USAC Brazil: Florianópolis

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The Florianópolis program offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the incredibly diverse and dynamic culture of Brazil while living on a beautiful sub-tropical island and studying at one South America's most prestigious universities. The program is ideal for students who want to learn about the world's fifth-largest country, one of the fastest-growing economies, and its diverse mix of European, African, and indigenous cultures.

Learn an old European language with a unique modern twist while soaking up the beautiful weather and sandy white beaches of the southeastern Brazilian coast. Influences from centuries of immigration collide and are reborn on this island which has retained and developed a culture that is different from the mainland and unique to Brazil. Locals mingle with visitors from Europe and the Americas who choose the island's charms and almost perpetually warm climate.

  • Study at one of South America's top five universities in a beautiful setting close to a vibrant city center
  • Live on a beautiful subtropical island with over 40 beaches, rainforest, lakes,and quiet fishing villages
  • Discover the local and hidden charms of a historical island which has developed its own unique cultural heritage
  • Participate in a tremendous variety of outdoor activities including hiking, diving, surfing, sandboarding, sailing, and whale-watching
  • Experience the thrill of living in one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic countries in the world, with opportunities to travel to the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, and Iguaçu Falls

Questions & Answers


based on 8 reviews
  • Academics 6.1
  • Support 8.3
  • Fun 7.4
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 8.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 8
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Living the Magical Island Life

I studied in Florianópolis for the 2016 Spring Semester with USAC. It was my first time living abroad and it was the best experience I could have asked for.

The Location: Florianópolis is a BEAUTIFUL island. The lush, green mountains surrounded by 42 beaches on the island took my breath away every day of the semester. There was never a chance to be bored; every day after class we would head to the beach or to the lagoon in the middle of the island. There was always an event, beach, or cultural experience to enjoy. Brazil is truly a magical, beautiful place.

The Housing: I had the best host family experience ever here. I lived with an older couple and their nephews who studied at the university. They were extremely welcoming and I spent every day with my host family; they made my study abroad experience that much greater. I was able to become very proficient in Portuguese because it was such an immersive experience. I still talk to them often and cannot wait to visit.

The School: We studied at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. I loved the campus! Once school started for the Brazilians, there were always a ton of students and events on campus. USAC offered a large variety of classes, with many in Political Science, Economics, Environmental Studies, etc. I also took Brazilian Cuisine and Surfing which were a blast!

Overall, Brazil is one of my favorite countries on Earth. The culture is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I have lived abroad a few times since my semester here, and I can honestly say that USAC Florianópolis offered the most immersive experience I have seen so far. Brazilians are just so welcoming and friendly that it would almost be impossible to not find yourself loving this wonderful country.

Yes, I recommend
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Overall worth it but important to note a few things to see if it's for you

Ok this review is going to be very blunt and honest. I'm not going to try and sound a certain way in order to fit in and to stroke my ego like in most other reviews. First I'll talk a little about the program, then the city, and finally the people. All names in the review are fictional.

A little about the program:
I studied abroad there in 2015. Overall it was a great experience, but it could've been a bad choice if I didn't do things my own way, fortunately I did. Studying abroad anywhere is a great investment, and you will learn a lot. When I was there, USAC Floripa was pretty new so there was still a lot of things that needed worked out in their system. They had some woman as their housing coordinator who wasn't very good and caused some problems (thankfully she doesn't work there anymore). The program does a decent job of accommodating you and making you feel comfortable, but in some ways this overextension of accommodation kind of makes you feel like a child, and creates an environment where americans only communicate with americans. It's human nature, but I found it amusing how much Jane Doe and Ashley thought they were being cultural, outgoing, and independent, but in reality did 90% of things in their little nucleus of american friends and were absolutely terrified of being truly independent and assimilating into the culture. If you go, think about how you want your experience to be and do what you want; don't feel pressured to fit into the USAC clique just to fit in, because once you leave you probably won't see 95% of these people ever again. Aside from a couple of good professors, the classes were a joke and really hands on. Expect a lot of presentations and busy work, expect classes to begin at the crack of dawn, and expect to walk to class everyday or take a bus, it could take you 15 to 35 minutes depending on where you live, so be prepared to walk a lot and plan ahead for your classes, because they are all super strict on attendance.

