What is it like riding the imaginary roller coaster as an exchange student in Brazil 🎢

If you are a future exchange student, you will have to attend a pre-departure session hosted by 360 International. I remember in that session they told us that an exchange can feel like a roller coaster. And boy, they were not kidding. Being an exchange student at FAAP in São Paulo has been full of ups and highs. I have loved getting to know Brazil, but it can have its own challenges.

But, what challenges am I talking about? Well, maybe it is easier if I tell you what a typical week is like for me. Below you can see a snapshot of my host uni timetable ⬇️

  • Monday to Wednesday: One of my main classes is the Extensive Portuguese course. From Monday to Wednesday, I attend a 3-hour class from 1:30 pm to 5 pm. This course is especially designed to help exchange students improve their language skills and prepare us to communicate in daily life situations.
  • On Wednesday mornings, I attend a “Culture & Identity” class where we learn more in-depth about Brazilian culture and identity. What’s unique about this class is that I have the opportunity to learn alongside Brazilian students too. It is by far my favourite class, and you get to learn about the country’s history, traditions, and values.
  • Thursdays OR Wednesdays are always exciting because we have a cultural activity or outgoing. Some of them include: Samba class, Forro class, Brazilian cooking class, Jewellery making class, Capoeira class, and visits outside to some of São Paulo’s most iconic places. Such as the famous MASP museum, Beco de Batman, The Football Museum and more.
  • Every Friday, I have a theater class from 2 to 4:30 pm. This class has been really good for practicing my spoken Portuguese and learning to express myself better. We also get to take this class with Brazilian students.

Extras: I also have two English classes, “International Marketing” and “Brazilian Animation History”. These classes are a great place to meet Brazilians, especially because they speak English and are keen to practice it.

This is what the inside of my host university’s museum looks like.

As you can tell, my overall timetable is more full-on than what an average UoA student is used to (unless you do one of those hardcore degrees like med, law, engineering, etc.). Time management, and the tiredness as the main cause from it, has been one of my biggest challenges. Not to mention that all these classes are compulsory. There’s a 75% minimum compulsory attendance, and if I don‘t meet this requirement, I automatically fail the class. This means that I have about 25 hours of compulsory classes a week.

If I’m honest, there is no easy solution. It is only a matter of time that your body learns to adapt to this full-on lifestyle. Some ways I have found handy to adapt better are by getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying active. A great way to stay active is to explore the city when you can. For instance, every Sunday, Avenida Paulista, the equivalent of Queen Street in NZ, closes off to traffic. Making it a walkable street full of music, concerts, markets, and life. I also enjoy checking out the local parks and visiting museums. A great one is called “Parque Ibirapuera”, locals like to call it the Central Park of São Paulo.

São Paulo has so much to offer, and even after 2 months I feel like I have only seen the trailer of the city. Overall, being an exchange student in Brazil has been an incredible experience full of challenges, but also full of memorable adventures. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, I highly recommend taking the leap and experiencing the roller coaster. It may not always be easy, but it I can assure you it’ll definitely be worth it.

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