As you will learn during your time in Brazil, the country has many opportunities for study abroad students besides the lure of the sands of Copacabana beach, the sounds of Carmen Miranda's samba, and the street party that is Carnaval.
Brazil gained independence from the Portuguese in 1822, after 300 years of foreign rule. The independent nation shares a border with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador. Brazil is not only the largest country in South America, but also the most populous. These factors, combined with the nation's natural resources, make Brazil the leading economy in South America. For students interested in economics, business, trade, tourism or international relations, Brazil will provide a unique opportunity to learn about a country increasingly on the rise.
While an important economic powerhouse, Brazil suffers from unequal income distribution; in Rio, approximately 1/3 of the city's population lives in poverty. Poverty affects every city worldwide; you can turn the struggle of densely populated Rio into a learning experience by helping to do something about it. If you are interested in the health or medical professions, in policy and development, or in the social services like welfare or aid to the homeless, the shanty towns of Rio would be an excellent site in which to volunteer, or conduct fieldwork and research.
The Amazon River is perhaps Brazil's biggest claim to fame (the other big one being Carnaval). As the second longest river in the world, the Amazon covers half of the country as it runs for 2100 miles through Brazil and is navigable the entire distance. It may not be the longest river in the world, but it is the widest and it does flow through five other countries besides Brazil. Some tributaries of this giant remain unexplored, and many of its 15,000 animal and plant species also remain unclassified. Some fauna that do call the Amazon home include: electric eels, boa constrictors, anacondas, jaguars, river dolphins, spider monkeys, sloths, alligators, river dolphin, parrots and toucans. The enormous river also contributes to Brazil's wetlands, which are the world's largest. Biologists, anthropologists, conservationists, and nature lovers alike will all find a trip to the Amazon to be a very educational and colorful experience.
The Amazon contributes to Brazil's human diversity as well. The Portuguese may have given Brazil its most predominant religion and language, but the nation also boasts a rich indigenous population, as well as people from such diverse regions as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Anthropologists made famous the semi-nomadic Yanomamo people, who number approximately 9,500 in northern Brazil and about 12,000 more in Venezuela. The way the Yanomamo have maintained their traditional lifestyle despite modern developments in the outside world continue to intrigue anthropologists, scientists, genealogists and linguists. If you are interested in any of these fields, the Yanomamo provide you with an incredible chance to study a tribal people. In fact, the Brazilian government granted this distinct cultural group possession of their original land in 1991.