Investigate the intersectionality of complex racial dynamics in the context of health as a human right.
Learn how individual and community well-being are affected by race, social class, politics, and other factors.
Meet with community groups, grassroots organizations, university professors, and a wide range of community members working to secure and improve basic rights—including education, health, sanitation, shelter, and others.
Understand the links between health and race, social injustice, and human rights.
Consider the impact of health policies on Afro-descendent communities, indigenous groups, impoverished classes, and marginalized groups.
Live in Salvador, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Salvador was Brazil’s first capital city and the former center of the Portuguese colonial empire. In 1985, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical importance, cultural vibrancy, and aesthetic appeal. Read more about Salvador’s UNESCO designation. Today, Salvador is home to Brazil’s largest Afro-Brazilian population. While in Salvador, you will attend classes at the program center, live with a host family, and experience the city’s vibrant traditional, spiritual, musical, artistic, and culinary cultures.
Visit quilombo communities and participate in local projects.
In northeast Brazil, more than 1,000 quilombos—communities founded by former slaves—have historically been isolated and excluded from mainstream society. You will visit communities facing extremely poor living conditions and limited access to healthcare, sanitation, educational opportunities, and other services now understood as human rights
Experience urban and rural life in Brazil.
Participate in urban and rural homestays to learn what daily life is like for Brazilians living in two distinct areas and how families experience race, healthcare, and other human rights challenges.
Analyze Brazil’s national healthcare system, traditional healing methods—especially those rooted in the Candomblé spiritual belief system—and other alternative health options.
Visit a variety of healthcare facilities including hospitals, health centers, Candomblé houses, and other religious institutions. Learn what draws patients to different facilities or practices and how healthcare sites strategize and adapt (or don’t) to meet the changing needs of their growing communities.
Consider the complex racial dynamics of Northeast Brazil.
Critical Global Issue of Study
None, although a background in Portuguese, Spanish, or another Romance language is highly recommended. Studying Portuguese independently prior to arrival is encouraged.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Understanding healthcare and other basic services as human rights
- Brazil’s public health policies and practices
- Health, healing, and spirituality in Afro-Brazilian and indigenous groups
- Racial dynamics and access to healthcare
- Health of the Afro-Brazilian population
- Social, economic, and ideological determinants of health
- Innovative community and NGO responses to healthcare, human rights, and racial issues
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Public Health in the Context of Contemporary Brazil – syllabus
- (IPBH3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course focuses on public healthcare issues as well as community welfare policies and realities. Students examine the Brazilian national healthcare system along with alternative healthcare practices, focusing more specifically on the northeast region of Brazil. Students observe firsthand the functioning of the healthcare system at the primary level and also consider the response of NGOs, community organizations, and other institutions to understand how Brazilians pursue health and well-being. Students critically engage with the Brazilian model for public health, Sistema Único de Saúde, and analyze key Brazilian national health programs focused on Afro-Brazilian health issues and other marginalized populations. Students also study health concepts and practices used by Afro-Brazilian and indigenous groups, considering the connection between healing and spiritual beliefs and examining how this plays out in alternative treatments for a range of illnesses. Finally, students explore the social determinants of health as they relate to both state-sponsored and alternative methods of health treatment. This course is conducted in English and Portuguese (with interpretation).
- Racial Dynamics, Community Activism, and Human Rights in Brazil – syllabus
- (IPBH3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course explores racial ideology in Brazil and how it intersects with basic human rights. Students examine racial theory, racism, and the construction of the Brazilian identity and culture from a historical perspective. Along with health, the Universal Declaration of the United Nations also names a range of other human rights, which include the right to social services, education, and employment. In this course, students continue their exploration of how access to human rights intersects with racial dynamics in Brazil, and how individuals and communities work to secure and improve this access. Students will explore such issues as economics, housing, sanitation, and education, focusing in particular on the African-descendant population and indigenous people as two of the nation’s most clearly marginalized groups. This seminar is a combination of lectures and excursions, which provide the opportunity to engage with local people from quilombo and indigenous communities, and an array of NGOs to explore issues pertaining to race, public service access and alternative options. The course is conducted in English and Portuguese (with interpretation).
