August 2013 issue

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Brazil's melting pot

This, the world's largest Portuguese–speaking country, is a melting pot of different cultures. With its mixed African, European and indigenous heritage, its modern cities and magnificent natural features, Brazil is a destination that offers something for everyone, as Jane Vernon Smith finds out.

Although no more the national capital, Rio de Janeiro is probably Brazil's most familiar destination and a scenic base to enjoy beaches and mountains, culture and nightlife. As Ana Maia, Language Travel Advisor at BridgeBrazil in the city enthuses, "Rio's scenery is breath–taking, and the friendly atmosphere is contagious!"

Rio is full of activities — especially for the more adventurous, points out her colleague Aaron Nathan, and one opportunity that he says is definitely not be missed is a hang–gliding session starting from Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock), which gives breathtaking views over Ipanema Beach, Lagoa and beyond. Hiking at Floresta da Tijuca is also a great experience, according to Maia, while scuba diving in the crystal clear waters at Arraial do Cabo or Paraty offers "a relaxed and also exciting vibe".

Located, says Nathan, "in the highly energetic and convenient city centre, close to many nice restaurants, cafés and the metro", BridgeBrazil is well situated to make the most of the city's attractions. "Students should definitely go to a samba club in Lapa on Friday nights," recommends the school's Academic Coordinator, Fernando Gregores, "or maybe go to the Maze, a jazz club on the top of the Tavares Bastos community, in Largo do Machado."

Up Rio, a new language school, recently opened by Vilma Gomes of IH São Paulo, offers an ideal base for beach lovers, providing home tuition at her three–storey beach house at Recreio dos Bandeirantes. "Every time I go there," Gomes reflects, "I am amazed by the place's beauty, its mountains, the green[–edged] and sandy beaches with crystal clean waters, particularly in Prainha and Grumari —natural paradises."

The school introduces its students to all the local attractions, including favela [typical shanty–town] tours, weekend trips to Ilha Grande, Buzios and Cabo Frio and mountain trips." They love it [all], but what most impresses them," she underlines, "is the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain."

Nathan also highlights "the incredible Christ the Redeemer" as well as the "jaw–dropping Sugar Loaf Mountain". The latter is accessible via cable car, points out Gomes, and the restaurants and bars at the top help students take time to enjoy "one of the most spectacular views in the whole world".

Another popular destination is São Paulo. Not just Brazil's largest city, but one of the biggest in the world, this is the country's main business hub. However, it is also accessible from some of the numerous beaches that line the state's coast.

According to Gomes, "[São Paulo] is monumental... Everything is huge about Sampa, as we like to call the city that never stops. You can find anything to do, at any time you want... Those who come to São Paulo are surprised by the city"s gastronomic delights and the varied and plentiful night–life." She adds that there are "millions of options to have fun", particularly in the neighbourhood of Pinheiros and Vila Madalena, where IH São Paulo is located.
Just like other major metropolitan cities, São Paulo is very expensive, observes Ricardo Arikawa Moreira of Business School São Paulo (BSP), "but also welcomes those who [would] rather not spend a lot. Free shows and bargain shopping can make students very happy."

For free entertainment, they need look no further than a typical Brazilian carnival. "I know that carnival celebrations take part in different parts of the world, but nothing can be compared to the Brazilian carnival," observes Gomes. São Paulo's own carnival is becoming more popular every year, Moreiro adds, highlighting the "joyful" performances there by the samba school.

For Daniel Amgarten, whose study tour company, Campus Brasil, is located here, "São Paulo's historical downtown is a must–go place." Key sights he picks out are the Municipal Market (for fruit, vegetables and fish, as well as a variety of local and imported goods), Sé Cathedral and the St Benedict Monastery.

The city's museums and galleries are also noteworthy. One highlight for Marcia Camisa, Director of Fast Forward Language and Cultural Institute in the city, is the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), which, she notes, holds works by artists from Rubens to Picasso and Dali to Botticelli. For Gomes, the Museum of Portuguese Language and the Football Museum are very special.

