The CASA-Brazil program provides undergraduate students the unique opportunity for full immersion into Brazilian culture, while receiving transfer credit to apply toward their undergraduate degree, by living and taking courses with local students.

The academic program, for both the fall and spring semester terms, is divided into a required Language Orientation and Cultural Pro-seminar (3 semester hours), and The Semester Program (14-16 semester hours).

Language Orientation and Pro-seminar

(3 semester hours; 60 language contact hours plus 30 hours lecture/field component)

The Language Orientation and Cultural Pro-seminar is an intensive course during the first four weeks of the program in Rio de Janeiro (three weeks in July for fall, and January/February for spring) and in the city of Salvador (one week in August for fall, and February for spring) prior to the start of the regular academic semester. Host institutions are PUC-Rio (Rio de Janeiro component) and the Instituto Clara Ramos, ICR (Salvador component).

The Pro-seminar is comprised of four components:

  • Four to six lectures taught by PUC-Rio faculty on topics dealing with Brazilian Culture, History and Society.
  • An Intensive Portuguese language course (60 hours), including weekly city-trips and visits to museums and cultural institutions in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Excursions to the cities of Paraty and Petropólis, daytrips to the Sugarloaf and the Corcovado mountains, and an introductory meeting arranged by the International Office about course registration, federal police visits, the visa process, and student life in Rio de Janeiro.
  • A trip to the state of Bahia during the week preceding the start of the regular semester for an intensive program of lectures and visits focusing on Afro-Bahian history and culture. This program is organized by the Instituto Clara Ramos (ICR) in Salvador.

In addition — and considered an integral part of the Pro-seminar — a series of pro-seminar lectures will be organized over the course of the semester term around a select topic that, appropriate for Brazil, transcends national boundaries and is part of a research collaboration across CASA Divisional Centers in Brazil, Chile and Spain.

For 2023-24, the selected topic focuses on The Recovery of Historical Memory. Lectures will include:

  • The Brazilian Black Movement during the Military Dictatorship
    Prof. Angela Paiva, Department of Social Science, PUC-Rio
  • The Work of the Truth Commission and Human Rights in Contemporary Brazil
    Prof. Márcia Nina Bernardes, Department of Law, PUC-Rio
  • Historical Memory in Brazilian Film
    Prof. Daniel Caetano, Department of Film, UFF
  • Resistance to Censorship in Brazilian Musical Culture from Samba to Funk
    Prof. Júlio Diniz, Department of Letters, PUC-Rio
  • Rio de Janeiro - A Black and African City: History and Memory
    Profa. Ivana Stolze Lima, Department of History, PUC-Rio

Intensive Portuguese Language Course

(60 hours language immersion)

As part of the Language Orientation and Cultural Pro-seminar, this intensive language course, offered in July and January/February, is delivered through PUC-Rio’s widely-recognized Portuguese as a Second Language program. Taught by qualified PUC-Rio language faculty, this required course for all CASA program participants is divided into five (5) levels, and will provide students with a strong foundation upon which they will carry out their semester studies.

There are five proficiency levels offered in the Portuguese as a Second Language program (offered both prior to and, for interested students, throughout the semester term):

  • Level I – Beginner
  • Level II – Intermediate I
  • Level III – Intermediate II
  • Level IV – Advanced I
  • Level V – Advanced II

In order to place candidates according to their proficiency in the Portuguese language, students will take a Portuguese Placement Test Online prior to their arrival at the program. Upon receiving confirmation of the Portuguese test results, students will be able to preliminarily register online for The Semester Program courses as well as for the Portuguese as a Foreign Language class corresponding to their respective levels.

Upon arriving at PUC-Rio, students will also take an oral test in order to confirm their language level. Any necessary adjustments can be made during the Add/Drop period.