- Portuguese for the Health Sciences I – syllabus
- (PORT1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Portuguese for the Health Sciences II – syllabus
- (PORT1503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Portuguese for the Health Sciences III – syllabus
- (PORT2003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this course, students build their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They learn the terms and expressions needed to conduct field projects; to discuss health, race, and human rights-related topics; and to interact in settings connected to the program’s themes. Students are placed in small classes based on an in-country evaluation that tests both written and oral proficiency. Guided self-instruction is available to students who test out of the available courses.
- Field Methods and Ethics in Social Science and Health – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this methods course designed to prepare students for the Public Health, Race, and Human Rights Project, students learn how to organize and conduct independent work in, and to collaborate productively with, local communities on topics related to the program’s main themes. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students examine the ethical issues surrounding community and public health work; learn to write proposals for independent projects; and practice methods appropriate to a range of project topics and designs. All students will identify a site in which to study a topic related to the program themes and their specific areas of interest. While the primary independent activity students will undertake is a community project — whether framed as a case study or a project proposal developed in cooperation with the community group — students will also be exposed to methods appropriate to health studies to lay a foundation for future work and study in this general field of public health and human rights. The course is conducted in English and Portuguese (with interpretation).
- Public Health, Race, and Human Rights Project – syllabus
- (LACB3060 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- In this course, students select a community organization with whom to partner, and they complete an independent project or case study as agreed upon with the academic director and in the methods course. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal paper or report in English or Portuguese. Sample topic areas: health of adolescent mothers and their children with the Climério de Oliveira Maternity Hospital in Salvador; factors affecting well-being in Remanso and Pitanga dos Palmares quilombo communities; healing in the Candomblé tradition with Ilê Axé Apô Afonjá Candomblé Temple and others; drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs at CAPS — a public clinic; mapping sickle cell anemia with ABADFAL organization; dengue, zika and chikungunya diagnosis and treatment in Ilha de Maré; HIV/AIDS education and prevention with the NGO GGB; the CEDAP Agency and Brazil’s AIDS policy; empowerment and self-care for women at Odara Institute, pre- and postnatal care in the Afro-Brazilian community; working with municipal nurses and community agents in local health centers. Students may study in Salvador, elsewhere in the state of Bahia, or in another approved location in the Brazilian northeast appropriate to the project and program theme.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Educational excursions are an integral part of the program, complementing classroom learning and thematic coursework. You will visit federal, state, and municipal health facilities, Afro-Brazilian religious centers, traditional communities, and NGOs. Visits to under-resourced areas give you a deeper understanding of how historical oppression affects the lives of the poor in Brazil today.
Terreiros de Candomblé
A terreiro de Candomblé is a shrine or temple for the parishioners of Candomblé, one of the most widespread Afro-Brazilian belief systems in contemporary Brazil. In Candomblé, health is integrated into the notion of a mystic universe, and the human body is not viewed as separate from the spirit. Candomblé helps to promote the healing process, which often takes place in the terreiro. In a country where most of the poor have limited access to institutionalized healthcare facilities, the terreiro also functions as an important site for health treatments and support. In Salvador and Cachoeira, you will speak with priests, priestesses, and parishioners about their beliefs and experiences, especially those related to traditional medicine.
Ilha de Maré (Tide Island)
Travel by boat to Ilha de Maré, home to a quilombo community, at the northern end of the Bahia de Todos os Santos (the Bay of All Saints). Although the island is not far in distance from the city of Salvador, the history and living conditions of its residents differ dramatically. The island still has no roads or cars, and in the township of Praia Grande some residents still communicate in African languages during religious activities.
During this excursion you will learn how social exclusion—lack of access to health services, formal education, transportation, potable water, and employment—affects the lives of Afro-Brazilians. You will consider how women’s economic sustainability relates to the health status of all of the island’s inhabitants, and you will study environmental problems affecting the community, particularly local fishermen.
You will spend four days in the rural area of Cachoeira meeting with public health professionals, community health agents, and traditional healers. Through visits and interviews, you will understand how communities access healthcare facilities and resources, explore social determinants affecting community health, and see what daily life is like.