The Ibirapuera Park offers an antidote to the bustle of city life. This, the largest green space in the city, is "a wonderful place to go jogging, cycling, picnic, visit the museums (Afro–Brazil Museum, Contemporary Art and Modern Art) or just enjoy the beautiful green area of the park", says Amgarten.

Beach lovers will love Maceio, in the northeast, where Fast Forward has a second school. Maceio "is a safe, relaxed, modern city, with the most beautiful beaches in South America", Camisa says. The school itself is located in Ponta Verde, a modern residential district located four blocks from the beach, and also close to all facilities, including shops and restaurants.

She adds that there is also a wide range of cultural places of interest to visit within easy reach of Maceio. These include the historic colonial cities of Penedo and Marechal Deodoro, with their unique architecture — the latter also being known for its strong musical tradition, she observes. Also not to be missed is Massagueira, one of the region's main gastronomic centres, which, she says, has the largest number and diversity of restaurants in the state. Other favourite destinations for the school's students include the Atlantic forest of Murici and the Barra de Santo Antonio manatee reserve.

On Baia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay), to the south of Maceio, is the city of Salvador. Here, with a maximum of three students to a class, Básica Língua employs "an alternative approach to teaching that recognises that students also learn outside the classroom", says Owner, Sheila Waksman.

"One of the primary leisure activities [here]," she notes, "is going to the beach — and going to the beach is a cultural experience in Salvador!" The beaches of Porto da Barra and the Barra Lighthouse are both "nice places to swim and catch some rays of sun", she suggests, while the Chapada Diamantina National Park and the islands of Boipeba and Morro de São Paulo are also must–see destinations in the area.

More traditional "cultural" opportunities abound in the city's historic centre, Pelourinho — a Unesco World Heritage Site — which, with its colonial architecture, "is definitely worth a visit", she says.

The area's mix of African, indigenous and European heritage contributes to its rich culture, and students can get a feel for this by attending a Candomblé (the Afro–Brazilian religion practised by many people in Salvador) ceremony, or taking the opportunity to learn the martial art, Capoeira, which was first practised here, she says. The region's mixed heritage is also reflected in the "very special" local cuisine, according to Waksman, who adds that the increasingly popular bohemian Rio Vermelho neighbourhood is full of bars and outdoor restaurants.

Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Paraná, has a lively cultural scene, and is also well–known for its parks and squares, comments Rafaela Rolim, spokesperson for Brazilian Experience, an education and tourism organisation based in the city and specialising in exchange programmes.

Again, one of the main attractions of Paraná state is its beaches, and, says Rolim, "Superagui Island is home to some of the calmest and most rustic beaches in the state." Meanwhile, no visit would be complete without a trip to the impressive Iguazu Falls, which, she claims, are "larger and twice as wide as the Niagara". A boat tour along the Iguazu River takes visitors within a few metres of the spectactular falls, and, "it is an hour–and–a–half of pure adventure...truly an amazing and unforgettable experience," she relates.

At Brazilian Experience, "We believe being an exchange student... [offers] a chance to get in touch with the local community, learn about and participate in their cultural traditions, and have an opportunity to share [them] too!" Rolim explains. One such experience is the famous fandango — typical dance of the region — which is enjoyed in the city's bars by locals and tourists alike. "It is a unique opportunity," she claims, "that can only be seen by anyone visiting Paraná's coast."

Nearby Florianopolis is The Language Club, which offers modern facilities and its own small garden — planted with basil and a coffee tree — in Lagoa da Conceiçao. School Director, Martha Ghizzo, says it is "one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the city".

Capital of Santa Caterina state in southern Brazil, Florianopolis is a sizeable city with two universities. It is, as Ghizzo points out, also noted for its safety and organisation, compared with other cities in Brazil. Within its scope is the island of Santa Caterina, and with more than 42 beaches, green hills, dunes and lagoons, it is "a place of unique beauty that has been attracting people [from] all over Brazil and the world", she says.

"The place is perfect for water sports — surf, windsurf, kitesurf, kayak," she adds, and, "It is also an inviting location for boat trips." Among Ghizzo's top excursion tips is Campeche — "a beautiful, protected island with light blue, Caribbean–like, water".

