Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in going abroad, and they are available to answer your questions. If you would like to talk to a recent student about their experience in Brazil, get in touch with the advisor, Nicole Chance.
Jasper Panger, Middlebury College, Belo Horizonte
I would say there are a few unique things about Belo Horizonte that have characterized my experience here: the first one is the friendliness of the people. Belo Horizonte, while it is a large city, has some of the characteristics of a smaller town. People are eager to talk and often residents will run into people they know walking around their neighborhood. Even though there has been so much urbanization, Belo Horizonte has kept the local charm. The second is the food: the state of Minas Gerais is well known throughout Brazil as a culinary mecca, and there are themed restaurants all over Brazil that serve the local food. The third is the friends that I have made here, who have been a tremendous help in terms of getting used to life here in Belo Horizonte. Studying here in Belo Horizonte has helped me understand Brazil much better and improve my Portuguese language skills. I would encourage people who come to stay a year if they can, so that they can enjoy another semester after getting accustomed to the area. I would also recommend taking multiple classes in a single term with the same students, which makes it easier to get to know more people.
Lu Ordman, Scripps College, Florianópolis
My experience abroad was particularly unique as I spent part of it in Florianópolis at the beginning of the pandemic and then went back to the U.S. in March 2020 to complete the rest of the semester online. Although short lived, my time in Floripa was extremely impactful. I found UFSC to be a campus full of politically active and engaged students putting on interesting events and involved in activities that were pushing the boundaries of what I had previously had access to in terms of epistemologies from the Global South and Decolonial Studies. I was especially impacted by Karine de Souza Silva’s class on International Relations from a decolonial lens, something that I had never seen offered before in my university and luckily it was one of the classes that we were able to continue online. Beyond coursework I was involved in capoeira on campus and was beginning to get involved in dance and hiking in the area as well.
Although it was hard to leave Florianópolis due to the pandemic, Sílvia Lorenso designed a semester of specialized classes taught by professors from all over Brazil that was tailored to my and the other students’ interests. From reading Professor Angela Gomes’ dissertation on ethnobotany, who later visited our class and showed us various plants in her garden, to creating a collaborative video project on the military dictatorship with another student, I had an enriching remote experience despite the difficult circumstances of the pandemic. Although we were not in the physical space of Brazil we dove deeply into these materials, conversations, and projects and I left with a profound knowledge base that has prepared me for all that I have done in Brazil since. I could not recommend this program more!
Kristen Tuttle, Macalester College, Belo Horizonte
I chose to spend my semester in Belo Horizonte because I wanted to live in a city that was both vibrant and intimate. That’s exactly what I got, and I couldn’t be happier for it. Belo Horizonte has been a wonderful home for the past four months, with so much to do that I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t be able to do everything I want to do in one semester. At the same time, the city has a distinctly personal feel to it. I’d be hard-pressed to find people more welcoming than Belo Horizonte’s residents, the “mineiros,” who throughout the semester have eagerly invited me into their homes, stuffed me full of delicious food, and even taken me to soccer games. My host family in particular has been a huge part of my experience. We really hit it off, and I’m confident that the relationship I’ve built with the family will only continue to grow, even after I return to the US.
In Belo Horizonte, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the famous hospitality of its residents while also studying at a renowned Brazilian university. I’ve loved getting to know the students in my classes, and even just walking around the beautiful campus. Middlebury’s program also connected me with an internship opportunity teaching English to fifth grade students, and it’s proved to be a valuable complement to my university classes. The internship has allowed me to familiarize myself with an entirely different part of the city, and I’ve learned even more about Belo Horizonte and Brazil in general as a result.
Studying abroad in Belo Horizonte has had a hugely positive impact on my understanding of Brazil, and on my Portuguese language learning— I can’t imagine having spent my semester anywhere else!
Elena Bell, Tufts University, Niterói
What I loved most about studying abroad in Niterói, Brazil, with Middlebury was being the only non-Brazilian student in all the classes I took. I loved that two or three days would go by without speaking English, and I am thankful for the way I learned how to think outside of my own worldview/perspective. Learning about systems of economic and social oppression from Brazilian professors and classmates helped me contextualize and better understand related but different systems in my own country, and empowered me to think outside the narrow mindset that is so easy to fall into being from the United States. Most Brazilians know the names of at least three states in the United States (California! Texas! New York!…) and a dozen or so American actors and actresses, whereas most Americans assume Spanish is spoken in Brazil, the fifth most populous country in the world. The small size of Middlebury’s amazing Niterói program allowed me to soak up as much of Brazil and Portuguese as my brain could retain, and sharing its importance back in the United States has been the long-term impact of my study abroad experience. I am excited to go back to Brazil with Fulbright in March to further promote empathy between the western hemisphere’s two most populous countries.
Colin Larsen, Middlebury College, Florianópolis
The year I have spent in Florianópolis, Brazil has presented me with a unique series of challenges and experiences that have allowed me to not only to considerably improve my language skills and cultural understanding, but to also make connections with Brazilians and become more personally independent. The lack of infrastructure and prevalence of bureaucracy can make many of the simplest tasks difficult in Brazil, and learning to deal with and overcome these hurdles has increased my resilience and problem-solving ability. It also creates a much different environment than what one would experience studying abroad in Western or Northern Europe, so those who wish to step further from the familiar would be satisfied with what they would find here. I spent a fair amount of time training with a local rugby team and learning the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, both of which allowed to meet very genuine, friendly, and driven individuals who were kind enough to share some of their culture with me. Activities that go beyond the classroom like these are numerous, and they, more than anything else, have made my time here worthwhile.