Rio de Janeiro is a city unlike any other. If you are unfamiliar with any type of Hispanic or Latin American cultures, it may be very shocking (at first) to even visit Brasil-- especially Rio. Here in Rio, it is legal to run stop signs after 10 pm. The streets are always bustling. There is never quiet. There is an abundance of tropical fruits even now, as summer transitions to fall. The most noticeable aspect of Rio that stuck out to me when I first arrived is the blatant divide between rich and poor. I am lucky enough to live between Copacabana and Ipanema-- two "upper class neighborhoods"-- however, right outside my window, you can see the comunidades or favelas. These are poor communities where people live under extreme poverty. You see this everywhere in Rio: the "beauty" of the rich tries to hide the "ugly" of the poor.
Here, may people will warn you of the violence that fluctuates in the city. They tell you to take the necessary precautions: don't wear flashy jewelry, don't carry your fancy iPhone X around, don't dress like a tourist, don't walk around alone at night, etc. Although nothing bad has happened to me, I know that violence does exist here and it does help to know tips before you come. Aside from this, Brazilians are extremely willing to help you and will go out of their way for you even if they don't know what you're talking about.
PUC, the university I am attending, is an academically "good" school. Ergo, when I tell people I attend here, they usually say "parabens" or congratulations as it is known for being a prestigious school in Brasil. I've noticed, however, that there is not a very diverse student body. Even though there are many foreign exchange students, there are not many people of color. This pertains to the staff as well: there are 1,985 professors at PUC; 1,860 are white, 86 are black, 10 are amarelos or "tan," 1 is indigenous and 28 are undeclared according to PUC's Nuvem Negra newspaper. I have become very interested in the issue of racism here in Brasil and particularly Rio, as it is plain to see yet so different from the racism we see and experience in the United States.
Overall, my first two months in Rio have been absolutely amazing: my brain has been overloaded with so much information about the music, food, fashion, politics, and lives of the people here. I have been inspired especially by the people I have met at baile funkes, street dance parties usually in the favelas, that seem to have the most eccentric styles, beautiful smiles and eye opening perspectives on life.
Rio de Janeiro is a great choice to study abroad. As long as you exercise the necessary precautions and come with an open mind, you will do just fine. It also helps to have a positive mindset: if you are constantly thinking about getting mugged or being in a violent situation, you will attract it. You have to walk without fear here! There are so many pros that outweigh the cons here in Rio-- many people miss out on an amazing city solely because of what they hear. Come experience it yourself!