Agent viewpoint

“A cultural experience [is the] main reason behind choosing to learn Portuguese in Brazil. However, we now also have more often a profile of student (approximately 30 years old) who doesn’t mind having a good time, but whose interest is clearly to acquire Portuguese language skills with a professional development perspective...[Once there, students enjoy] the beauty of the place, often by the sea, as well as the Brazilian way of life.”
Krister Weidenhielm, ESL, Switzerland
“Many students comment about the rich culture, the beautiful natural environment and the kindness of the Brazilian people! Studying Portuguese in Brazil is unlike any other place where Portuguese is spoken. Brazilians possess a Samba rhythm, a passion for music, sports, food and family that is unmatched! Many students are surprised by the intense passion the Brazilian people have for soccer. The beautiful stadiums, the waving flags, the drums, songs and dance that fill the streets of Rio and other Brazilian cities, is unlike any experience they’ve ever seen or lived!”
Karim Dure, Think Abroad, USA

“The first thing they [students] think about is going to the carnival... [They comment that] people in general are really nice and kind. One of our students was really happy in Brazil – he really enjoyed the nightlife in São Paulo.”
Diana Lopez, Mundojoven, Mexico

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






Generation Estates  

CAPS-I (The Canadian Association of Public Schools – International)  
Quality English  

CERAN Lingua International  

FAAP - Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado  
IH Sao Paulo  

Abbotsford School District Business Company  
Algoma University  
Avon Maitland District School Board  
Bow Valley College   
Calgary Board of Education  
Camosun College  
CAPS-I (The Canadian Association of Public Schools – International)  
Centennial College of Appplied Arts and Technology  
College of New Caledonia  
COMOX valley - School District 71  
Eastern Townships School Board  
Edmonton Public Schools  
English Montreal School Board  
Georgian College  
Grande Prairie Public School District  
Greater Victoria School District #61  
Halton Catholic District School Board  
ILSC - International Language Schools of Canada  
Langley School District #35  
Louis Riel School Division  
Niagara Academy of Sports  
Nova Scotia International Student Program  
Peace Wapiti School Division  
Pembina Trails School Division  
Pickering College  
Qualicum School District #69  
St James - Assiniboia School Division  
Study Manitoba School Divisions  
Surrey School District  
Waterloo Catholic District SB  
West Vancouver School District #45  

Churchill House/English Home Tuition Scheme  
GSM (Greenwich School of Management)  
Kaplan International Colleges  
London School of Business & Finance  
Quality English  
Queen's College  
St Giles International  
University Campus Suffolk  

Alphe Conferences  
SR Events  

Cambridge Esol  

English For Asia  

ISI Dublin  

Comitato Linguistico  
IH Palermo  
Italian in Tuscany  

Akamonkai Japanese Language School  

International House Sevilla CLIC  

EF International Language Centers  

Malta Tourism Authority  

Besant Hill School  
ELS Language Centers  
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart  
Fork Union Military Academy  
Glenholme School  
IH Pacific (Vancouver, Whistler, San Diego)  
Meritas LLC  
Montverde Academy  
Rutgers Preparatory School  
Zoni Language Centers  

Boa Lingua  
ESL Ecole Suisse de Langues  
Idealist Education Consultancy  
Insight Lingua  
World Study Head Office  

English Australia  

ILSC - International Language Schools of Canada  
Sol Schools International  

British Study Centres  
Cambridge Education Group  
Churchill House/English Home Tuition Scheme  
International House World Organisation  
InTuition Languages  
St Giles International  
Twin Group  
University Campus Suffolk  

Accent Francais  
France Langue  
French in Normandy  

BWS Germanlingua  
F+U Academy of Languages  
GLS Sprachenzentrum  

ISI Dublin  

Dr. Walter GmbH  
Guard. Me  
International Student Insurance.com  

Accademia Italiana  
Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci  

Genki Japanese and Culture School  
Kai Japanese Language School  

Academic Colleges Group  
Languages International  
New Zealand Language Centres - Auckland  

CIAL - Centro de Linguas  

Cape Studies  

International House Sevilla CLIC  
Escuela de Idiomas Nerja  
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  

Rennert International  
TLA The Language Academy  

Tellus Group  

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