Why Brazil? It’s a Country That’s Bigger, Better, and Blacker

“Why Brazil?” For my spring semester of junior year at American University, I will be studying abroad at PUC in São Paulo, Brazil. That former question, “Why Brazil?”, as well as “Why São Paulo?’ are ones I have gotten a lot in both Brazil and the U.S. Considering that thousands of students participate in dozens of European immersion programs every year, São Paulo stands out as an odd choice. But my selection was not random and São Paulo instantly won my heart when I came across it in my study abroad research. I am unsure if my assumptions will stand, but I will grapple with them for the next four months and the following list serves as a glimpse into what my blog posts should discuss. Here are the 10 reasons I chose São Paulo, Brazil. Be it for your own semester abroad or for general travel, I hope you find a reason for “Why Brazil?” here too:  

  1. Academics

Yes, it is nerdy, but I genuinely chose the CET Brazil program, first and foremost, for its curriculum. My boss would say, “You have no other choice.” While at PUC – SP, I will be taking three thematic courses: Brazilian Politics & Society, Poverty & Inequality in 21st Century Brazil, and Current Social Issues in Brazil. All three are situated in Sociology, my academic minor, and touch upon topics I entertain daily because of the U.S.’ political mess and my own proximity to social inequality. I look forward to studying how my own identities fit into Brazilian society, as well as comparing and contrasting the two nations, their cultures, and their systems. 

My school for the next four months: Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo
  1. The Latino Glisten

Like in the U.S., colonialism and slavery marked Brazil. That is why so much inequality exists here. But, unlike the U.S., the Brazilian people exist on more of a racial spectrum: Branco (White), Pardo (Mixed), and Preto (Black). Furthermore, there is a roughly even split between Brancos and Pardos (47% and 43%), according to the 2010 Census. I walk around American University and America as a minority, but when I visit family in the Dominican Republic, I can look around and see that most people have my skin tone and my hair. I feel understood. I want that feeling during my semester abroad. That is why I was adamant about studying in Latin America instead of Europe.

Black artwork in Salvador
  1. Queer is the New Normal

Brazil is one of the world’s most queer-friendly countries. According to a study conducted by the University of São Paulo, a staggering one in five men in Rio de Janeiro identify as gay or bisexual. These numbers are not only evident on paper, but can be appreciated in the streets too. In 2017, 5 million people attended the São Paulo Pride Parade – a Guinness World Record. As a gay man myself, I am excited to explore the queer culture since it appears more mainstream and pervasive in Brazil than in the U.S. 

São Paulo Pride
  1. Natural Beauty

From the Amazon rainforest in the West to the Atlantic beaches in the East, Brazil is replete with many of the world’s natural wonders. The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest and contains the most animal and tree biodiversity, as well as the world’s widest river – sorry Mississippi. Pantanal is the world’s largest marshland – sorry Everglades. And Iguazu Falls are the world’s largest waterfalls – sorry Niagara. Why is everything so big in Brazil? Well, looking at just the continental U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), Brazil is actually a much larger country. Being a water sign, I cannot wait to visit. 

Iguazu Falls
  1. Portuguese Language

I rarely shut up. I am very outgoing and talk for days on days. It is reasons like this that I chose Public Relations & Strategic Communication as my major. Language is, of course, integral to communication and in an increasingly global market knowing more languages provides you an advantage. Language is also the gateway to learning more about different cultures and I love traveling. More than 900 million people worldwide speak a Romance language – I already know French and Spanish, and would now like to learn Italian and Portuguese. Accordingly, I will be taking a Portuguese class at PUC. 

  1. Architecture

No, you are not looking at an image from the television show, The Jetsons. These are real Brazilian buildings. In the 1960s, architect Oscar Niemeyer was commissioned to design the nation’s new capital, Brasilia, with the future in mind. This is what he came up with. 50 years have passed and no other buildings in the world look quite like this. But who knows? Maybe in 2060 this really is what the rest of the world will look like. Probably not, but regardless, considering the rest of the world’s capitals follow the same American and European style, Brazil’s has an immense wow factor.

National Congress, Brasilia
  1. Music

One night, while watching television in hospital emergency room, I came across the infectious production and captivating videos for Anitta’s music. My mood immediately lightened. Anitta is Brazil’s reigning pop queen and is on the verge of global domination, having been featured on English and Spanish language tracks in the last year. While mostly pop, her music also incorporates Brazilian genres like funk and samba. I am a dancer and a music lover, so I look forward to further exploring her music, as well as Brazilian music and dance in general.



  1. Service Learning

Brazil presents itself as a world power with a booming economy and rich culture. Like all world powers, it also suppresses its poorest, most vulnerable people. All shade intended. Those communities include Pretos (Blacks), Indigenous people, and refugees. As part of the CET program, I will be able to volunteer at a non-profit serving one of these communities and through the service will better understand what can be done to make a meaningful impact and break down the structures holding these communities back.

Favelas in Rio
  1. Carnaval

Carnaval is to Brazil as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. Denoting the beginning of the Christian Lent Season, Carnaval is a week-long celebration filled with costumes, drinking, and music. It is celebrated all over the world, but do you know where the largest Carnaval is located? If you guessed Brazil, you are correct! Another Guinness World Record, on a given day, up to 2 million people may be present at Carnaval processions – and that’s just in the city of Rio. Brazilian Carnaval is called “The Greatest Show on Earth” with good reason and should not be missed.

Carnaval in Olinda
  1. Cultural Appreciation

A common thread through all these points is that Brazil does everything big. Accordingly, there is a lot to soak in. So much that even a semester is not enough time. Many people studying abroad at European schools jump around from country to country for Instagram moments. There is nothing wrong with this, but one surely misses out on getting the most from one specific place or people. I want to take my time with Brazil and São Paulo, which with its 12 million people is also huge. São Paulo is closer to the real Brazilian culture than Rio, which is more touristy and Americanized.

Are you feeling inspired to visit São Paulo or Brazil? Hopefully, this post has piqued your interest and the ones to come keep you hooked to the flavorful and addictive culture of Brazil. I invite you to be a student as well and follow me on this exploration of the bigger, better, blacker gifts Brazil offers the world.

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