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Programs and Deadlines
About Penn Abroad
CIEE Sao Paulo: Liberal Arts (BSQ)
Sao Paulo, Brazil (Fall Spring Academic Year Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Fall,
Homepage: Click to visit
Budget Sheets Fall,
Fact Sheet:
Language of Instruction:
Language Prerequisite:
See Program Description
Minimum Cumulative GPA: 3.0
Credit Available For:
College, Huntsman
Other Eligibility Requirements: Grades of B or better in Portuguese, Grades of B or better in Spanish
Type of Program:
Application Deadline:
Fall/Year: February 15, Spring: October 1
Program Description:
robby snitkof

(Photo credit: Robby Snitkof) 
Program Snapshot
(click on the links highlighted in blue below to learn more)
The Academic Program
  • A Hybrid Program through the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP)
  • Fall Semester: Early July – Early December
  • Spring Semester: TBA
  • Minimum Cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Grades B or better in Portuguese and/or Spanish
  • Four semesters of college level Spanish or two semesters of college level Portuguese
  • It’s recommended students take a Spanish or Portuguese course in the last year
  • Students will live with Brazilian families and are provided with two meals a day. One meal per day is the responsibility of the student.
The City of São Paulo
  • Primary Language Spoken: Portuguese
  • Has developed into one of South America’s leading business centers
  • The city is home to 11 million individuals
  • Industry is primarily focused on service: the city provides access to restaurants, shopping malls, parks, fruit and flower markets, museums, and has a thriving night life.
  Special Features
  • The Program provides opportunities to volunteer, primarily in an educational setting
  • CIEE requires students to purchase health insurance
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

The Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) administers the São Paulo program and offers support for students to enroll directly in Brazilian universities. Students may study in São Paulo for the semester or academic year, or students may choose to spend a semester in São Paulo and a second semester on the CIEE program in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
The program begins with a mandatory three-day orientation followed by an intensive four-week pre-semester language and cultural program in which students are required to take a Portuguese language and culture course.  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. A special section, "Portuguese for Spanish Speakers," is also available.
During the semester, students are required to continue with a Portuguese language course.  The remaining courses are direct enrollment at the Pontificía Universidade Católica de São Paulo and are chosen from the wide range of courses in the humanities and social sciences.
Program website:

Brazilian Academic System

The Brazilian university system approaches the academic process with a different perspective from that of the United States. While U.S. students are accustomed to a structured system, the Brazilian system is geared toward the fledgling scholar who is motivated, self-sufficient, and deeply interested in the subject matter of the course. All courses are taught in Portuguese. U.S. students sometimes have the misperception that the workload is light and that there are few assignments, overlooking the fact that they have been given a bibliography with the expectation that they read as many of the listings as possible, and select the titles which most specifically meet their needs and interests. In some courses, the entire grade is based on a term paper or critical analysis of a particular article which is expected to be based on a fairly extensive reading from the bibliography presented at the beginning of the course. Students have sometimes received relatively low grades because they did not realize that they should have been doing much more work during the semester, even though it was not specifically assigned. This relative academic freedom places a great deal of responsibility on the student.

Course Load

Penn Abroad participants must maintain a full course load during their period of study abroad. 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.


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 nor on a percentage. 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 on solely on the results of a final and/or midterm exam. Grades are reported to CIEE, and then converted to Penn grades according to standard Brazilian - U.S. grade equivalencies:
  • 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
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.
Learn More About the Program
  • For additional information about the CIEE program, including financial information, the courses taken by students, and cultural opportunities, click here.


In São Paulo, students live in local Brazilian households. Two meals a day are included; one meal per day, usually lunch or dinner depending on class schedule, is the responsibility of the student. Living in a private home is the best way to learn the language, customs and culture of Brazil, and participants have found this arrangement to be invaluable in terms of cultural insight and understanding. Host families live throughout the cities, and students may have to commute to class by bus or subway. The CIEE staff assists the students in obtaining housing appropriate to their needs. Students may not make their own housing arrangements.
Access to the Internet and computer labs in Brazilian universities is much more limited than in U.S. universities and Internet access at PUC is extremely limited. CIEE pays for each student to use a private Internet café for three hours per week. Students may also use the many Internet cafés throughout the city and near the PUC campus, and are strongly encouraged to bring wireless-enabled laptops.

The City of São Paulo

São Paulo is a vibrant, multi-cultural city of close to 11 million people, making it Brazil's largest city. With an additional 9 million people living in the outlying suburbs, São Paulo is the second largest metropolitan area in the Americas and one of the largest in the world. The city has developed into one of South America's leading business centers and includes a modern subway system, well-designed shopping malls, beautiful parks, nightlife, and open air fruit and flower markets. Parts of the city contrast visible wealth with serious poverty, revealing much of the Brazilian experience. Sometimes compared to New York City, São Paulo teems with restaurants, museums, street side shops, and cultural events.
Founded by two Jesuit missionaries in 1554, the village didn't officially become a city until 1711. In the 19th century, it experienced a flourishing economic prosperity, brought about chiefly through coffee exports, which were shipped abroad from the port of the neighboring city of Santos. São Paulo became a destination not only for thousands of Europeans, but also for Syrian, Lebanese, and Japanese immigrants (São Paulo contains the largest Japanese community outside of Japan). The city is home to a large number of local and international banking offices, law firms, multinational companies and consumer services. Thanks to events such as the Feira Bienal Internacional de Arte, and its reputation for hosting cutting-edge music concerts, it has become something of a cultural center as well. Economic growth and exportation of goods has lifted employment and wages.

Special Features

Volunteer Opportunities

Through PUC's Núcleo de Trabalhos Comunitários, (Center for Community Work), CIEE students may find a volunteer opportunity in São Paulo in the areas of education or community building. CIEE also has a relationship through the urban landless movement organization and students may teach English or Spanish language courses, or courses related to their academic background, to prepare adults studying for the Brazilian equivalent of the GRE.

Health Insurance

CIEE requires students to purchase basic sickness insurance. Students on the program will be enrolled automatically in this policy and will be billed through Penn at a cost of about $140 for the semester. Although this policy provides very good coverage, it is not a replacement for students' primary health insurance.

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. back-to-top

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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