Unique summer program takes students to Brazil

The Summer Program in Brazil is a unique joint program between the School of International Letters and Cultures and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University.

During the three-week program, students visit São Paulo, the largest urban center in South America, and Brazil’s leading industrial, financial and commercial center; Curitiba, one of the world’s most sustainable cities, which is lauded for its common-sense solutions to ecological and community development challenges; Iguassu Falls, which borders Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay; and finally, the state of Bahia in Brazil’s northeast, where Portuguese settlers established sugar, coffee and tobacco plantations in the 1600s using both Indian and African slaves. Bahia’s capital city, Salvador, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a great deal of preserved Renaissance architecture. 

This transection of Brazil offers students the advantage of becoming familiar with several physical environments in Brazil, different city structures and patterns of development, diverse demographic compositions, and distinct cultural regions. 

Students in the program earn 6 credits in Portuguese, cultural geography, and/or urban planning. Much of the ‘learning’ takes place on the go. As students visit various parts of each city, they learn firsthand about the places, the cultures, and the language of Brazil.

Prior to the three weeks in Brazil, there is a four-day “Introduction to the Region, Geography, Planning, and Survival Portuguese” component to the program on ASU’s Tempe campus, which is designed to familiarize students coming from disciplines outside of geography and urban planning or Portuguese with the region before traveling to Brazil. 

In Brazil, students focus on urban issues found in the world’s mega-cities (like São Paulo), sustainability innovations (Curitiba), and socio-economic-cultural issues in all three regions. 

For example, in the summer of 2012, program participants met with students from the Universidade de São Paulo who were building an ‘eco house’ that they were taking to Madrid, Spain for the 2012 Solar Decathlon. Participants had the opportunity to tour the house and hear about the competition and the requirements for the eco house and the Decathlon. 

In Curitiba, students attended a seminar by renowned architect, former mayor of Curitiba, and former governor of the State of Parana, Jaime Lerner. Lerner designed the city’s famous Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and was also instrumental in establishing many of Curitiba’s other sustainability initiatives. 

In the northeast state of Bahia, the focus of the program is on the African heritage and the unique cultural characteristics of the region.

"Going to Brazil was an amazing opportunity to see a world so different than my own,” says urban planning major Michael Bochnovic. “It is such a beautiful country that is growing so rapidly, and to have seen it during a time of such change is something I'll never forget.”

Some of the highlights of the program include:

• lectures by professors from state, federal and private universities and government officials on topics such as solar energy, environmental protection, public housing, public transportation, urban planning and architecture

• a visit to a Guarani Indian village, and a hike to Pico do Jaragua to view the entire Valley in which São Paulo lies

• a tour through Libertade, a Japanese market district in São Paulo

• a visit to recycling and solid waste facilities on the edge of São Paulo

• museum and market visits

• evening arts and/or cultural events

• a visit to one of the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls, Iguassu Falls, which is close to Curitiba

• a two-night stay on a remote island off the coast of Bahia

Students in the program stay in hotels close to the city centers and universities where museums, parks, cultural festivals, and other activities are readily accessible. At several sites, students will meet with Brazilian students for afternoons or evenings of culture and language exchange.

Faculty directors for the Summer Program in Brazil are Elizabeth Larson, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and Clarice Deal, School of International Letters and Cultures.

Applications accepted through the ASU Study Abroad Office. 

The School of International Letters and Cultures and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning are academic units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.