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Programs and Deadlines
About Penn Abroad
CIEE Rio de Janeiro: Liberal Arts (BRZ)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Fall Spring Academic Year Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Fall,
Budget Sheets Fall
Fact Sheet:
Language of Instruction:
Language Prerequisite:
See Program Description
Minimum Cumulative GPA: 3.0
Credit Available For:
Other Eligibility Requirements: See Program Description
Type of Program:
Application Deadline:
Fall/Year: February 15, Spring: September 15
Program Description:

Program Snapshot

(click on the links highlighted in blue below to learn more)
The Academic Program
  • Enrollment through Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
  • Fall Semester: early-July through mid-December
  • Spring Semester: mid-January through mid-June
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and grade of B or better in all Spanish and/or Portuguese classes
  • Four semesters of college-level Spanish or two semesters of college-level Portuguese or equivalent. Spanish or Portuguese language course within the past year recommended.
  • Individual homestay or group homestay
The City of Rio de Janeiro
  • Second largest city in Brazil and former capital
  Special Features
  • Volunteer opportunities
The Application Process
The Penn Abroad application requires applicants to submit one academic recommendation from a Penn language professor.
Financial Matters
Penn Resources

This program requires an advising session with a Program Manager prior to opening an application. To view the schedule for upcoming group advising sessions, or to schedule an individual appointment, select the ‘Schedule an Advising Appointment’ button on the Penn Abroad homepage.  

The Academic Program

Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro

The Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) is a private, non-profit Catholic university created in 1941. The language of instruction is Portuguese. It is one of the largest and most prestigious Brazilian universities, ranked by the Brazilian Ministry of Education as the best private university in the country in 2009. PUC-Rio has approximately 12,000 undergraduate students and 2,500 graduate students.
The forested campus is centrally located in the south zone of the city in the Gavea neighborhood, and has a student community area with restaurants, coffee shops, library, free wireless, access to sports facilities, and a major public bus stop.

Required Courses

Upon arrival in Rio, students will attend a mandatory two-day orientation session that will introduce you to Rio de Janeiro, PUC-Rio, Brazilian culture, and the academic program. This will be followed by an intensive four-week pre-semester language and cultural program in which students are required to take a Portuguese language and culture. During the language course, students are introduced to the country, culture, and academic components of their specific program, and are placed into the appropriate level upon completion of the language placement exam. 

After the completion of the Portuguese intensive language program, students are required to continue with Portuguese as a second-language course and take two courses taught in Portuguese from humanities, and social sciences departments at PUC-Rio. Penn students participate in the CIEE community Language Commitment by speaking Portuguese at all times (except in emergencies). This fosters a learning community that contributes to both Portuguese language proficiency and understanding of Brazilian society. Another major component of the program is living with a host family.

A normal course load is 4 courses per semester, in addition to the five-week, for-credit intensive language class at the beginning of the program. CIEE staff advises students about the appropriateness of courses for their level of Portuguese proficiency and their preparation in different areas of study. Due to Brazil's academic bureaucracy, course listings and course availability are not determined until immediately prior to the start of university classes in a given semester.

Grading Scale

As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average. The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school.
Brazilian university grades are awarded on a ten point scale (including decimal points, e.g. 8.5). The scale is not based on an equal distribution of points or on a percentage. Assessment for courses is typically based on a combination of written and oral assignments and a final paper or examination.
The Brazilian grading scale goes from one to 10, with five being a passing grade and seven considered satisfactory in general. In the Brazilian system, a perfect exam or paper may not always be awarded a grade of 10 depending on individual professors' practices. Students are frequently assessed solely on the results of a final and/or midterm exam.

The CIEE Study Center in Brazil converts grades and credits to the U.S. system according to a predetermined scale.

• A = 10.0-9.0
• A- = 8.9-8.0
• B+ = 7.9-7.0
• B = 6.9-6.0
• C = 5.9-5.0
• D = 4.9-3.0
• F = 2.9 and below

Learn More About Pontifícia Universidade Católica

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Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and grades of B or better in all Spanish and/or Portuguese classes; four semesters of college-level Spanish or two semesters of college-level Portuguese or equivalent. Spanish or Portuguese language course within the past year recommended.

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Students have the choice of two housing options, and breakfast is included with both.
Family Homestays--CIEE works with homestay families in Rio. Homestay families live in a radius of three to four miles from campus which can be accessed using public transportation. Sharing in the life of a family through a homestay provides an excellent opportunity for interested students to deconstruct stereotypes and observe real life in action. It also creates opportunities for dialogue about issues raised in their courses and to practice their Portuguese language skills.

Group Homestays--the group homestay option is best for students who prefer to live with another student or a small group of students in a secure and friendly environment. Participants share rooms in homes along with a Brazilian family or overseen by a local Brazilian resident assistant. Students enjoy independence and student camaraderie in a convenient urban location.
Although every attempt is made to grant each student's preference, roommate and housing assignments are based upon availability and other factors. Therefore, housing preferences cannot be guaranteed.

The City of Rio de Janerio

Rio de Janeiro ("January River") is the second largest city in Brazil and the third largest metropolitan area in South America. The city was the capital of Brazil for nearly two centuries, including six years as the capital of Portugal (1815-1821).
Rio is the most visited city in the southern hemisphere and is known for its natural setting, spring Carnival celebrations, samba, Bossa Nova, and its energetic population. Rio's iconic landmarks include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Maracanã soccer stadium.

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Special Features 

Excursions and Volunteering

The academic program is supplemented by field trips and excursions to various points of interest around Rio and Brazil and may include visits to sites of historic and cultural importance to Rio and its environs.  These activities, which vary each semester to take advantage of seasonal and current attractions, may include a tour of the city of Rio, guided visits to the city's numerous national museums, tours of historical neighborhoods, attending soccer matches, participating in spring Carnaval activities, and taking advantage of Rio's rich and diverse arts culture.  Events and activities are chosen to provide you with an overview of the geographic, cultural, and economic diversity of Rio and coastal Brazil, and complement the academic themes of each program.

Community engagement is an important cultural and educational component of this study abroad program, and Rio de Janeiro has a rich culture of volunteerism and community service. As part of the program, CIEE staff arranges group community engagement activities with various organizations and communities throughout the greater Rio de Janeiro area. The projects are designed to give you a firsthand look at the challenges facing Rio de Janeiro and its surrounding areas. Through local contacts and its partnership with PUC-Rio, CIEE establishes a dynamic network of community partnerships with local NGOs, schools and other organizations.

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The Application Process 

Financial Matters

Students are charged Penn tuition and student fee (called study abroad fee the semester abroad) for all Penn programs.  Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, meals, and airfare.  Please see the program budget sheet to determine other costs. 

In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs.  Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package.

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Penn Resources

Students who study abroad are encouraged to take advantage of Penn's many resources for students, even if you haven't used them before going abroad.  There is an extensive list of resources on the Penn Abroad website that can help you to explore issues that might pertain to you and to help you prepare for a term abroad. 

In addition to these resources, we encourage you to reach out to a past program participant or ambassador to learn more about the program from a student perspective.

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