CIEE Rio de Janeiro: Liberal Arts
Just like the U.S., Brazil is a melting pot of cultures – a nation of immigrants who infused society with a colorful multicultural and multiethnic tapestry with influences from native Brazilians, Portuguese, and Africans. Students will study this tapestry, and become part of it themselves, on CIEE’s Liberal Arts program in Rio de Janeiro. A rigorous language program, engaging courses, homestays, and cultural activities bring you into the depths of this exciting metropolis and the gorgeous landscapes that lie beyond.
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.
For additional information, visit the CIEE Rio de Janeiro: Liberal Arts program website
, and the PUC-Rio website
The City of Rio de Janeiro
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.
Did you know…?
The Brazilian Institute of Space Research says that Rio’s beloved 98-foot statue of Jesus perched atop Corcovado Mountain, which was completed in 1931, gets between two and four direct hits from lightning every year. A system of lightning rods within the statue is meant to ground the electricity, but it isn’t always effective.
The CIEE Rio de Janeiro: Liberal Arts program is for College credit only.
Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0
Language Prerequisite: Successful completion of four semesters of college-level Spanish or two semesters of college-level Portuguese, or the equivalent, by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure. Spanish or Portuguese language course within the past year recommended.
Language of Instruction
A full course load on the CIEE Rio de Janeiro: Liberal Arts program consists of 5 classes per semester. Penn students must maintain a full course load while abroad and may only enroll in courses at the undergraduate level.
Students are required to take Portuguese as a second-language course and take 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. 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.
CIEE Program Website
Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
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. Be sure to review Penn Abroad’s academic policies.
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.
Grades are reported to Penn on the PUC-Rio scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following grade equivalencies:
Grade conversion effective Fall 2017 and forward.
|86.50 – 89.49
|82.50 – 86.49
|79.50 – 82.49
|69.50 – 76.49
|59.50 – 69.49
|0 – 59.49
You'll begin your study abroad experience in Rio even before leaving home by participating in a CIEE online pre-departure orientation. The resident director meets with students online and shares information about the program and site, highlighting issues that alumni have said are important, and giving you time to ask questions. The online orientation allows you to connect with others in the group, reflect on what you want to get out of the program, and learn what others in the group would like to accomplish. CIEE’s aim for the pre-departure orientation is simple: to help you understand more about the program and identify your goals.
Upon arrival in Rio, you will partake in a two-day orientation session that will introduce you to Rio de Janeiro, PUC, Brazilian culture, and the academic program. The first day of orientation will include specially-designed sessions on health and safety, local living logistics, community engagement opportunities, as well as activities designed to get to know the city. The following day, you will reconvene at PUC for the university’s international student orientation. You will learn about available courses, add-drop periods, meet other Brazilian students, and have the second part of your placement evaluation, an oral exam. Rest assured that after the orientation process you will be ready to begin classes and live in Rio.
For information regarding language courses, please visit the program website
and scroll down to “Course Descriptions.”
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 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 has established a dynamic network of community partnerships with local NGOs, schools, and other organizations.
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.
Participants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.
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.
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.
Penn Abroad Financial Policies
Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs. Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare. Please see the program budget sheets below for more information. Be sure to review Penn Abroad’s financial policies.
Financial Aid and Study Abroad
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. Visit SFS's website for more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad.
*Budget sheets for the spring semester have not yet been established. Students should consult their Programs Manager and the program website for budget specifics.
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program
: Competition for awards for study abroad, for US citizen students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a 2-year or 4-year college or university.
CIEE Scholarships & Grants
: Provides both merit-based and need-based scholarships and grants for undergraduate studying abroad on CIEE programs.