Brazil in 3 Months, My First Impressions

Hi! I’m Ricardo Martinez. I hail from the University of California, Davis, and am studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). I study Political Science and Philosophy, and have a minor in Latin American studies. I hope you enjoy my adventures through the pieces I will be writing. Let’s go!

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 5th with two suitcases, a carryon, my backpack, and big plans. I came prepared, I thought. PUC-Rio officials were in the arrival area waiting for exchange students, and as soon as there were enough students to fit in two vans, some from the states and others from Europe, we departed to our host family’s locations.

I arrived at my new home and was impressed by the room my host mom provided me with. There was a big desk, a huge closet, and a full-size bed with a giant window where I could see Copacabana beach. Over the next couple of days, however, my excitement ended with frustration, home sickness, and weariness. Prior my arrival to Brazil, I had little time to prepare, much less rest my mind. I knew I was going to Brazil, but I did not know what I would face and the time I needed to thoroughly prepare for the program. I was a bit in disarray the first couple of weeks, my mind still back in the states.


I kept moving forward nonetheless and did the best I could to enjoy the new experience. Brazilians are very nice people, and so adjusting to them has been a lot easier than I thought. The culture is also very different, for example, Brazilians enjoy taking their time, be it patiently paying at the cashier, or waiting for the elevator that takes one to the third or fourth floor. You really must witness it to know what I am saying. In any case, Brazilians, or Cariocas here in Rio de Janeiro, are laidback and genuine people. The term ‘carioca’ is given to those that are native to Rio de Janeiro, meaning they were born and raised in Rio. It’s also a way of speaking, living, and being, really. Cariocas are always casual, tan every day, and to my surprise, dislike cold weather. If it rains, you’ll find them in their homes watching novelas.


At the Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro, or PUC-Rio, there are students from all over the world, and though it is a small campus, it’s compact and in the middle of trees and green life. There’s even small monkeys jumping around the trees, much as we have squirrels in the United Stats across many campuses, at least we do at UC Davis. The students are very open to speaking with foreigners, and so every now and then I get to practice my Portuguese. Portuguese really is unlike Spanish, I was surprised. Both languages may be from the same tongue but Portuguese enunciation, and some vocabulary, has made it difficult for me to grasp. Whenever I speak “Portuguese,” to Brazilians it’s ‘portunhol,’ meaning that it’s a blend between poor Portuguese and Spanish.

But it is all part of the adjusting process, as has been my forty-minute bus rides to school because the campus is in Gavea, completely opposite of Copacabana. The bus rides have therefore been an adjusting process, especially because it really takes an hour to get from my host mom’s home to class, in the states for example I could bike to campus in the span of ten minutes. The food as well is different, with little spices that make me miss my grandma’s food. I must say it is healthy and balanced, yet black beans and rice are always included in any dish. There’s also bread and coffee at any corner shop, and the coffee I have enjoyed indeed. My favorite food item however is acai, a healthy snack composed of a blend of purple berries from the Amazon with ice and some addon toppings such as granola and powder milk.


Most recently, I obtained a research assistant internship position at the BRICS Policy Center. I will be doing research regarding Chinese developmental investment in Brazil and Chile. I also enjoy my classes, two of which are the processes of regional integration, taught in Portuguese, and Brazilian foreign policy. These experiences have been very enriching, and above all, my stay in Brazil eye-opening. Now onto what’s in store for the next couple of months.

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