The city:
Florianopolis is a great city. It has to be the most versatile city in Brazil; it has the amenities of a big city with the safety and beauty of a smaller city. If you like beaches, hikes, and nature in general you will love it there. Also, if you like amazing parties and beautiful people you will love it there. If you're a straight male, you will fall in love with the city, and be in heaven. The local girls are sweethearts and on average gorgeous. You will see a massive difference between the local girls and the low maintenance american girls in your program. To all guys reading this: if I could give you advice please don't get sucked into the USAC games and try to put yourself out there and meet some local women (and make some Brazilian friends OUTSIDE of USAC). Go to the parties by yourself or with a couple of other like minded buddies and just have a blast, it will literally be the funnest times of your life. As far as getting girls goes there is more opportunity in Floripa than any city in the U.S by far. At the university you will be attending, they have these HUGE parties bi-weekly that have free alcohol and tons of girls. Generally when you go out there will be more girls than guys, and on average they are all gorgeous. But, that doesn't mean that it will be easy. Along with being super beautiful the local girls are also well educated, have a lot of respect for themselves, and have close tight-nit families; they don't need some random gringo guy that is only there for a couple of months and doesn't speak their language or understand anything about their culture. Do as best as you can to learn the language and a bit about the social culture before you go so you can fit in with the locals, it will go a looooong way, and you will regret it if you don't learn some of each. Expect to be aggressive and take the lead when you go out with girls, gender roles are more polarized in Brazil; men are men and women are women. I can't tell you how many american guys in the program were way to passive with the local women and literally didn't date around the entire time they were there, this is pathetic, don't be that guy. Brazilian girls there are used to and like it when a guy takes the lead, so don't be afraid.

The locals:
I have read in numerous articles how the locals of Florianopolis are the friendliest in Brazil, in my opinion and the opinions of several other americans, this is total garbage. The majority of locals are some of the most arrogant people that you will encounter in Brazil. They are the elite of Brazil, and generally view the rest of the Brazil as being a totally different country compared to 'their south'. The majority also hate Brazil and will look at you like you are crazy for visiting their country. In general, don't expect to be treated like royalty just because you are American, and in some cases expect to get treated rudely. People here see a lot of tourists and will not hold you to a higher regard just because you are foreign. Although all of this is true, there also exists a lot of really nice down to earth people that live there, so don't let this scare you. They are arrogant by Brazil standards, which means they are still cool. Once you meet some cariocas (people from Rio) you'll see what I am talking about. I found it super interesting how much the locals despise Brazil and talk about how it's a shit hole. The locals love everything about America and american music, movies, and entertainment, but once they actually meet an American exchange student the majority of them seem a bit distant and cold at times; they treat you like you are some sort of alien that they can't relate with so there is no point in trying. In general there are two kinds of people on the island: people who are open to meeting exchange students and being friends with them, and people who for whatever reason will not give you a chance just because you are foreign, don't take it personal and find the ones who are open. Think about it like this: at your home university in the U.S, do the coolest people hangout with the foreign exchange students that they can barely even communicate with? No they don't, in fact, they will probably feel like losers if they hangout with the exchange students; people will judge them. Same concept in Brazil. USAC provides local Brazilian language exchange partners from UFSC, but the majority of them are a bit dorky. My advice: learning the language as best as you can before you come completely changes this, and opens up a whole other demographic of locals to hangout with. Do yourself an immense favor and learn as much as you can before you come, put yourself out there as much as you can, and be as social as possible.

