Lucas, a Materials Science & Engineering major, studied abroad in São Paulo, Brazil during Summer 2018.
IF NOTHING ELSE, DON’T FORGET TO PACK: A good pair of shoes that you don’t mind taking off the beaten track! You never know where your trip might take you and it’s always good to be prepared to jump into any adventure.
ON SECOND THOUGHT, YOU CAN LEAVE AT HOME: Honestly beyond your wallet, phone and a few comfy outfits there isn’t much else you’ll need! I’d recommend packing as light as you can, your time will be full of exploration and immersing in the local culture so it’s best to not be keeping track of too many things. Not to mention you’ll probably bring home a few things from your trip so it’s always good to leave space for neat purchases.
WHERE TO LIVE: We stayed in a hostel, something I’ve never done before. Living with our hosts and getting an opportunity to eat and talk with them was awesome, it made the experience feel much more authentic than staying in a hotel that’s the same no matter where you are.
BEST PLACES TO EAT: There was one night where we were walking around Vila Madalena, a neighborhood in São Paulo, and the restaurant we were thinking of going to was packed so we picked a random spot down the block. I couldn’t tell you the name of the place but the food ended up being awesome and we all shared it family style which made for such a fun experience. I’d recommend trying any random place that looks good and being as adventurous as possible, you never know what sorts of fun foods you’ll come across. Not to mention everything is better when you’re with friends so bring a few people along with you!
FAVORITE CULTURAL ACTIVITY: We had a Capoeira workshop one night that was a blast. Capoeira is a traditional Afro-Brazilian martial arts that incorporates music and dance. The whole workshop pushed everyone out of our comfort zones and it was really awesome to see the group be so supportive and carefree while we all tried something new. Plus the Capoeira itself was a lot of fun!
BEST PERSONAL HIDEOUT: The last two days of the trip we spent in Ubatuba, a beach town in Brazil, and one of the days we took a boat tour around some of the small islands right off the coast. It was pretty empty because it was “winter” there (the weather was in the 70s and we all swam so it’s nothing like a Midwestern winter) so we basically had the beaches to ourselves. Swimming in the ocean and exploring some of the islands felt like we were in paradise, I can’t wait to go back some day.
FAVORITE PLACE TO STUDY: In the hostel there was this table downstairs that we all sat around and worked on the project. We didn’t work for long though because the conversation always turned into joking around or telling stories, it was great to bond so close with the other people on the trip with me.
MUST-TRY LOCAL DISH: Our guide, Talita, was actually a trained chef and she taught us how to make Dadinhos de Tapioca, which is basically deep fried tapioca cheese balls. They were so good and Talita sent us the recipe so we can make them anytime now!
BEST PHOTO OP: In Vila Madalena there’s a place called Beco do Batman (Batman Alley) that had these incredible graffiti murals. It was one of the most colorful places I’ve ever been and it was awesome to see local artists and styles.
BIGGEST FAIL: When I first got to São Paulo I was surprised that I didn’t immediately love the city. Everyone always talks about how great study abroad is and how much they loved the places they were at but for the first day or so I didn’t feel that. What I didn’t realize is that it takes time to fall in love with a place; I had made a judgement without actually experiencing anything. After two incredible weeks of food, friends, and fun I definitely fell in love with the city and now I can’t wait to go back! Don’t feel like study abroad has to be amazing from the start, it’s the experiences you’ll have during your time there that will make it so worthwhile.
BEST PURCHASE: We bought these churros from a street vendor that were absolutely incredible. I think the best thing you could spend money on is food because it brings people together and how many times are you going to have the chance to eat authentic food like that?
BEST PART OF THE PROGRAM: Getting to work on a project with Brazilian students was fantastic! They were so kind and excited to work with us, I immediately felt welcomed. The whole group really came together and I know that when I go back to Brazil for my next visit I’ll have amazing friends to catch up with!
BEST LOCAL EVENT/HOLIDAY: There’s a weekend market in one of the neighborhoods in São Paulo that we got to visit. Walking around the different vendors and seeing the cool items they were selling was so much fun, I bought some gifts to bring back for my family.
FAVORITE LOCAL WORD/SLANG: Obrigado! It means thank you and it was like the only Portuguese word I could remember the whole trip. Everyone we met was so helpful though so I wasn’t completely lost and I was at least able to thank them for their kindness and patience!
IF I COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN… I’d go for longer! There were so many places we didn’t get to visit during our short trip, I’d love to go back and see more of São Paulo!!