RIO2016: Final reflections

With the final days of my Rio experience coming to a close I can easily say that my time here has gone by incredibly fast. Maybe it’s the constant rush of activities that always keep us on the go or the feeling of never having enough time to truly explore the entire city, but it feels like we just landed in Rio yesterday. The time has flown by, and there are no other people I would have rather spent this past month with.

Though there is no way to cover the whole city in a month, I really feel that I was able to get the full Rio experience. Living here has made me feel a little less like a tourist and more like a Carioca, even though you can definitely spot our group in a crowd. We became regulars at restaurants around the neighborhood. They knew our favorite Vitaminas and adjusted to our lack of the Portuguese language, while also slowly teaching us how to speak. Although we’ve come to recognize the staff at our favorite restaurants, we can’t wait to eat American food again!

Our time in Rio will be unforgettable. I’ve made so many new friends on this trip that have added so much to my experience, and the memories we’ve made will last a lifetime. We’ve accomplished a lot: hiked two mountains, took two classes, earned six credits, visited three cities, swam at four beaches, stayed in one hotel and one hostel, shopped at four markets (plus so many street vendors), bought endless souvenirs, took millions of photos, and had so many unique and unforgettable experiences. So, thank you to UW for this amazing opportunity and especially to all of those I’ve met along the way, you made this trip one to remember.

By Miranda Adamczak


The longer I was in Rio de Janeiro, the deeper my feeling for it grew. I have no thesis statement, no one anecdote or memory or detail that caused the chemical reaction – I leave this city feeling as though I barely scratched its surface. And I’ve come to the conclusion I think that’s the way a month it should feel. Studying abroad should ask more questions than it answers, leave two “I wish I hads” for every “I did,” and a premature semblance of bittersweet before we know to identify it as that. The allure of returning to this far off place – one we’d never dreamed of traveling to on our own dollar until we were rich yuppies with studio apartments in New York City – is a cynical tease. The fear that as we recalibrate our compasses to life in the states, scheduling our days around the familiarity of home, we’ll forget the subtleties in each photo, retelling the same story so many times it becomes romanticized and dull, looms in the back of our heads as we prepare to move out of the hotel rooms tomorrow. Or maybe I’m just sad to go.

Today I walked everywhere I went. I walked north on Rua do Catete to Lapa in the afternoon for a late lunch and one last look at the stairs and white arches, east towards the bay over the bridge that overlooks Flamengo Park and Sugarloaf to the south, and west up the steep cobblestone streets for one last dinner in Santa Teresa. My phone is broken; I ask to take photos of the graffiti, murals, intersections, topography, and food from my friends’ devices. I feel like a hopeless romantic, clinging to lost time, memories I am making up for. One day, I will show my kids this city, for all its marvelousness and infamy, its people, for all their resiliency and pride. Rio may have much to learn from other far off, puffed-chested societies around the world, but there is magic to being a visitor in a place as it grows. Até a próxima vez, obrigado.

By Noah Baron


A month in Rio de Janeiro is enough time to experience how the city has an endless supply of things to see and experience. Even when just walking down the street in the neighborhood we were staying in, there was so much to observe and learn from.

Some random things that I noticed in my time here:

People don’t use beach towels at the beach, but rather cangas (patterned cloths that come in many different vibrant colors). The fruit here is amazing and fresh and comes in such rich flavors and tastes good in either smoothies or alone. My favorites are mango and açai. The juice is also thick and fresh; one of my favorite kinds is now pineapple with mint. Also, there are so many corner stores that offer really tasty coxinha (chopped chicken meat covered in dough) and other types of meat and cheese pastries. Stores and restaurants almost never give the correct amount of change and workers will often ask the costumer to supply the change instead. Restaurants are often quilo, meaning that they are buffet style and then weighed for the price. People on the streets are very friendly and open to talking (even when you don’t speak very much Portuguese). The fusion between indoors and outdoors is a lot more casual and adds a tranquil yet bustling feel to the city. It is scary as a pedestrian because cars rule the road and you cannot assume that they will stop. Also, the natural places to hike in are some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The view from the top of the Tijuca Rainforest, for example, captures the vastness of Rio and how city fuses naturally into the surrounding mountains. After seeing the blue of the ocean at Pedra do Telégrafo (with its optical illusion cliff), it is hard to believe that people actually live there on a day-to-day basis.

