessons at the university as well.
Assessment: Assessment will be different for each module, and information about this will be sent to you before you have to make your final module decisions. UFRJ can assess you in many of the same ways that King’s does, either through regular homework, exams, essays or presentations, but sometimes attendance can form a part of your grade as well, so be sure to check if this applies to your modules.
Academic Help: If you are struggling within one of your classes, the best thing to do is to speak directly to your teacher either after the lesson or via email. All the teachers I met at UFRJ were lovely and really helpful, especially to foreign students, so you shouldn’t have any issues with them. As well as this, don’t forget that your personal tutor is there to help you even while you are away, and you can always send them an email if you are struggling with your faculty at UFRJ.
Rio’s location on the coast means that it’s the perfect destination for weekends away at one of the many nearby beach towns, as mentioned above. However, Brazil is one of the most beautiful and varied countries to travel in the world, so it is definitely worthwhile planning some trips slightly further afield. São Paulo is very easy to get to from Rio, being just six hours away by coach. This might seem like a long time to spend on a coach, but coach travel in South America is very different from the Megabus/National Express nightmare of the UK. The ônibus is a much more popular means of transport in Brazil than it is in this country- when purchasing a ticket you often can choose what classe of seat you want, ranging from the very basic to seats that turn into beds. The semi-leito option is often not too expensive and can make a long journey much easier!
As well as São Paulo, visiting the South of Brazil is something you definitely won’t regret. I planned a trip travelling down the coast of Brazil from Rio to Florianópolis, a beautiful island city that has been dubbed ‘the best place to live in Brazil’, and from there, we went on to the Iguaçu Falls. Foz de Iguaçu is an absolutely incredible place that really has to be seen to be believed- it has a Brazilian side and an Argentinian side, and although it is worthwhile taking a couple of days to see both, the Argentinian side is bigger and from there you can take cheap boat tours right into the waterfalls.
As well as travelling within Brazil, there are many coaches and lots of cheap flights that connect Rio with surrounding countries, so organising international travel is extremely easy. Rio is one of the most expensive cities in South America, so travelling around different countries, you will notice a big difference in the price of accommodation, travel and how far your money can go.
Deciding on where to go for my Year Abroad felt like it was such an enormous decision and that there was so much to consider. I felt strongly that I wanted to visit Brazil and experience the culture that I had studied first-hand, but I had practical concerns about cost, distance and even safety. Ultimately, I decided that the opportunity to live and study in Brazil was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss, and I can say with confidence that it was the best decision I could have made.
It can feel quite daunting to land in a country six thousand miles away from home for a stay of at least five months, especially if you haven’t entirely mastered the language! However, I think that these challenges are part of the value of the year abroad and are invaluable in terms of improving your language skills and confidence.
Living in a home stay in Brazil was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and I couldn’t recommend the experience enough. It may seem like every blog that you read or person you speak to about Year Abroad says the same thing, but it is true that the whole experience is so worthwhile and will leave you wishing you could stay for longer. Five months may seem like a long time when you land, but the whole semester will go by in a flash. So I think that the best advice I can give is to make the most of every second of your time abroad- and to take lots of pictures.