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Harvard Summer Program in São Paulo, Brazil

An experiential immersion into Brazilian struggles for justice, social change, and innovation.

  • Program Director

    Cristiane Soares

  • Date

    June 9, 2024 to July 20, 2024

  • Apply By

    January 25, 2024

  • Cost


  • Housing


About the Program

Brazil is much more than samba, soccer, and Rio de Janeiro. In six weeks, the “Portuguese Language Immersion in Brazil: Justice, Equity, and Rights” program will immerse you in Brazilian culture and the Portuguese language. You will learn about some of Brazil’s most pressing social issues, while engaging with individuals, collectives, and movements fighting to forge a brighter future for their country and people.

Program Structure

The “Portuguese Language Immersion in Brazil: Justice, Equity, and Rights” program explores struggles faced by poor, Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized populations in Brazil and how those communities have mobilized to promote inclusion, reduce inequality, and demand justice. Issues related to housing and labor, environment and sustainability, race and racism, migration, struggles for land, and access to quality services are some of the topics discussed in the program. Visits to organizations and institutions, as well as exchanges with guest speakers and community members help you to reflect on the issues at hand with a focus on solution-oriented and action-based initiatives.

You will greatly improve your Portuguese skills and knowledge of Brazil while also developing other valuable life skills, such as critical thinking, active listening, cultural awareness, independence, resilience, and adaptability to new environments.

The program includes daily classes in Portuguese over a six-week period. Classes will be held at the DRCLAS Brazil Office, located in the heart of São Paulo, on Avenida Paulista, and will be taught by faculty from Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures as well as the Foundation School of Sociology and Politics of São Paulo (FESPSP). You will have access to a diverse offering of guest lectures and experiential field trips, excursions, and activities, including a nine-day trip to the state of Minas Gerais.

PORT S-25 counts as one full-year course (8 credits) of degree credit and as two half-year courses towards the foreign language citation. It also fulfills the Harvard foreign language requirement.

PORT S-25 Study Abroad in São Paulo, Brazil: Portuguese Language Immersion in Brazil - Justice, Equity and Rights

Cristiane Soares, PhD, Senior Preceptor in Portuguese, Harvard University 
Caroline Cotta de Mello Freitas, PhD, Professor in Sociology and Politics, Foundation School of Sociology and Politics of São Paulo
8 credits
UN, GR Limited Enrollment.

This intermediate-level course has a social justice-based curriculum, exploring issues related to education, housing and labor, environment and sustainability, race, gender, and migration. The course is structured to help students to communicate effectively and interact with cultural competence to discuss the issues presented in the course.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we will analyze a range of texts (e.g. written, audiovisual, visual) from different sources (e.g., social media, newspapers, academic articles, literature), affording the opportunity to learn new vocabulary and review and refine various grammatical structures. We will also build on oral, written, and intercultural competences through communicative activities and interactive discussions with Portuguese-speaking guests inside and outside the classroom. Visits to local organizations, museums, cultural centers, and other sites in São Paulo and Minas Gerais, as well as participation in the Third Continental Conference on Afro-Latin American Studies, organized by Harvard’s Afro-Latin American Research Institute (ALARI), will expose students to a diverse range of content and experiences aimed at complementing subject matter explored within the classroom. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to cultural topics, which will be taught using a Global South disciplinary lens, exposing students to Brazilian authors that theorize and work within this discipline. Activities will combine discussions and weekly in-person visits to different sites. By the end of the program, students will have further developed their linguistic competence and deepened their understanding of historic and contemporary struggles central to the Brazilian society. Conducted in Portuguese.  

Prerequisite: Harvard students must have completed PORTUG 10s, 11, 11s or 15. Other students must have completed one year of college-level Portuguese.

Where You'll Live and Study

São Paulo is a city of contrasts. South America’s largest metropolis, the city’s sheer size, scale, and history make it a difficult place to summarize. What is known today as São Paulo was founded in 1554, near the intersection of ancient rivers in what was formerly Atlantic Forest, a biome more biodiverse than the Amazon.

In modern São Paulo, skyscrapers have replaced this ancient forest, springing up in all directions as far as the eye can see– that is, until the city’s outskirts (or periferias), where marginalized citizens have been forced to build their communities from the ground up for generations. By far Brazil’s wealthiest city, wealth in São Paulo is anything but distributed equally. Central neighborhoods boast the highest quality and quantity of public and private services, including world-class healthcare, educational, and cultural institutions. Peripheral communities, on the other hand, are under-resourced, stigmatized, and rarely prioritized by policymakers. These inequalities inevitably give rise to countless struggles. They also generate resilient, solution-oriented individuals, collectives, and movements. All of this makes São Paulo an enrapturing place to immerse oneself in Brazilian culture, the Portuguese language, and the dynamics of the Global South.

You will also have the opportunity to spend nine days in the state of Minas Gerais, which literally translates to “General Mines.” As the name suggests, mineral extractivism is the financial engine of Brazil’s second most populous state. And it has been that way since the end of the 17th century, the start of Brazil’s gold rush, which triggered mass forced and voluntary migrations seeking wealth at all costs. In Minas Gerais, students will embark on a life-changing road and rail trip across the eastern stretches of the state to experience the beauty of its landscapes, people, cuisine, and culture as well as the struggles resulting from centuries of profit-driven extractivism.


You will be placed individually or in pairs (in individual rooms) with host families who are genuinely eager to help you feel at home and navigate the city. All accommodations will offer access to wifi, a kitchen, laundry, as well as comfortable sleeping and living quarters. All host families will be located in safe, central neighborhoods with access to public transportation. You can expect a 30-45-minute daily commute to the DRCLAS Brazil Office by public transportation – an enviable commute in a city where millions of residents travel more than two hours each way every day.

Host families will provide breakfast every day, as well as several additional meals per week. You are allowed full access to your host family’s kitchen so that you can prepare your own meals. The program will provide additional meals over the course of the program, especially during field trips, excursions, and the nine-day trip to Minas Gerais.

During the Minas Gerais trip, you will stay in hotels (with shared rooms).

Please Note: Some site visits in São Paulo and Minas Gerais may involve longer walks up and down steep hills in both urban and rural environments. No special training is required, but a reasonable level of fitness is advisable. However, a lighter schedule can be arranged for those with physical challenges. Also, traveling to certain site visits – especially during the nine-day visit to Minas Gerais – will involve long trips by bus, rail, and/or public transit.


To apply, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student
  • Be in good academic standing

Students enrolled at any accredited university are welcome to apply. See the How to Apply page for more information.

The Summer 2024 application is now closed. All admissions decisions will be released on March 1.

Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline.

You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two programs, you will be asked to rank your two applications in order of preference (first and second choice). Any applications submitted in excess of the maximum of two will be automatically withdrawn. You will be notified of your admissions status in each program in early March.

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

Be sure to read about the funding options available for Harvard Summer School Study Abroad programs.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at

Cost & Expenses

Additional Information