This experience provided a taste of so many more things that I want to remember and someday I hope to get the chance to return.

By Laura Bunn



As my last days and nights set on Rio, I’ve come to realize that I like this place a lot more than I thought. Despite the many problems this country faces, from government corruption, sewer and plumbing complications, to theft, I have found Rio de Janeiro to be a beautiful place with even more beautiful people, scenery and culture. I have never seen such spectacular views in my life and there were many moments on this trip when I had to take more than a minute to really see what I was looking at; the mountain ranges alone are unlike anything I have ever seen and will never be given justice in photos. The people in this city are giving and kind, many of whom became familiar faces for me as I figured out where I was comfortable, and helped me to appreciate the differences in my lifestyle and theirs. And though most of the time I longed for food from home, I am able to leave this country saying that I ate their local cuisine, tried their common dishes and even grew to like some of them. I am taking back so many happy and spectacular memories, but I am also taking back some hardening truths about the state of living in other regions of the world. Among the many beautiful images I will never forget from this month, I will also never forget the many homeless, sick and needy people that I passed literally every day on the way to school. I will never forget walking through the Santa Marta favela, seeing and smelling rotten trash as I passed kids playing on the concrete steps. This trip made permanent impressions on me in so many ways, and the images and experiences I have will definitely stay with me throughout my entire life.

By Allie Clark


Prior to this trip I had never been out of the country. I hope that every country I visit treats me as well as Brazil and the city of Rio de Janeiro did. The notion that Carioca’s are nice people who want you to have a good impression of their city was proved true as far as my experiences go. As I walked down the street there were endless people shuffling along the street. Some stopped by street vendors, some grabbed the attention of someone they don’t see often, and others gave friendly nods. I loved how the businesses were so social; they also poured out onto the street. In contrast from the streets and cities, Rio de Janeiro is truly marvelous for its landscape. That state where I come from, Florida, is as flat as the surface of the sidewalk so to see jutting mountains and rolling hills far into the distance, silhouetted against the setting sun or protruding from the ocean’s bed was poetry to my eyes. We also went on multiple hikes, each view giving a unique view of the surrounding area. My favorite of all was Pedra do Telegrafo. This spontaneous trip was worth the hassle of traffic and time that it took to get there. As we arrived on the strip there was a beautiful view of boats in the sea bobbing up and down, water crashed into rocks and flew twenty feet in the air, and the sun’s light seemed to hit everything. This moment that occurred toward the end of the trip serves as the perfect moment of reflection. In that little area so much of Rio was reflected on a small scale; the beaches, the morros, the restaurants where everyone orders for two, and the marvel. It was a place you hold in memory and confuse with fantasy.

by Jamie Dawson


I have a sad feeling about leaving Rio. This month has definitely flown by and a lot has happened. I made new friendships and new experiences. I was able to broaden my world perspective through cultural experiences. My time learning at CIEE was vital for my understanding of my surroundings and the people I encountered every day. I enjoyed both classes and the discussions were exciting. The best part was learning about a location in class, such as Little Africa, and actually visiting it. Rio was a much bigger city than I ever expected. With only a month to explore, I tried my best to get the most out of the city. I will not forget the amazing landscapes that I witnessed. From Sugar Loaf to the top of Santa Marta, the views of the city of Rio were truly “Marvelous” and breathtaking. I will miss the atmosphere of the street culture, the comida a kilo, street markets, and the beaches of Copacabana. One of my favorite excursions was our trip to Paraty. The colonial aspect and design was one of the key features I liked about Paraty. For the first time, I got on a boat and jumped into the ocean to swim with my friends. It was an absolutely amazing spontaneous boat trip that I will never forget. The language barrier was the most difficult from this trip; however, I was able to maneuver and manage with Spanish. Lastly, I would definitely come back to Rio and explore parts I was not able to.

