Study abroad in Brazil is in a phrase: lying on the beach in bliss, but periodically vendor after vendor approach you to sell you sunglasses when you clearly have some on your face.
Your time in Brazil will involve a copious number of once in a lifetime experiences; whilst unease is constantly banging the back of your shins.
True story, let me expand.
I am sat on the back of motorbike, flying up to the top of Rocinha, the second largest favela community in Latin America. Also this guy, the driver, he keeps turning around. He keeps turning his whole head around to tell me my eyes are bluer than the sea.
At this moment I was at 80 percent sure we were going to crash to our death. It was week two in Brazil and it was going to be a short sweet, short visit. Miraculously, we did reach the top and branded forever in my mind is the slightly sad puppy look the driver had as I sprang off so quickly I burn my leg on the exhaust pipe and limp wildly away from him.
Whose fault was it that we were both hurt by the end? My enamored motorist or my sorry butt for getting on in the first place?
Study abroad in any country is going to take you out of your comfort zone, but when we look at Brazil my key piece of advice is knowledge. Knowledge is your friend, it is bargaining chip and it is your safety guard. So next let’s take a look at what knowledge you need to absolutely kick ass at your study abroad in Brazil.
Student Visas for Study Abroad
First things first, visas are the bane of my life. Obviously, you need to be accepted by a university or study abroad program and receive their personal acceptance letter. This letter is your gold mine. It is the only way to guarantee that precious visa, so guard it with your life!
Study Abroad Visa Check List:
- Long winded form
- Le passport – you need 6 month validity from leaving data
- Study acceptance letter
- Funds – (momma and poppa bail out promise & bank account with $1000 per month)
- Mug shot (recent photograph 3.5 x 4.5 cm)
- Police report (ACRO i.e prof of no criminal proceedings)
- Return flights (you got to convince them you leaving one day)
- Receipt of payment of tax
- Paid return envelope (unless you are close enough to pop back to consulate in a week)
Annoying things to know:
You have to return to your country of residence where you are a citizen in order to pick up the visa from the Brazilian consulate. You cannot pick it up from another embassy elsewhere in the world.
My fairly ambitious plans were to travel from Guatemala across the Central American jungles into the Brazilian Amazon via boat. These plans were foiled, maybe for the better, by this visa hiccup.
Bad luck guys: just go home; take your mum a gift from wherever you are; get some home comforts and catch your visa in the meantime. Also the visa is only valid 90 days from issue date or it will be invalid and you’ll have to do the whole process again.
Process of getting the study abroad visa:
- Book an appointment via closest Brazilian consulate website for your country
- Gather all original documents in checklist
- Lodge your application in person (be super smiley)
- Wait for passport to come back in post
- Get yourself on the plane within 90 days, baby!
Paying Tax / Arrival to Brazil
To legally validate your student visa you must register with the federal police within 30 days of entering the country. You must book a slot online via the federal police website and it must be the port where you arrived. i.e I arrived in Rio de Janeiro international airport and I had to go to the federal police in the same state.
You must pay a tax. The first of many my friends. Taxes in Brazil work in that you are given a unique bar code, like in a supermarket, you should print this out. Go to a Caixa: a bank and it usually should be the bank on the paper and get a ticket to stand in queue and pay. Sometimes there’s no ticket and you have to stand in the line. Pay in cash to the clerk and keep your receipt to take to the police.
This little dance goes down for most things like paying bills, buying university materials etc. If you happen to have a Brazilian bank account you can pay online these boletos (invoices), though probably without a permanent visa you won’t possess a Brazilian bank account. Therefore, just head to the bank old-fashioned style like described above.
Basically bank accounts are a difficult thing to open and in general you have to pay a monthly fee anyway. You have to show your income, your Brazilian I.D and proof of residence, therefore I never got one until I became a resident.
Instead I used a Caxton card. This is a top up cash card that allows you to withdraw money abroad. Sometimes the rates are not so good, however, on the whole I believe it is a pretty safe and efficient alternative for a study abroad program.
My most important advice is only use ATM machines to withdraw money inside banks, in the day, that have security guards watching. I started using any old machine and had my card duplicated. So another precaution would be to keep the funds pretty low on any card you use and stay attentive because you don’t want to lose all your $$$$$$.
Brazilian University System
- Firstly, get yourself one of those student cards they are worth a million dollar in Brazil. You get every cultural hoohaaa half price. Tickets to your favourite band that cost 400 real, 200 real, bam, you are rolling in the cash, sort of. Cinema, half price: tourist attractions; half price: theatre play; half price. I forged mine for years.
- Secondly, Brazil has a first come first served policy on booking university classes. Thus, book online as soon as possible so you aren’t left with the rubbish times when you could actually be loving life at the beach.
- Teachers arrive late. You can arrive late too. Yay for equality.
- They love the exams. Midterm exams and half term exams and the end of term exams. You have oral exam and written exam. Just exams.
- You are going to feel cold like ice. They love aircons like they are an extra limb. One time in interpreting class, I made the error of turning up not wearing socks. I was wearing sandals because it was 40 million degrees outside. By the end I couldn’t feel my toes. They had the same sensation you get in winter and your shoes get wet in the snow. Feeling was just gone for a good couple of hours. Pack your jackets and cardigans chaps.
At last, your own short checklist of how to handle your study abroad in Brazil.
Hit me with your best advice for study abroaders in Brazil below!