I am Caroline Ooms, a third year student of the BSc Tourism and currently studying in São Paulo, Brazil for my minor program. I am earning my 30 ECTS at the USP, which is the University of São Paulo, Brazil at the faculty of Economics and business. To choose Brazil as an exchange country seems like a big decision; it is quite far away and the language is of course also different. But if you are motivated, it will give you an amazing experience. Who doesn’t want to do an exchange in the country of the world cup? I hope that by sharing my experiences with you, I can make you as enthusiastic about studying abroad as I am!
Studying abroad is a great opportunity. It gives you new insights on your current study, helps you guide your interests and you get to know a country in a completely different way. I have already lived in Brazil for a year on another exchange, so I already knew the language and the culture. Studying at university level in Brasil is another experience. But first you have to sort out your interests, as Esther explained in her blog about her minor in Helsinki. I concluded that I would like to deepen my knowledge in the field of sociology and marketing. After some research, I found that at the USP I could take courses in these fields in Portuguese. For me the language was no problem, as I had learned it before, but there were exchange students that started courses here without knowing one word of Portuguese. Don’t worry, there is a Portuguese course and the Brazilians are very keen on helping you learn the language!
So there I was in São Paulo; an enormous city for a Dutch girl! As it is so big, it takes some time to get used to it, but when you start meeting people and having the routine of going to the university the city becomes ‘familiar’. As for the university, you have to be flexible on exchange, which I have learned firsthand. Due to a strike that occurred at the start of the semester, I could not start the courses that I had originally planned. So I chose related subjects in the field of economics. I do not regret the choice. The economics courses might be different from my tourism courses, but a good foundation of the Bachelor of Science Tourism allows me to give interesting cases and examples during the classes.
What’s interesting to know is that the university system of USP in Brazil is different from the Dutch system. To get into this public – state supported – university, people have to take a test and only the best are allowed to study at the university. Due to this people are really motivated to enter university and gain their degree as fast as possible. As for the classes, these are similar to those in the Netherlands, though I think that Brazilians speak up more. It is also completely normal for a teacher to interrupt you in the middle of your presentation to add information to it.
Of course next to studying I have time to travel, discover and enjoy student life! I live in a student house with people from various nationalities and also at university there is a big group of international students. So there’s always someone to hang out or to travel with. I have visited the Amazone, been to the beach various times, and of course visited Rio de Janeiro! To complete the experience, I also spend time with Brazilians and do the typical things Brazilians do, like go to a ‘samba circle’ on Sunday night. Brazilian culture is very welcoming and even when people just met, you are already invited to the next event. São Paulo is a huge city and there is always something to do!
While writing this blog my semester is almost over and I will have summer holidays (yes, summer!) in 2 weeks! I can say for sure that studying at a foreign university has given me a different perspective on the educational system and future jobs. If you are interested in studying abroad, take your time and look into it! It is definitely worth it! And if you have any questions about Brazil, don’t hesitate to ask!