By Javier Diaz


My flight leaves in four days and I will find it very hard to leave. Rio is incredible. The only way I can describe it is that Rio is exemplified by the Carioca way of life. Even that, though, is difficult to attach words to emotions and feelings. The way Rio lives is very individualistic, but also in community. While I am in a city of six million people, I felt like I was in a small community where I would recognize the street vendors, the hosts at the Amarelinho Da Glória (the restaurant by our school), and even the homeless asking for any spare change. And even so, everyone did their own thing, sometimes seeming as if they didn’t have a care in the world. People would tend to walk slower, punctuality was usually not very common, and even at church, people would all go up to receive Communion instead of advancing in an orderly manner. It is very much a “you do you” society, but at the same time, it brings everyone together.

One of my favorite experiences in Rio was going to one of the local team’s soccer games. I had always loved soccer and so I was super excited to watch the game. I confess, though, that I was a little disappointed that we would be seeming a team for the second league, even though it was still one of the three major teams in Rio. However, when we got to the stadium, I was moved with such an excitement that there was no room for disappointment. We were sitting next to the group of fans who were the ones leading the songs and cheers for Vasco da Gama, which only added to the experience. Although I didn’t know the words to the songs and could not understand what they were saying, I felt like one of them.

The samba lesson was also a lot of fun. I had never learned samba before, and had never been an extremely skilled dancer (other than the Gangnam Style) but I was still excited to learn it, especially since we had learned about its history in class. Our teacher was very patient with us and really made it fun. He also showed us something that I had struggled with in dance: I was very focused on perfection, but samba is all about the feeling. This also seemed representative of Rio: it was about doing what you feel. Rio was about the rhythm of your heart – you just living the Carioca way of life. And while I thoroughly enjoyed going to the tourist attractions including Cristo Redentor and Pão de Açucar, my favorite part was just living as a Carioca.

By Julio Gutierrez


Well the month is about to come to a close. I still can’t believe I spent one month in Rio de Janeiro. I enjoyed learning about its history and culture and also being able to go to many excursions that involved exploring Rio. One thing that I will miss is the sucos. I never got tired of drinking them because they were just too delicious. I know I ordered a lot because the lady from a restaurant nearby knows my order. I will also miss the streets of Rio. It is very social, colorful (through the graffiti), and there is always new things to see. One of my favorite things to do in Rio was shopping on the streets. There was a ton of street vendors everywhere. They are out on the streets everyday, trying to sell their products, which is how they make they make their living. Even on rainy days they will be out to sell. There is a variety of products one can find on the streets: fruits, electronics, handmade jewelry, clothes, food, and more. It is amazing what one can find and at a reasonable price. Everyone said that the month in Rio would end quickly. But I thought it went by at a fair pace. I explored different areas of Rio, experienced the culture, and understood more about Rio. This is a month that I will never forget and will always appreciate.

By Karen Huerta


Rio has been extremely amazing from the weather (besides the rain) to the views from Cristo and Sugarloaf and the interactions I have had with local Brazilians. This study abroad experience has been the highlight of my entire year and a trip full of unforgettable memories and people. Something that really touched my heart during my time in Rio was having the feeling of being able to give back. One day after visiting Santa Teresa, me and Ali Khan were walking back to the hotel when we stumbled across a homeless boy and dog. I immediately felt an urgency to help and so I told Ali that we had to go to the grocery store. Ali and I bought dog food and water and fed the dog food and laying the water next to the sleeping boy. Seconds later, people were watching us. And minutes later, people were giving back to the same boy and dog. A older woman bought a bag of dog food and a mid-aged man gave the boy 20 Reis and a box of food. It felt great being able to see that me and Ali started the trend of giving back and every paid it forward along with us.


Another highlight of my trip was the Samba lesson. I fell in love with the interaction I had with local Brazilians and being able to engage in Brazilian culture. I enjoyed the routines our samba instructor put together and appreciated the togetherness of the samba team. Through the samba lesson, I was able to feel less like a tourist and more like a resident. It also helped me feel more integrated with Rio and its people. I also appreciated all the graffiti and local artists showcasing their talents because it allowed me to look at Rio beyond what it is known for. I am a visual learner so seeing the graffiti allowed me to apply what I learned in class to the art I saw in the streets.

By Kayla Hui


The last few days in Rio have been bittersweet. I will miss this city and its uniqueness. Rio is not like New York or Tokyo, with skyscrapers and flashy lights. Rio does not need high-rises to create a skyline. Its own natural beauty makes it a city unlike no other in the world. One of the only cities I will remember that it was able to incorporate both the natural and the manmade, beautifully.

