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A Day in the Life: Study Abroad in Rio de Janeiro

April 22, 2017|Posted in: Abroad Adventures

Melanie Mackenzie is a senior studying International Studies and is originally from Colombus, Ohio. She was able to put her proficiency in Portuguese to the test when she studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro last Spring and took all of her classes in the native language!

7am: My homestay is just a block from Copacabana Beach, so most mornings I go for a run along the shore! Normally I run from Copacabana to Ipanema and back. The famous mosaic calçadão, or big sidewalk, is a great place to run and I always have lots of company! I’m running the Rio de Janeiro Half Marathon in June, so that is good motivation to run each morning! After that, I buy an açaí on the way home – a very refreshing treat!

9am: Brazilians normally eat small breakfasts, so I (try) to do the same. I normally have toast with jam and a piece of fruit – and coffee of course! There are so many new fruits for me here, such as passionfruit, caqui (which look like tomatoes but are sweet – persimmon in English), and an amazing variety of bananas!

10am: I take the bus to PUC, my university. There are some tricks to riding the bus here! The bus only stops to pick you up if you indicate to the driver that you want to get on by waving at them. This took me a while to learn – I kept wondering why the drivers were passing me.

11am: Classes “start” at 11am, but the professors nearly always start at least 15 minutes late (which means I have time to grab an espresso or a pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) on the way to class!). I’m taking all of my classes in Portuguese, which has been challenging but rewarding. Depending on the day, I have Community Development, Brazil in Multilateral Forums, Portuguese for Foreigners V, and Democracy, Representation, and Participation in Brazil. Our campus is beautiful – it’s like AU, but in a jungle, complete with monkeys who are always very interested in my snacks!

1pm: After my first class, I normally buy lunch on campus. The bandejão (dining hall, but literally “big lunch tray”) is the most cost effective option (it’s 8 reais, or less than $3USD, for a buffet style meal). There’s always rice and feijão (a bean dish), vegetarian and meat options, and a huge variety of juices! If I’m not super hungry, I head to the snack stands just outside the university and buy a tapioca (cassava tortilla with various sweet or savory fillings – my favorite is cheese and coconut).

Afternoon: Some days I have class until 7pm, but on the days I don’t, I try to make the most of my afternoons, whether it be running errands or exploring the city. Once a week I do a language exchange with a Brazilian friend who is starting to learn English.

7pm: Three days a week, I attend capoeira classes at night. Capoeira is a combination of martial arts, dancing, music, and acrobatics that was developed by Angolan slaves in Brazil. I’m learning slowly, but I really enjoy it! I’m also learning how to play the berimbau! You can check out my capoeira group on Instagram at @igualdadecapoeira.

9:30pm: I catch the bus home and get ready to do it all over again!

On the days I don’t have class, I find myself doing all sorts of things! On Fridays, I volunteer at a daycare in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. I help with the English lessons and roll around with the toddlers. On the weekends, I’m either hiking, exploring museums and new restaurants, or traveling around to other parts of Brazil! Rio de Janeiro truly is a cidade maravilhosa, the marvelous city!

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