Final verdict:

If you want to live a versatile lifestyle where you hike amazing trails, visit deserted beaches, and party at some of the best venues in the world with the hottest girls, I'd say go. For the money, USAC does a pretty decent job, but check other programs such as ISA to see if they are a fit for you. Overall the city can get a bit bland and boring by Brazil's standards for a couple of months out of the year (May-September). Since it is a small city, it can get a little bit cliquey at times (a lot of people know each other), but it shouldn't be an issue for a temporary stay. Best time to go would be spring semester, but if you go in the fall you will also have a blast. Both Fall and Spring semester have their pros and cons: Spring semester is super oversaturated with tourists, but it is when the best events are, fall semester is laid back with only locals, but it can get a little quiet on some weekends. Overall the Spring semester will be their summertime and the weather will be the nicest. Don't be a pandering little yes man like most of the kids that attend the program; do your own thing and live your own experience. Don't let Carly the chubby, boisterous American girl suck you into her awkward drama. Do as best as you can to meet your own people and do your own thing outside of USAC.

How can this program be improved?
Stop trying to make the classes so hands on, and try as best as you can to promote an independent student lifestyle for the kids in the program. It's nice that in study abroad programs the students develop strong bonds with one another, but at the same time I think it holds them back from assimilating into the local culture. It's nice that you provide students with opportunities to take dance classes and such, but the classes are mainly for USAC students. Encourage the kids to go out their and find their own things, this is the essence of studying broad and will provide the best experiences. Oh and another thing, the students should NOT be forced to take an intensive portuguese class at the beginning of the semester that counts as a credit toward their transcript. They should at least have the option to audit the class.
Yes, I recommend
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The Magic Island

Indeed, Florianoppolis is the Magic Island, I have been to many places in my life, and have never fallen in love with a country the way I did with Brazil. Waking up every morning I would feel perpetually energized to try something new and explore the island and country.

USAC did a great job of helping students in getting acclimated to the new culture in many aspects, including food, transportation, weather, habitual rituals and other small cultural differences. The group activities offered, such as the hikes, rafting, island tour and other events were also great! Not to mention additional optional classes such as surfing and Brazilian cuisine.

One complaint which seemed to come up more than a few times was housing. Many students felt unwelcome in certain homes with homestay families, they felt as though some families were only bringing them in as a source of extra income. Others not in homestays, including myself and my roommates, felt as we were paying far more than we should have been. In US dollars, the deal was good, but once students got to know the place and started to get a feel for the local real estate we quickly came to understand and feel that we were being taken advantage of in terms of the extra income we might have as American students studying abroad. Though we could still afford the inflated prices did not mean we should be paying for them. A few students even broke their leases early and found their own 'nicer' places in better locations for cheaper prices.

All-in-all USAC did a fine job with all other aspects of the study abroad experience. The professors at UFSC (the host university) were all wonderful and more than happy to teach us.

Mostly, I'm am immeasurably thankful for USAC and UFSC's introduction of the Junior Enterprise business model, something barely existent in the United States, though highly prominent in Brazil and Europe. Since my stay in Florianopolis I have been diligently working to start US' second Junior Enterprise at the College of Charleston. This all inspiring mission of mine would not have been possible if it hadn't had been for my time overseas, specifically at UFSC.

I hope this review finds itself well. If chosen to receive the travel money award initial funds will be used to fly myself up to Chicago this January where I have been invited to attend the US' first Junior Enterprise summit, looking to spread awareness of the Junior Enterprise vision and young entrepreneurship as a whole to students and others of the community. I would not be finding myself in the place I am now, both professionally and mentally if it hadn't been for my Floianopolis experience at UFSC.

How can this program be improved?
In some instances I felt USAC held our hands a little too much. Many students did not bother to "branch out" with locals as much as they probably could have.