I remember first arriving in Rio, thinking to myself, what did I get myself into? It was the first time I have ever travelled to the southern hemisphere. It is also one of the first times I was travelling without my family or any life-long friends who I had known prior to the trip. Little did I know that this group of 15 other students would not only become new life-long friends, but also new family.

Like the city, we each bring something new to the table. We all come from different backgrounds, and like Rio, find ways to blend our differences together, whether that be through our shared values and ideas or our role as leaders in the Badger community.

Participating in the Global Gateway program has given me the experience to not only to make global connections with our shared problems and injustices, but also to create intersectional solutions and learn from one another. I am ready to bring back the experiences I have gained in Rio de Janeiro to Madison.

With the Global Gateway program, I was able to make an actual connection with the city and its people. Next time I hear anyone say a misconception about Rio or see a sensationalized about crime on the news, I will remember the Cariocas. I will remember Latifat, the Nigerian street vendor who shared her life story as we ate esfihas. I will remember Gabriella, our bubbly tour guide from Little Africa. I will remember Igor, the hotel concierge man who had a fascination with learning about Pakistan. I will remember Rico’s, who provided me with daily vitamina mistas. I will remember Isabela from the laundromat, who always laughed every time she smelled the stench from my dirty laundry. I will remember Maria, the notorious hotel manager who compared me to “sweet honey.” I will remember Matt, Meg, and Sean, who willingly used their time to advise us whenever and whatever we needed. I will remember every experience I had here, and keep it with me forever.

I will remember Rio.
Ultimately giving up to the city’s namesake, my experience in Rio was—Marvelous.

By Ali Khan


We are leaving Brazil in two days and it feels so bittersweet. A part of me is ready to go back home, but the other part of me wants to stay here and explore more. My time here will be unforgettable because I have met and made lasting friendships with so many people. Our time and experiences with each other will forever be engrained into my mind. Rio de Janeiro has stolen my heart and has given me so much to reflect on. Living here for a month, I definitely saw our transition from being tourists from America to Cariocas. I feel so apart of this bustling and beautiful city. We definitely became regulars at Ricos and Amarelinho. They knew whom we were and what we wanted to order before we even said it.

All the excursions we went on enhanced our experiences here so much. From the community mixer in Santa Marta to the breathless sights on top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Our weekend getaway in Paraty was a different change from the big city and it was amazing to compare and contrast the differences. Paraty offered things that Rio could not offer and vise versa. It was a small touristy fishing town, but had just as much history as Rio did. I have got to say that my experience with the hostel in Paraty was not as bad as I expected because I have heard so many bad things about hostels in general. The things that I learned in class definitely helped facilitate my learning outside of class and gave me a better understanding of what I saw everyday. Studying abroad in Rio de Janerio was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I could not have asked for a better group of peers and professor to be apart of this with. I will forever remember the beautiful memories that we all made here together!

By Pachia Lee


Over the past few weeks, I have learned more about the history and culture in Rio de Janeiro. There are thousands of individuals who have migrated to this country over the years. Diversity is visible on every street, which is relatively new to me as I live in Chicago. There are vendors on every corner selling different produce and merchandise from early morning to night. Moreover, I see poverty everywhere in my surrounding. Brazil has one of the largest populations in the world and a growing economy. However, cariocas are still facing relatively high amounts of poverty. The government has failed to address many of these issues, which has grown more tension. I have learned more about the political matters as the president was impeached bringing drastic changes to the community. As a result, I have become more grateful for the opportunities I have. The level of corruption in the government is nothing like I have encountered before. In one of the tours, we all heard one gunshot fill the air as we headed back to the main square. It was surprising to not see anyone react to the gun shot besides us. For many people, it has become normal to hear gunshots on a daily basis. Overall, I have become more knowledgeable in the living conditions present in Rio de Janeiro. There are people who work extreme hours in order to afford a daily meal. Yet, for many there are no jobs, which leaves many homeless. The government is doing little to nothing to change their state behavior. Now it has come to the community to mobilize with one another and advocate for social equality.

