Welcome to Brazil
The Brazil Destination Guide will provide a historic overview, scholarships, health and safety tips and identity-specific resources to ensure students feel prepared with insight and resources for their global experience in Brazil. The information shared below is a bird eye’s view and meant to provide some country-specific context. We encourage students to conduct further research and chat with relevant points of contact including advisors, program leaders, international student services at the host campus, internship coordinators or peers who have traveled to Brazil, to gain a greater understanding of their host country and/or city.
Known for fanatics of football (that’s soccer, to Americans), rich cultures and diverse flora and fauna, Brazil is an exciting and dynamic destination. Considered the largest of the South American countries, Brazil is an enormous landmass of world renowned tropical rainforest and coastal beaches. Colonized by the Portuguese, Brazil is the only country in South America where Portuguese is recognized as the native language. Brasília became the federal capital on April 21, 1960; before then the capital was Rio de Janeiro. The interior holds the Amazon Rainforest and the world’s most extensive river system.
Brazil has plenty of potential for students seeking anything from exposure to vibrant cultures and the Portuguese language, to adventure in the unexplored and untouched areas of the rainforest. Que bacana! Students of many different majors choose to study in Brazil. Its culture, with world renowned music and dance, attracts liberal arts and fine arts students. This vibrancy can also be seen in Brazil’s biodiversity. The idea of studying in one of the most biodiverse countries in Latin America also draws in students who study sustainability, environmental studies, and other sciences. Brazil’s status as the economic power of the region also entices business students eager to learn about Latin American markets and trade. Last but not least, students wishing to study Portuguese make their way to Brazil to sharpen their language skills.
Cities & Education
Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and several of its cities have become increasingly popular locations for students from all around the world. São Paulo, or “Sampa” as the locals say, is located in southeastern Brazil and is the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a major industrial hub on the continent and is home to the University of São Paulo, the largest university in Brazil. São Paulo is approximately 30 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and offers students a vibrant city lifestyle full of opportunities to engage with art, food (feijoada, anyones?!), music and dance.
Rio de Janeiro, perhaps best known around the world for its spectacular Carnival celebrations, is a top destination for students studying in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is made up of beaches on one side and a mountain range on the other, framing a bustling urban landscape. Rio is also a hub of the arts - offering a wide variety of plays, shows, concerts and street performers and artists. Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro is the most popular institution in Rio.
The city of Salvador, capital of Bahia, has become a popular destination for foreign students seeking to study in Brazil. Salvador boasts a desirable combination of lush nature, tropical coastline and a modern, urban setting. The city is also known for its robust representation of Afro-Brazilian culture reflected in the food, art and nightlife - no shortage of samba bars here! Noteworthy universities in Salvador include Universidade Federal Da Bahia (UFBA) and Universidade Católica do Salvador (UCSAL).
Events & Tourism
Carnival is at the top of the list of things to experience in Brazil for many students. Carnival marks the beginning of Lent, and is a massive, country-wide festival filled with music, dancing and costumes. The street parties and parades last for a total of six days. The largest Carnival celebration is held in Rio de Janeiro.
Another must-see tourist sight in Rio de Janeiro is the Christ the Redeemer statue. This iconic art deco monument depicts Jesus Christ with outstretched arms, looking over the city. In addition to its artistry and sheer size, this sight is also great for breathtaking views of the city.
Salvador, Bahia is the city to visit for students who want to learn more about the origins of Afro-Brazilian culture. This UNESCO site was the first slave port in the Americas and is considered the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. The African influence in its distinct music and cuisine is undeniable.
Brazil also has countless natural attractions to offer. You can visit Brazil’s high biodiversity by taking a ferry ride through the Amazon Rainforest. Another way to experience Brazil’s natural wonders is to visit one of its stunning beaches, like Baia do Sancho. You won’t run out of natural beauty here!
Diversity & Inclusion Climate
Acknowledging the significance of the African Diaspora, Portuguese colonization, and indigenous natives of South America, Brazil boasts having one of the world’s most diverse cultures. Like many countries, Brazil has a complicated history with race and dynamics between ethnic groups. White Brazilians - or Brazilians of European descent - make up almost one half of the population. Brazilians of mixed ethnic backgrounds - mixed African, Indigenous and/or European ancestry - make up just over half of the population. Even though racial and ethnic discrimination are illegal, large disparities exist between White Brazilians and Brazilians of mixed ethnic backgrounds.
