For the people who are interested to go to Brazil for an Internship or a study Exchange Program, Viçosa might be one of the best destinations. Viçosa is a middle-sized city located in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. With over 70,000 inhabitants, the city’s population is predominantly urban, and about 50 % of it is represented by students of different age, from elementary to higher education. This is essentially a city dedicated to education, especially because of the presence of the Federal University of Viçosa, an institution of higher education founded in 1926. It attracts many people from Brazil and other countries due to the scientific and academic possibilities offered by the campus and also thanks to the great number of educational as well as recreational events held around the university. Its population is made up mostly of young people, and this is the aspect which gives a particular atmosphere to the city. Also the large number of parties that take place during the week is explained by the fact that the population is extremely young on an average.
The campus of the federal university of Viçosa is very well located and organized. The university itself is ranked as one of the best in Brazil and for this reason it attracts many students from other regions as well as from abroad. The total number of students in the university amounts for about 30,000, and there are about 1000 foreigners that are either following courses or working. The campus is organized for every necessity; there are libraries, supermarkets, restaurants, cafeterias, hospital, dormitories, sport centers, banks, churches and every other imaginable service. The campus is so big that it appears as a town inside a city, and if one lives there, he/she basically has no need of going out, except for parties and other special events and occasions.
Services in the town
Of course also the city of Viçosa offers all the services and the attractions that are common in a university town. There are 4 big supermarkets located around the center. These are Bahamas, Amantino Supermercado, Supermercado Escola and Santa Rita Supermercado. There are of course more but those are located further from the heart of the city. The prices are quite low for primary goods compared to Europe, anyway certain imported products can have really high prices due to the fact that the city is located far away from other big Cities where most likely these products come from. The bars located in the centrum are quite crowded and cheap. Some suggestible ones are located in Rua Santa Rita and Av. P.H Rolfs, the two main roads of the town. Big events are generally located outside of the town and it is sometimes necessary to take a taxi or a bus to get there.
Studying and working
The academic life at the UFV is really well organized and the facilities are well located around the Campus. The approach to the study is quite conventional. Lectures are held in big and crowded classes and the relationship with the professors remains formal along the whole time. It is different when working in a research group for example, in fact the professor show themselves more informal and confidential to the students, in order to create a more professional and self-responsible atmosphere. It is however essential to show the adequate attitude and initiative, otherwise the professor will remember and judge you as a lazy worker. For instance it is a responsibility of the student to inform the professor about the developments of the work and the study, and not the other way around. The University offers several locations for individual and group study. The main library remains open until 10 in the evening and going there represents a good opportunity to focus on the study but also to meet with other people. The university also provides a group of ambassadors that help new students to adapt and get comfortable with the new place and lifestyle. They also organize several events where intercultural exchange takes place, such as international dinners and excursions. The ambassadors will also help you to find accommodation or at list to get in contact with the landlords.
The social life
The social life in Viçosa is great, since there are a lot of young people. Brazilians are friendly and open minded, and they try to do their best to help you and make you feel comfortable. Even if at the beginning the language difficulties might represent an obstacle, you will be never judged for that. Brazilians in fact love to learn and practice other languages. The international environment is composed mainly by South Americans and Africans who speak either Spanish or Portuguese, and smaller part is composed by Europeans. The easiest way to meet people around the town is to frequent the main central bars and of course to participate in the events offered by the University. Furthermore in September there is a very famous festival which attracts also people from other cities, this is called Nicoloco and it can host up to 15000 people!
Learning Portuguese is not essential for those working in international research group, but it is essential for those studying since the lectures are only given in Portuguese. However it is highly suggestible since not many people speak fluent English. The best trick to learn the language rapidly is not to isolate yourself in an English speaking environment or even worse with your conational. Going out a lot and trying to speak is the first step for learning. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or other similar things, as I repeat you won’t be judged for that. The time and the study will make the rest, with a little bit of patience. Also the university offers different courses that might be useful for beginners. To participate it will be necessary to contact the international office at UFV and afterwards the professor of interest.
The CPF number
Other important thing to know before arriving in Brazil is that you might need to make a CPF number (if you didn’t do so in your country through the consulate where you got the Visa). The CPF is similar to the BSN number in the Netherlands and it is basically the registration for the Brazilian citizenship. This number will be necessary to register at the University too. In order to obtain the CPF in Viçosa it is necessary to go through an agency of accountability since there is no office in the town that can register you. The agency (suggested by the UFV) will take you generalities and your passport in order to bring it to the office in the nearest city and register you. The process might take a week and therefore it is recommendable to do it in your country before getting to Brazil.
Finally the cost of life might interest you, and it is certainly lower than Europe, however Viçosa remains one of the most expensive cities in Minas Gerais. For a good room in a nice and accessible location you might have to spend 200 euro per month. Of course there are cheaper options, but these are often located in peripheral parts of the town where you don’t want to be hanging around alone. The food on the other hand is really cheap: for a good meal at the restaurant you will spend around 8/10 Reais, but you can eat at the university with only 2 Reais, which is 50 eurocent! The other services like internet, mobile phones and bills are chip as well.