When most Americans think of Brazil the city of Rio de Janeiro comes to mind. If you happen to know a little bit more, maybe you know something about the enormous city of São Paulo or of the city of Salvador in Bahia. Florianópolis is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina with a population of around 500,000 and estimated total metropolitan area of over 1 million people. However, not many North Americans have heard of the city of Florianópolis or know remotely where it is. So why would I choose to study here?
The first reason is the major University situated here. The Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) is a top Brazilian institution. It has over 35,000 students enrolled in 106 undergraduate degree programs, 82 master’s degree programs, and 55 doctoral degree programs. This makes for a vast and vibrant academic community which, as a graduate student, I very much appreciate. My studies are organized through a US based non-profit group called the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) who has a student exchange agreement with UFSC. This means that while I am here, I am a guest student of UFSC and can utilize the on-campus restaurant, library, computer labs and other services.
The second reason, is security and safety. My primary goal while in Brazil is to learn Portuguese as well as possible. Learning a language can be hard enough without the added difficulties of a large and relatively dangerous city like Rio or São Paulo. Florianópolis is considered one of the safest and most “organized” capital cities in Brazil. Some Brazilians, like my Portuguese professor in the US who is originally from the Northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará, argue that Florianopolis is actually too safe and organized to experience Brazil fully. At the very least, it is a great jumping off point for someone who has never been to the country before.
The final reason, is the natural beauty and beaches here. Florianópolis is known locally as the Ilha da Magia (Magic Island) and is well known for its over 40 named beaches, picturesque hiking, surfing, and any number of other water sports. In fact, I start surfing lessons soon and will report on how that goes in an upcoming post. It’s hard to imagine a better place to spend one’s time learning a beautiful language.