Colorism, a form of prejudice where people from the same race are treated differently based on their skin tone, is pervasive in the country. These disparities are apparent in the country as white individuals experience more upward social mobility and hold more positions of power while populations of mixed ethnic backgrounds experience higher rates of poverty. Students of color from the U.S. are largely identified first as being “American” due to their accents, manner of dress and identity as students.
Although same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013, the day-to-day climate as it related to the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals in Brazil varies vastly depending on the location. Major cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio are largely LGBTQIA+-friendly, and have many dedicated gathering places, entertainment options and resources for these communities. Similarly, cities in Brazil tend to be more progressive when it comes to attitudes towards women than the rest of the country which remains largely patriarchal when it comes to gender roles.
For more additional, identity-specific information about Brazil visit the Diversity & Inclusion Guides to Brazil.
Data acquired via the CIA.gov World Factbook
211,715,973 (July 2020 est.)
White 47.7%, Mulatto (mixed white and black) 43.1%, Black 7.6%, Asian 1.1%, indigenous 0.4% (2010 est.)
Portuguese (official and most widely spoken language)
note: less common languages include Spanish (border areas and schools), German, Italian, Japanese, English, and a large number of minor Amerindian languages
Roman Catholic 64.6%, other Catholic 0.4%, Protestant 22.2% (includes Adventist 6.5%, Assembly of God 2.0%, Christian Congregation of Brazil 1.2%, Universal Kingdom of God 1.0%, other Protestant 11.5%), other Christian 0.7%, Spiritist 2.2%, other 1.4%, none 8%, unspecified 0.4% (2010 est.)
Immigration & Emigration
While colonization and slavery are not immigration - it is important to note that Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese in the 1500s. At this time, there had been native populations living in what is now known as Brazil for tens of thousands of years. By the mid-1550s the colonists began to bring African slaves to the country, and expanded their hold on the area.
Brazil is one of the top recipients of immigrants in the Western Hemisphere. Today, a majority of immigrants living in Brazil are originally from Western Europe (Portugal and Italy), Japan, and Argentina. Historically, immigration policies in Brazil were largely based on what was occurring in the economy. The Constitution of 1934 created immigration quotas by country and during the height of World War II, Brazilian authorities closed most ports. After World War II, Brazil also received many Muslim, Christian, and Jewish immigrants. Today, there is also a sizable refugee population living in Brazil, largely from Venezuela.
The economic crisis in the 1980s kicked off an era of emigration. Today, large Brazilian populations are living in the United States, Paraguay, Japan, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France.
Staying Healthy & Safe in Brazil
You cannot always predict everything that may occur during your time abroad, but taking the proper measures to ensure your health and safety in Brazil will lessen the risk of health and safety issues.
One recommendation from the State Department is registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows you to register your trip with the local embassy or consulate which can provide support should you need it.
At Diversity Abroad, we acknowledge that experiences can vary by identities and others’ perceptions of them. To access identity-based resources about Brazil visit the Diversity & Inclusion Guides to Brazil.
Healthcare in Brazil is a right for anyone in the country - including foreigners - and is protected by the constitution. It is important to know what the process is for your specific program when it comes to doctor visits and emergency health care.
Brazil is generally considered safe for tourists and students granted you follow standard precaution and guidelines provided by your host institution and/or program. There are often areas of town that should be avoided - take the time to figure out where these areas are located.
Pickpocketing can happen in city centers and sites that are attractive to tourists. There are many giveaways that can signal someone is a tourist from accent to something as subtle as mannerisms and the way one walks. The goal is not to mask that you are a visitor, but to protect your belongings and ensure you do not fall victim to theft. We recommend following these general tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Leave valuable items at home whenever possible and only travel with your necessities, this includes when you head to the beach! Only bring what is necessary
- Avoid being flashy or careless with valuable items
- Ensure your bags and pockets are tight and completely zipped
- Have a travel partner when possible, avoid going out after dark alone
Funding & Scholarship Opportunities
There are many scholarships to fund your study abroad experience in Brazil. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this country:
For more scholarships, visit our Scholarships page.