CAS '20 Arryonna Santos

SA: CIEE Rio de Janeiro

Program Abroad:

  • Semester Abroad (SA): CIEE Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ask me about...

  • Taking all of my classes in Portuguese

  • Becoming friends with other study abroad students

  • Learning a new dialect of Portuguese

  • Commuting to school around the city and between states

  • Being in Rio de Janeiro during the 2018 elections (when Bolsonaro was elected)

  • Being safe while still having fun in a foreign country

My Experience Abroad:

I study International Relations, so everything related to my coursework and major here at Penn! I took a class in Human Rights which gave me insight and tools with which to approach my concentration in International Development. I took a class on the International System in the 20th Century which was interesting because, despite it covering the history of the world in that period, the professor gave a lot more insight on South American countries than I have noticed been given in other general history courses here at Penn. Being abroad also helped me apply the language lessons I took at Penn (Portuguese) and my own ability as a native speaker. It's one thing to study the language and a completely other thing to be in the country where that language is spoken - I learned so much and improved all aspects of my language speaking and comprehension!

I took all of my classes in Portuguese, which nobody else in my study abroad program did - so definitely feel free to ask about navigating course selection to ensure you're taking classes with professors that welcome foreign students. I became friends with a student studying abroad from Italy, and she had a horrible experience with a professor who taught his class in Portuguese because he refused to work with foreign students; however, my friend didn't know that at the time. Students should ask me about my knowledge of the professors at PUC because I should be able to provide some guidance or point them to students or individuals who can. Besides these things, I am a native Portuguese speaker - my dad immigrated from Azores, Portugal so my siblings and I grew up speaking Portuguese (Portugal). I learned a new dialect of Portuguese in Brazil and widened my understanding of nuances of the local languages, accents and slang - this was groundbreaking for me and I would love to talk about it with others, especially Spanish and Portuguese speakers who may think they're at an advantage or disadvantage studying in Brazil due to their language skills.

Other Highlights:

  • My host parents' grandchild, or my "Brazilian nephew", lost his tooth one day as the whole family was sitting together to watch the 6 o'clock novela on TV. I felt like family in this moment and so many others, but this moment was special because experiencing a child lose a tooth is such a personal milestone for a family and I got to witness it.

  • I learned how to prepare typical Brazilian dishes! My host parents, as well as a very good friend of mine (a local I befriended at the start of the semester), taught me how to prepare feijoada (bean stew), brigadeiro (chocolate truffles), and coxinha (chicken fritters).

  • In turn, I prepared a dish that I would typically eat at home for my host parents and their (OUR) family and everyone chipped in the preparation. I prepared a family recipe for roasted potatoes as a side - though potatoes aren't common in Brazilian cuisine, I was pushing my hosts out of their comfort zone, but thankfully they loved it!

  • I learned how to Samba - and got to apply my new skill on the dance floor at a huge street festival. I made lots of friends that night - an elderly French woman desperate to learn, for example, among various other people just happy to join in on the fun!

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