Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I do this?

Transformational study abroad exchange.
You will have a life changing experience. You will become fluent in Portuguese. You will learn about causes, consequences and solutions to environmental studies in a different cultural, political, economic and ecological setting. You will have fun. Brazilians are friendly people who will go out of their way to make you feel welcome in their culture.

Significant research experience in helping preserve the environment.
You will undertake a significant research project guided by Brazilian professors. Research is oriented towards the social sciences, ecology and geology at UFAM and remote sensing, geology and engineering at UFRJ. The project could become your capstone for your senior thesis paper.

Future opportunities
You will differentiate yourself from all the other college graduates in the job market and in applying for graduate school. Brazil is currently the 6th largest economy in the world, and soon will be the fourth largest behind the United States, China, and India. It has already surpassed Japan, and all but one of the individual European countries. All the Fortune 500 companies operate in Brazil and the big Brazilian companies operate in the United States and Europe.

What will I study in Brazil?

The focus of the project is environmental studies, with a special emphasis on the relationship between the environment, sustainable development and the quality of life. Consequently, your program of studies should focus on these issues. You are expected to take a total of four courses: two interdisciplinary environmental studies courses, a directed research with a Brazilian professor, and an elective course. The elective could be related to Brazilian culture (literature, art, music, etc.), further Portuguese language studies, an environmental studies class, or a course that fulfills a graduation requirement for your major (you will need to check in advance with the department head). A list of courses available in Brazil are listed below. The directed research projects reflect the environmental issues important to the region in which the university is located.

Universidade Federal do Amazonas in Manaus

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

  • Sustainable forestry (Agroforestry)
  • Impacts of petroleum activities on the rainforest
  • Ecotourism
  • Medicinal plants
  • Environmental change and tropical diseases
  • Sustainable fisheries policy
  • Urban/industrial activities and sustainable development
  • Economic History of Amazonas
  • Independent Studies in Geology, Environmental Economics and Biology
  • Alternatives of Energy
  • Energy Planning
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Engineering and the Environment
  • Economics of Oil
  • Environmental Impacts of the Oil Industry
  • Multidisciplinary Project in Oil Engineering
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Development and the Environment
  • Environmental Planning
  • Economics and the Environment
  • Evaluation of Environmental Impacts

What if I don't speak Portuguese?

W&L students generally don't speak Portuguese, so a plan has been devised to give you the language skills you'll need to attend classes taught in that language. In the fall and winter terms prior to leaving for Brazil, you'll take six credits of Portuguese language classes (PORT 113-163). Then, at the end of June, you'll travel to the Universidade Federal do Amazonas in Manaus for another intensive, six credit, six week language immersion program. After that, if you plan to study at the Universidade Federal do Amazonas, you will remain in Manaus; otherwise, if you signed up for the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro you will travel to Rio de Janeiro. The regular semester at both Brazilian schools begins in late August and continues until mid-December. Class lectures are in Portuguese. You will have the option to take your tests and write your papers in English. If you already speak Spanish or French, you have a big head start. In fact, if you can read Spanish, you can probably read Portuguese with 80% comprehension before you even begin Portuguese classes.

Where will I live?

Brazilian universities don't have dormitories, because most Brazilian students go to the university in their home city and live with their parents. Washington and Lee University students stay with Brazilian host families.

What will I eat?

Brazilian food is incredibly good and very inexpensive. If you are staying with a family, you would probably eat two meals at the home and one meal out. If you are staying at an apartment you could either prepare your own food or eat out. Here are a few examples of grocery store prices, in US dollars:

Pineapple $2.60 Pound of filet mignon $5.25
Liter of good beer or diet coke $2.60 Pound of coffee $3.50
Pound of fresh fish $3.95 Freshly baked loaf of bread $.90

Restaurant prices are comparable. It is possible to get a really nice fish or meat dinner for $5.25. Buffet restaurants are common and the food is quite good. The buffet are sold by weight at approximately $9.70 per pound. In short, if you don't like to cook or clean up afterwards, you can afford to eat at restaurants.

How much does it cost?

Your participation in this program is subsidized by the US Department of Education. You get the summer Portuguese program at the UFAM and the fall semester at either the UFAM or UFRJ for the same cost as the fall semester at Washington and Lee University. Qualifying applicants are eligible for up to $3500 of scholarship to offset travel and living expenses.

Essentially, there is no additional cost (you won't need to ask your parents for any more money) unless you plan to travel in Brazil during your vacation times. If that is the case, purchase an airpass from Varig.

Do Brazilians like Americans?

Brazilians like everyone. They are among the friendliest people in the world. You will feel like a member of the community instantly. People associated with the University will invite you to their home, go out with you at night (restaurants, clubs, shows, etc.), and take you on short excursions. Strangers will also be very kind, helping you if you are lost. If you are sitting in a park or sidewalk cafe, expect people to come up to you, welcome you to Brazil and start talking with you.

Although Brazilians occasionally disagree with US policies, they make a distinction between policies and people. You will be warmly embraced, both figuratively and literally, as hugging and kissing are an important part of greetings in Brazil.