Again, I would improve the housing situation. Aside from price conflicts, location was also an issue. Many people found themselves far from both campus and town, at least one if not two bus rides away from everything.
Yes, I recommend
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Brasil's Hidden Gem; Floripa

Floripa is an incredible place to study abroad. It is very safe and is populated by friendly people from all over the world. However, the best part is the location. The endless beautiful beaches, hikes, small fisher communities, soccer, surfing, extravagant clubs, low key bars, etc. The exploring lasted all semester. Everything you could ever want for an abroad experience is right there on the island. The few times I traveled to other cities, people would ask, "why are you traveling? I would kill to be in Floripa." I would only suggest going spring semester though because I got there in the summer and pretty much had a month vacation with Portuguese classes and got to settle in before school started. I also got to experience carnival. I learned a lot of things in my classes and many were hands on which allowed us sort of a VIP access to talk to locals and visit places we otherwise probably would of never known about or had access to. However, the classes were extremely long since they were cramming a whole semester into a short time and some classes only once a week. Also many professors had a strong language barrier which made things difficult. Another thing that was difficult is especially in the beginning, before I got the hang of things, people take advantage of you if you are American. For example, I would get charged more for almost anything I bought until I learned more Portuguese and learned how to bargain. It was good though because it kept me on my toes and made me more aware of my surroundings.

How can this program be improved?
I would improve the classes. I understand that it was hard to find professors who spoke decent English but a more regular (2-3 times per week) class schedule with normal (1-2hr) classes would really improve the program.
Yes, I recommend
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Great experience

I had a wonderful summer studying abroad in Brazil. USAC has a great staff and did a good job of organizing activities/events/classes given the length the program existed. I loved the host family I stayed with and lived in a beautiful neighborhood that was close to the school. I really enjoyed the classes I took as well. They were very hands on and the professors seemed to be passionate about what they were teaching. For example, for my Dance and Music class we went to a live concert to see first hand what we were learning about. I also recommend taking the Brazilian Cooking class!! The only "downfall" to the program that I did not personally experience is that the some of the classes were either too challenging with too many exams and papers or that the classes were boring/not challenging enough. I would say to evaluate your goals of studying abroad before chooses your classes-- it can really alter your experience.

How can this program be improved?
I would improve the added field trips and figure out what the students really want first. Everyone seemed to be a little bored on our field trip because we were seeing a lot of the history versus doing activities. Our group would have preferred doing physical activities like hiking or ziplining or something more active.
Yes, I recommend
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A Glorious Experience

I had a blast down south. I was abel to experience Brazilian culture in a personal way in which I was free to explore on my own. The cultural philosophy class was epic too! I got to understand in depth the cultural differences between the US and Brazil through out history. I found that the tours, and experiences that the program offered were good half of the time, when it was more about getting involved in the culture. Sometimes it was rather touristy. The crew of students that unavoidably become your best friends turned out to be pretty rad.

How can this program be improved?
More freedom encouraged for the students.
Yes, I recommend
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My study abroad in Brazil was amazing and terrible. I had so many great experiences and just as many negative experiences. All in all if I would have known more of what to expect so I could have better prepared myself, my experience would have been more enjoyable. I plan to study abroad again because now I think I know how to prepare myself. Brazil was unearthly hot. (I also went during their hottest summer in 88 years.) Walking and bus were the way of transportation. The bus system was great once you figured it out. I would have liked to know what the proper clothing to bring would be. Brazilian woman take how they look to be very important. I also wished I would have learned some Portuguese before going it would have made a huge difference in my immersion!

How can this program be improved?
The staff was awesome. I wanted to leave my home stay because it wasn't working out, and they were awesome about working with me to move. I think maybe a way they could have improved the study abroad is pertaining to the classes. Some of the professors were unhelpful and hard to understand.
Yes, I recommend
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The Beaches of Florianópolis

Studying abroad is not something you should think about, it's something you should do. I have not met anyone who has regretted studying abroad. A typical day in Florianopolis consisted of going to class, hanging out with the many friends you make while studying abroad, and a hobby you pick up while abroad. In my case, it was Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, but for many other people it was surfing, hiking, dancing, soccer, or capoeira. But regardless of what you chooses you can't go wrong. It is a good time all around, the best 4 months of my life.

How can this program be improved?
My experience could have been improved if I had known more Portuguese. That was the one regret I had from Florianopolis, my lack of language skill hindered me at times.
Yes, I recommend

About USAC

USAC is a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities that collaborates to offer affordable, academic and authentic study abroad programs. There are abundant opportunities to immerse in the culture, history, and academics of other countries providing...