By Diana Pavon


Brazil has been good to me. I have enjoyed myself thoroughly this month. My favorite excursions include the soccer game, Paraty, our volleyball lesson and our samba lesson. Through our classes and excursions, I have learned so much about the country of Brazil and the amazing city that is Rio de Janeiro. I also enjoyed the numerous vendors everywhere we go. From the Copacabana to Largo do Machado, there are always a host of people selling their handmade or even store bought goods. I especially enjoyed the different the markets around town. I never made it to Ipanema market but I still got to see a lot of different markets around Rio. The vendors on the beach were also very enthusiastic.

The Global Governance course also taught me a lot about Brazil’s current political scene and how they are intertwined with the rest of the world. I also loved our neighborhood, Gloria. I always felt safe and at home in our neighborhood. Somehow, our neighborhood made Rio feel like such a smaller city and helped me understand a little more about the Carioca lifestyle. The people here are so sweet. As a person who doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish or Portuguese, I was very nervous about the language barrier. However, everyone I’ve met has worked hard to make sure that I understand what’s going on, even if they only speak Portuguese, while I speak English.

When our trip began, I feel like we we’re bombarded with tales of how dangerous Rio is. I understand why that may have been necessary, but it was not at all my experience. I do believe that there is crime and one should always be mindful of their surroundings, however the majority of the people that I have encountered have been extremely genuine. I took many strolls through our neighborhood at night with a friend or two throughout this trip, and I always felt at peace. Somehow, this city manages to maintain a very peaceful essence about itself through all of the commotion of politics, crime and social injustice. I always recognized that I am still an outsider looking in, but I really do feel connected to the city and its people.

By Kynala Phillips


Looking back on my time abroad here in Rio de Janiero, I cannot believe everything I have done in these short four weeks. From going to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, to fumbling my way through salsa dancing, to cheering on Vasco at the liveliest soccer game I’ve ever been to, this month has been filled with adventures I never imagined I’d experience. Out of all the excursions, the highlight of my trip were the two hikes I did to the top of Pico da Tijuca and Pedra do Telegrafo. Both hikes pushed me to my limits, but I did it with an outstanding group of people (our professor included!), and the view at the top made it absolutely worth it. If I were to do anything differently in the past month, it would be to try to interact more with the locals and to learn more Portuguese, but I still fell in love with this city and its people regardless. Throughout this trip, I was not only able to learn about the history and culture of Rio in class, but I was also able to experience it first hand, and became immersed in its vibrant community. I am looking forward to returning home in some respects, but Rio will always hold a special place in my heart, and I truly hope I will have the opportunity to visit again in the future.

By Katie Piel


I don’t know where to even begin on my highlights of this unforgettable month. I loved being able to see the many iconic tourist attractions of Rio such as the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf mountain, but after being here for a month, I began to feel more like a Carioca than a tourist. For example, a couple of my favorite memories of my time here were spent sitting on the street drinking a Vitamina Mista or exploring the lively nightlife of Lapa. Things that are a part of many Cariocas daily lives. I also grew a much greater appreciation for the Marvelous City.

I remember joking with some of the other students that I know more about the city of Rio de Janeiro than I do my hometown. By taking a class that focused on the history and culture of Rio, I found a new perspective of the city that enhanced each experience that we had. For example, one of my favorite excursions was the Samba lesson and this experience was not only a great time, but it also showed me the effects of Samba, a topic we studied in class, on modern-day Rio. The same goes for the favela that we visited. As the tour, in my opinion, was greatly enhanced with our background knowledge of the favela. I felt as if I wasn’t looking at the favela as a tourist, but as someone who understood their struggles and what got and has kept many of the residents there. However, there is more to studying abroad than just studying and taking classes.

Although taking classes here enriched many of my experiences, exploring the city for the month that we were here has allowed me to make some memories that will last a lifetime. One of my favorite memories of the trip was walking on Ipanema beach during the sunset. Everything was absolutely breath-taking and everything just felt right in the world. Another great memory was taking a boat tour in Paraty. It was a very last minute decision, but it was totally worth it as it gave another perspective of the natural beauty of Brazil.

It makes me sad that I have to leave a city that I have grown to love so much, but as the overused Doctor Seuss quote suggests, I will not cry because it is over but smile because it happened. I also feel very grateful that I attend a school that cares so much about my individual growth as a person and global citizen that it would fully fund me to go on this life-changing trip.

By Ron Steinhoff