We always hear at the beginning of school vacations, either in the beginning or the middle of the year, news stories about Student Exchange Agencies /Agências de Intercambio.
How much of it is news worthy or “sponsored” by the agencies themselves is hard to tell, but there’s no doubt that the interest for STUDY ABROAD programs keeps growing in Brazil, despite or because of the prolonged economic recession and now stagnation since 2015.
By their numbers
In a market worth US$ 1.2 billion, The Brazilian Educational & Language Travel Association (Belta) http://www.belta.org.br/ reports that the interest of people to study abroad for periods between 1 month and 2-3 months was up by 20% in 2018 compared with 2017. It calculates that 365,000 people will be traveling abroad on “intercambio” programs (a 30% increase is forecast for 2019 over 2018).
The vast majority of exchange students traditionally were between 16 and 25 years old, but in recent years there has been a growing interest with people up to 40 years, not excluding those older than that. And 80% of the exchange students are female, according to the study “EXCHANGE TOURISM: PROFILES OF THE PARTICIPANTS, MOTIVES AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE” (https://siaiap32.univali.br/seer/index.php/rtva/article/viewFile/5116/2681)
These short term exchange programs (15 days up to a month) appeal to people who are currently working and will use their vacation days to improve their language skills. They’re using their own vacation time from work (using their own savings or supported by family)
Of course how much the program will cost will depend whether the student will stay with a local family, rent a studio, share a room in the dorm, which country and city/town they’ll be going to, etc) … but it can start at US$ 1,800 a month (including accommodation and the course). Airfare is usually out of the equation.
Reasons to go
The main reasons to go on exchange programs are:
- use vacation time (using their own savings or supported by family) boosted by the feeling “I’m sacrificing my vacations for a good cause”.
- Have contact with people on the street (sic)
- Be exposed to the language on TV and other media (as if it wasn’t possible in this day and age in their own home country)
- work opportunities: many people say know someone who was skipped for a promotion, or missed an opportunity to work abroad, or even lost their job because they lacked English.
- have fun (not found in the report but most people when asked they’ll say it not as the primary reason – *which I think is the main reason in many cases, though, wink wink).
Rosimar, who is Brazilian, already speaks Italian and Spanish but wants to study English in Canada in September. She says:
“I still find it hard to speak English, I want to improve my language skills so I can catch a taxi or order a meal in a restaurant. I believe the investment is worth it all. I’m going to Canada to improve my English and have fun.”
Where to go
The Brazilian Student Exchange Agencies highlight that over the past 14 years Canada has been the favorite destination for Brazilian students, because of favorable foreign exchange currency rate, standard of living and a country where English is spoken. The next is the US at 23.1%, and far behind come Australia with 9.3%, Ireland 7.6%, the UK and New Zealand at 3.8% ( The British pound foreign exchange rate is a big discouraging factor for Brazilians).
Should you go?
Definitely, go and have fun. Expose yourself to another culture, another language, other worlds. But don’t expect that in 1, 2 or 3 months you’ll be back fluent. It will depend a lot on you but my advice is: study English as much as you can in your home country and then go abroad to practice studying something else or attending conferences in your professional area in English, for example. The results will surprise you.