Julia enjoying an amazing view on top of the Dois Irmãos mountain in Rio

My semester abroad in Rio de Janeiro

Julia enjoying an amazing view on top of the Dois Irmãos mountain in Rio
Julia enjoying an amazing view on top of the Dois Irmãos mountain in Rio

Thinking about going abroad for my studies in my third semester, I really haven’t had a plan yet on where I wanted to go until I saw all the partner cooperation of SRH. Not questioning my decision for long, I knew immediately that I had to take the opportunity to go to Brazil – a land we all know about since the last soccer world cup. Having only caipirinhas, beaches and the sun in my mind, I found out that Brazil has to offer a lot more than the usual stereotypes.

By Julia Reich-Empfingen

As I study business psychology at SRH, I chose the partner school PUC Rio as they offer most of the business courses in English that I needed for my studies. Knowing that maybe I would have to do some courses in Portuguese, I already started learning the language before I left for Brazil. Thanks to our foreign office at SRH, they connected me with a Brazilian exchange student at our school so that we could start a tandem: exchanging German and Portuguese.

For the preparations and important paper work, I was really satisfied with the help and organization of the international office at PUC Rio. They provided all the necessary information for my visa, schedules and how to have a good start in the country. All in all, we were around 250 exchange students at the university but still they gave you a very welcoming feeling for every individual person. I was also really happy about their offered family home program as they connected us exchange students with local families or roommates, so that we got the chance to live with Brazilians to get to know the everyday life, culture and also the language a lot better.

That’s how I got in touch with Sandra, an elderly woman that has two rooms to offer in her apartment so that I was living with her and another Brazilian student. I couldn’t have taken a better decision: Thanks to that opportunity, I really could see one way how Brazilians live and even became a part of that family in Rio. Sandra and the others helped me out a lot at the beginning on getting acquainted in Rio and the life and problems with autocracy. Through them I really experienced the Brazilian kindness and friendliness and felt welcomed and loved from the very first day I arrived at their house.

Sandra and Julia

I also really enjoyed my student’s life at PUC. We were having a beautiful campus in the southern part of the city with a little river running through it and tropical trees spending a lot of shadow and hiding little monkeys. The university organized different welcoming events and throughout the semester and there were different organized events, tours or even short trips. On top of that, I also enjoyed some of the offered free time activities like taking surf classes at one of the nice beaches out of Rio and at least trying to be as good as most of those awesome surfers you always see around.

University life was really relaxed and stressful at the same time. For me personally, the university system seemed more like our German school system as you have to do a lot of homework and turn in weekly papers to pass the class. But at the same time the connection with the professors has been very friendly and close so that I really liked my different courses a lot. It was surely a bit hard with the Portuguese-speaking courses, but only through this experience I learned how fast someone really can learn a language if you are “forced” to do so through living with Brazilians that didn’t speak any English or taking courses at school. Most Brazilians don’t speak English so they were even more happy when I could communicate with them and adapt on learning the language.

If anyone else is thinking to study abroad at PUC Rio or one of the other Brazilian partner schools with SRH I definitely would support this decision! I had such a great time and experience in this wonderful country and city at a great university with great people, making experiences that no one can take away from me. Things might be hard at the beginning because of the language and getting acquainted in a big and busy city like Rio, but it’s definitely worth it!

Sightseeing in Rio: a visit to Maracana stadium
Sightseeing in Rio: a visit to Maracanã stadium

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