Tag Archives: Study Abroad

Academic Year in Brazil = Done

After one final, hectic round of tests, my third year, and academic year abroad, are done. At my university, Fundacao Getulio Vargas, the exam season was marked with the same signs: students sleeping in the libraries, coffee consumption skyrocketing, and the worried looks on faces. But just like every year, we all manage to get through it in the end.
This exam season was a bit different for me, however. Of the 4 exams I took, 2 were in Portuguese. When I first arrived in Brazil, I never even imagined that I would be able to do the high-pressure exams in Portuguese. And they were tough, don’t get me wrong. But in the end, I completed them (and am now awaiting my test scores…)
With the exams ending, most of my exchange-student friends are leaving. Some are heading straight home, others heading to far off places in South America to travel. Now that we are on vacation, more travel ensues. Despite the diverse end locations, I noticed a commonality between all of those leaving, which is a commonly held affection for São Paulo. For a city like Buenos Aires, or New York, or Paris, I can understand this attachment after so little time, but São Paulo?
When I first arrived here, all São Paulo felt like was a huge, at times austere concrete jungle. Arranha-ceus, or skyscrapers, dominate the landscape, like huge, concrete blocks dropped throughout the city. Not exactly stunning.
But as the months pass by, São Paulo grows on you. The wild orchids growing in trees above your head. The small alleyways hiding excellent restaurants. And the dizzying array of culture, food, and people is impressive. São Paulo is not a tourist’s city, because so much of what is great is hard to find. For such a huge city, the best things are in the small details.
-Alex Wolz

Singapore: Manila, Philippines

Taal Lake: The boat we used to cross over to the volcano hike
Taal Lake: The boat we used to cross over to the volcano hike

My trip to Manila was a last minute decision — I bought the tickets less than 48 hours before leaving after being approached by two friends in the need of a third travel buddy due to last minute changes. I was accustomed to doing extensive research on destinations and planning trips myself, so it was nice to just leave for the airport after class on Thursday and be open to whatever happens. I must say I did not know what to expect from Manila — I knew the Philippines was a large country and that other destinations like Boracay or Cebu were the more touristy, beachy options, but for me, Manila remained enigmatic, a name I grew up hearing but a city I knew nothing about.

Singapore: Climbing Gunung Agung

I was able to spend 8 days in Bali over our midterm break, and one thing that loomed over my trip–literally–was Indonesia’s volcanoes. Climbing a volcano was one of the top items on my Southeast Asia bucket list. I grew up devouring mountaineering books and documentaries, and although I do not know if I can ever see myself ice climbing, I still consider myself a mountaineering enthusiast. I’ve done 7-8 hour hikes partially up mountains in various national parks, but before my trip to Bali I had never done a real “summit hike.”

Singapore: Is Singapore Really “Westernized” ?

Even before I left for Singapore, when I told people where I was studying abroad, one of the first things they mentioned was that I would not have too hard of a time adjusting to my new life because Singapore is so “Westernized.” Maybe I was subjected to this comment more than others would have been because most of my travels outside the US before this semester were in India. That is, my family, friends, and colleagues all recognized that compared to India, Singapore was going to be a vast change in scenery and lifestyle.