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Fields of Study: Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Engineering

At PUC-Rio you’ll completely immerse in Brazilian academic life and take courses directly at the university. You can learn at any language level and qualify for appropriate coursework by taking a language placement test. In Portuguese, you can access courses in a full range of majors whereas English-taught courses are limited. If you register in English course offerings, you’ll be in class with other US and international students. If you opt to take regular university courses, you will attend classes taught in Portuguese with local Brazilian students.

Unique study opportunities

  • Brazilian or Carioca perspectives across a variety of disciplines.
  • University-organized opportunities to volunteer in community service projects.
  • Community development course (highly recommended by UC students).
  • Option to take courses in English while studying beginning Portuguese language.


Language of Instruction: English, Portuguese

Portuguese Language Study: Required

All programs begin with a four-week mandatory intensive language program (ILP) at PUC-Rio.

During the academic term, you may choose courses taught in English or Portuguese. In either case, PUC-Rio requires Portuguese language study during the semester and year. Based on your language placement test, PUC-Rio will place you at the appropriate language level. If you do not have Portuguese language experience, you will be placed in a beginning-level class.

Courses at all levels focus on acquiring or enhancing your Portuguese language skills through grammar, conversation and composition. Instructors will also help you master the expected formats for writing papers in the Brazilian academic setting and other skills necessary for successfully completing courses at PUC-Rio.

Courses and credit

Requirements While Abroad

Intensive Language Program (Summer or Winter)

During the intensive language program (ILP) preceding the fall, spring, or year term, you must:

  • Complete 3-6 quarter/2-4 semester UC units. 
  • Take the ILP for a letter grade (required and not repeatable during the regular term).
  • You may use the variable unit option and take the class for no fewer than 3 UC quarter units and up to the maximum value of UC units indicated in your UCEAP account.
Academic Term (Fall, Spring, or Year)

To successfully complete this program:

  • Take a full-time course of study: Minimum four courses and 18 quarter/12 semester UC units per semester.
  • Take a Portuguese language course each term (typically worth 6 quarter/4 semester UC units). 
  • You may add an internship for academic credit in addition to the minimum course load. 
  • You may select one course to take pass/no pass.

Current Program Courses

You’ll find a diverse selection of courses in all disciplines, particularly in business and economics (administraçao and ciências econômicas), political science (relações internacionais), biology and environmental studies (ciências biológicas and engenharia ambiental) and the STEM fields (engenharia, física, matemática, química, sistemas de informaçao, etc.).

You’ll make preliminary course choices using PUC-Rio’s online schedule of classes, the Micro-Horário, before you arrive in Brazil. The Micro-Horário contains information about exact times and places of classes, but is only viewable during the registration period.

Once on-site, the resident program coordinator will show you how to finalize your course enrollment and register with both UCEAP and the university.

Tip: Pre-register in more PUC-Rio classes than you actually plan to take to allow the maximum latitude for final adds and drops.

Graduate Students

To conduct independent study and research abroad, you’ll need advance approval by your major advisor. Assuming language proficiency, you may select graduate seminars (if available), undergraduate coursework, and/or individual research under the supervision of a Brazilian scholar. Graduate study includes enrollment in the UCEAP intensive language program in summer or winter.

PUC-Rio requires that graduate students register for at least 12 units per semester. In practice, this might amount to one language instruction class and one additional class, leaving you free to pursue your own research with your remaining time. If you intend to pursue independent or supervised research with a UC faculty member, you must plan to carry out this work in addition to the required 12 units of PUC-Rio coursework. You can include research supervised by a member of the PUC-Rio faculty within the 12 units.

Catalogs and resources

  • PUC-Rio International Cooperation: Find links to course descriptions in English, recommendations of courses for international students, and other helpful information (you’ll also use this section of the PUC-Rio website during pre-registration).
  • Study in English at PUC-Rio: Find the list of available courses in English.
  • Academic Departments at PUC-Rio: Navigate to courses by academic department.
  • UCEAP Course Catalog: See a list of courses UC students have taken on this program.
  • Campus Credit Abroad: Learn the types of credit (major, minor, general education, elective) students from your campus received at this location.
  • Student returnees: Ask a recently returned student about recommended classes and instructors (your campus study abroad office can connect you).

When looking for appropriate coursework on the PUC website, remember to search in more than one place for courses of particular interest. For example, courses of interest to political science majors may be offered by the sociology or economics departments. By noting the host departments listed in the UCEAP Course Catalog descriptions, you can get a feel for which departments might offer courses appropriate to your academic interests.

Academic culture

Overall, the systems of higher education in Brazil are comparable to the US. However, there are key differences. One significant difference is in how Brazilian students approach their majors. They devote themselves immediately and exclusively to their chosen field of study, taking courses in only one center or department. General education requirements are not typically part of the university program. As an exchange student, you may take courses from any department as long as you meet the course requirements. However, you might encounter difficulty in getting to know your classmates. Since they focus their studies exclusively in one specialized area, groups of Brazilian students will track through their university program together, often forming tight bonds.

In addition, Brazilian students typically live with their families rather than on campus. Their social life tends to be off campus.

Do not be surprised if your professors do not attend the first day of class. Instructors may send a TA to take roll on the first day since many students in attendance will still be shopping for classes.

Most classes have 20-40 students and are primarily lecture-style with some class participation. Students initiate informal group studies, which are a valuable complement to the class. The expectations that Brazilian students have of the professor and the coursework may be based on information that is not obvious to exchange students. Before deciding to add or drop a course, get opinions about it from other students in the class.


You will earn direct UC credit and grades for all coursework. The grade evaluation varies according to the field of study and the professor, but typically consists of quizzes, a mid-term, and a final exam. Some courses require a paper. The grade system used in Brazil is 0 to 10, with a 5 considered the lowest passing grade. Grades are assigned according to how well you master the course material and requisites, not on how you perform relative to local students. For example, a student entering a course with insufficient background may personally work hard and learn a good deal during the semester without reaching the goals and expectations of the course. The professor will grade on the end result (mastery of material), not on progress.

Attendance is mandatory by Brazilian regulation. Brazilian federal law dictates that a student who misses 25% of the classes in any given course automatically fails the course.

Fall grades are usually available between late January and mid-February. Spring grades are usually available between late July to mid-August. Because grades will not be available for spring graduation deadlines, graduating seniors completing their participation in the spring term should plan for a summer or fall graduation. Do not declare candidacy for the spring term.