Study Abroad Research – Brazil

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At the end of last year, I conducted a survey on Latin America Study Abroad.  It wasn’t until later that I realized the survey questions were slanted towards Spanish language and culture and inadvertently omitted Portuguese language and culture. My apologies.

To remove the big question mark that remained after analyzing the results, and to correct my omission, I conducted a follow-up survey with the original respondents who indicated they sent students to Brazil.

Sixteen out of twenty-seven recipients responded to the follow-up study abroad survey. The results are below. Note, the values in the charts represent response averages in answer to the question.

Summary of Findings:

More students tend to study abroad in Brazil during the summer.

Students study a variety of subjects while studying abroad in Brazil.

The majority of students take classes taught in the English language while studying abroad in Brazil.

The majority of students choose short-term study abroad programs (4 weeks or less) to Brazil.

The majority of students choose faculty-led study abroad programs to Brazil.

Thirteen out of 16 of the respondents believe that there is interest among their students for Portuguese Language and Brazilian Culture, and 14 out of 16 respondents said their students took Portuguese Language and Culture during their study abroad program. However, an average of only 6.14 students out of 41.46 focused on Portuguese language and culture during their study abroad experience in Brazil.

Questionnaire and Results:

Question #1: How many of your students studied abroad in Brazil for any period of time between Fall 2008 and Summer 2009?







 Question #2: Please provide the approximate number of students that focused on each of the following subjects during their study abroad experience in Brazil.








Question #3: If you had a number under OTHER for #2, please tell us what other subjects your students studied.

Public Health & Community Welfare = 37 students; Culture, Development & Social Justice = 28 students




Agriculture, human development/family studies

We have a summer Dance program that runs every other year and takes about 15 students.

Computer Science, Geography

Public Health, Race, Human Rights


Culture and Politics – On of my students was a year student for a total of 7, but 8 semesters

Question #4: Excluding Portuguese language and culture courses taken in Latin America, please tell us the number of your students who fell into the following categories.


Question #5: Please tell us the number students that chose each of the following program lengths in Brazil.








Question #6: Please tell us the number of students that chose each of the following paths to study abroad in Brazil.








 Question #7: Is there interest among your students for Portuguese Language and Brazilian Culture?

81.3% said YES

18.8% said NO

If yes, why do you think students don’t study Portuguese? In the last survey, there was no mention of Portuguese Language and Culture in the “Other” category for courses taken in Latin America.

1. They do, Brazil is an emerging economy and power in Latin America.

2. Most of our students like to learn about Brazilian and the larger South American Cultures but most prefer to learn Spanish or have already taken courses in Portuguese while at the home university.

3. Our school does not offer Portuguese. This program requires students have taken two years of a Romance Language, and then they take an intensive Portuguese class when they get there and do well directly enrolling into the University classes.

4. Yes. We teach Portuguese at Cornell. However, these students, went on an Amazon Resource Management & Human Ecology program or a public health program, each of which some Brazilian studies component in addition to Portuguese. We do not have data for summer.

5. Our exchange candidates did study Portuguese before going to Brazil, as their application for Latin America requires a certain language level. It is very probable that they also took language classes while in Brazil since the exchange students do want to come to Brazil not only for academic reasons but also to improve their spoken and written Portuguese.

6. Seems students will usually pick either Spanish or Portuguese and Spanish has more utility.

7. Portuguese is no longer taught here.

8. Brazil is an emerging economy, and therefore has gained greater student interest. Also, Portuguese is a language that is closely related to Spanish; therefore, once students have a strong grasp of the Spanish language, often times they wish to learn Portuguese language as the language acquisition is easily facilitated by knowledge of Spanish.

9. Possibly because the Portuguese language is not as prominent as Spanish in the US. About half of our students were placed with an already high/near-native level of Spanish into language classes taught specifically to Spanish speakers.

10. Though not all that much–the numbers are small. We have a very small number of students who study Portuguese, yet we have many that study Spanish. I suspect this is because Spanish is perceived as more useful.

Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University

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3 thoughts on “Study Abroad Research – Brazil

  1. I studied in Brazil (all classes in Portuguese), at the University of Sao Paulo, in an exchange program through Stanford Univ. (N.B. it is NOT necessary to be a Stanford student to be accepted into the program).

  2. My son had the opportunity to visit Brazil with several of his classmates his sophomore year. The experience that he had was life-changing. He had nothing but raving reviews on everything that he experienced there.

    The hosts were phenomenal, friendly and caring people. The culture was awesome. He is now in college studying medicine and Brazil had such a positive effect on him, I hope he don’t end up working there.

  3. Very informative article thanks for posting. Also, can understand why Spanish would seem more useful, and therefore why people would elect to study that rather than portuguese.

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