Excursions during the Language Orientation and Cultural Proseminar

  • Shortly after arrival in Rio de Janeiro, students will spend a weekend in the small village of Paraty where they have the opportunity to study and experience first-hand the environment of preserved colonial architecture and history.
  • A day trip to the town of Petropolis with a visit to the palace of the second Brazilian emperor, Dom Pedro II.
  • A day-long city tour around Rio de Janeiro with visits to the Sugarloaf and to the Corcovado Mountain.
  • Visits to the Republican Museum, to the Museum of the Indigenous People, to the Metropolitan Theater and to the Cultural Institute of Moreira Salles. The group will take a walk to the historical center of Rio de Janeiro with visits to the Pedra de Sal and to the Morro da Providencia.
  • One-week trip to Salvador (Bahia). Students undertake an intensive program of excursions and visits to historical and cultural sites of interest in the state capital of Bahia and surrounding areas. During the morning sessions, invited local specialists in the African heritage in Brazilian culture offer lectures at the ICR Institute.

Semester Program at PUC-Rio

(14-16 semester hours)

Upon completion of the Language Orientation and Cultural Pro-seminar, students will enroll in one of two program tracks, depending on their level of Portuguese language proficiency measured at the conclusion of the pro-seminar. Both tracks run for 15 weeks. Keep in mind that a student's home university will determine whether their own students can participate in the Track I English program.

Track I: Portuguese Language and Specialized Topics (in English)

Students with beginner to lower intermediate level of Portuguese (Level 1 & 2) enroll in Portuguese as a Second Language, consisting of 90 hours of instruction over 15 weeks (6 semester hours). They round out their course loads by taking specialized courses in Brazilian society, history and culture, delivered in English by qualified PUC-Rio faculty. Courses offered in English total 8-10 semester hours.

The objective of the Portuguese Language and Specialized Topics (in English) track is to develop the students’ ability to understand, speak, read and write Portuguese in both formal and informal situations, while rounding out their course load with specialized courses in English.

Track II: Portuguese Language and Direct Enrollment (in Portuguese)

Students with solid Portuguese skills (Level 3, 4 & 5) sufficient to follow regular class work alongside their fellow Brazilian students enroll in ONE of the following:

  • Four direct enrollment courses, for a total of 14-16 semester hours
  • Three direct enrollment courses (10-12 semester hours) plus Portuguese as a Second Language (Level 3) for 6 semester hours (totaling 16-18 semester hours),
  • Three direct enrollment courses (10-12 semester hours) plus Portuguese as a Second Language (Levels 4 or 5) for 4 semester hours (totaling 14-16 semester hours).

Direct enrollment courses can be found across many academic areas, including History, Anthropology, Literature, International Relations, Psychology, Political Science, Economics, Geography, Cultural Studies, Art History, Biology, Physics and Engineering. Direct enrollment courses: most direct enrollment courses meet for 60 hours over the course of the 15-week semester (4 semester hours). Some courses meet for 30 hours for 2 semester hours.

Track II students are advised, but not required, to take Portuguese as a Second Language alongside their direct enrollment courses.

Direct enrollment courses available at PUC-Rio include:

Cultural Studies/Art History

  • Brazilian Culture
  • History of the Press in Brazil
  • History of Brazilian Cinema
  • History of Advertising in Brazil
  • Public Films and Commercials
  • Documentary Cinema
  • History of Modern Art


  • Contemportary Brazilian Economy
  • General Economic History II


  • Physical Geography–Geomorphology
  • Human Geography–Agrarian Space and Production of Work
  • Human Geography–Urban Space
  • Human & Economic Geography
  • Spatial Formation of Latin America
  • Biogeography
  • Regional Geography–Modern World I

History/Political Science/International Studies

  • Brazilian History II
  • Brazilian History IV
  • History of the Americas IV
  • History of the Americas VI
  • Social and Political Organizations of Brazil
  • Political Institutions of Brazil
  • Political, Economic and Social History of Brazil
  • Constitutional Law I
  • Brazil’s Foreign Policy


  • Brazilian Literature–Poetry Masters
  • Brazilian Literature Masterworks–Prose Masters
  • Discourse Semantics
  • Individual Research Project
  • American Literature
  • Communication & Brazilian Literature


  • Psychological Systems IV (Psychoanalysis)

Religious Studies

  • Pastoral: Afro-Brazilian Cults
  • History of the Church in Latin America

Social Anthropology

  • Ideologies in Latin America
  • Sociology of Everyday Life
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Brazilian Anthropology I