Spend a week in the rural quilombo community of Remanso outside the city of Lençois in the Chapada Diamantina National Park. Learn about the connections between the environment and health, identity, community empowerment, and sustainability. Activities vary from semester to semester, but in the past students on this program have painted community centers, built and planted community gardens, and met with youth and women’s groups. Working alongside members of the community, students have learned to fish and make fish traps, make traditional medicine, weave baskets, and gather honey.
Manaus, Amazonas (fall semesters only)
In collaboration with UNICEF and local indigenous organizations, participate in a weeklong excursion to Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas state. This remote city of more than two million is reachable only by boat or plane. Experience a region undergoing significant change and challenges as you meet with indigenous community leaders and members to discuss inequities in community health, housing and land rights, employment, and other human rights issues. Explore innovative community-based strategies to overcome injustices and how they may apply to other locations around the world. Meet with communities along the Rio Negro to learn about traditional health systems, sustaining local identity, and indigenous knowledge. Students from the SIT Study Abroad program Brazil: Social Innovation and Community Development will join your group on this excursion.
Rio de Janeiro (spring semesters only)
In this sprawling metropolis with a population of nearly 12 million on Brazil’s southeast coast, you will explore how social movements, NGOs, and community projects are intervening to transform the persistent social inequalities that have plagued this city since its colonial creation. Engage with leading scholars, grassroots organizations, and indigenous community leaders and members to explore cutting-edge strategies designed to confront the complex issues of race, gender, human rights, public health, and individual and structural violence. Students from the SIT Study Abroad program Brazil: Social Innovation and Community Development will join your group on this excursion.
Program in a minute-ish
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Gabriela Ventura, MBA, Academic Director
Gabriela is a Brazilian and US citizen with an MBA in project management from the Escola Superior de Administração, Marketing e Comunicação, in São Paulo. She is an MA candidate in sociocultural anthropology at Columbia University. She gained extensive experience in program implementation and management through her MBA project to create a bilingual course for technical schools in Campinas, São Paulo, to train and equip business administration technicians for the global market. Gabriela earned her BA in cultural anthropology and French from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.
She has worked as a program coordinator and admissions counselor for SIT Latin America and Africa programs, led Experiment in International Living high school programs in Morocco and France, and is an alumna of SIT programs in both Madagascar and France. She has worked professionally as a middle and high school history teacher and middle school English teacher. She was also a Portuguese translator and interpreter. Gabriela currently volunteers in religious institutions, giving support in community outreach and social causes; she has also volunteered in orphanages in Brazil’s northeastern state of Alagoas. Currently, she serves as a warden for the state of Bahia with the US Consulate in Rio de Janeiro.
Rafaela Loureiro, Program Assistant
Rafaela has a BA in business management from Universidade Federal da Bahia and English certification from Universidade do Estado da Bahia. Having worked in the public services and administrative communications sectors in Salvador, she has extensive experience in teamwork and conflict management. She has worked with SIT Study Abroad since 2015, providing administrative, programmatic, and logistical support to the academic director and other members of the staff. She assists with site visits, field projects, and excursions. Rafaela also facilitates visa registration and provides support to students.
Paula Santos, Interpreter and Field Projects Coordinator
Paula is an expert in international education support who has worked with SIT Study Abroad programs in Brazil for more than 20 years. A professional interpreter, Paula is fluent in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. She has worked for many years in social and educational tourism. Her areas of expertise include Afro-Brazilian culture, religion, and art. She is a lecturer on women’s issues and has been guest lecturer to Zeghram’s Expeditions and John Hopkins University Center for Africana Studies, among others. She is on the board of TOBOSSIS, an NGO that focuses on gender, media, and race. She is also on the advisory committee of a literary collective that promotes contemporary Afro-Brazilian literature.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Climene Laura de Camargo, PhD
Climene obtained a BA in nursing from the Faculdade Adventista de Enfermagem, a master’s degree in nursing from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, a doctorate in public health from the Universidade de São Paulo, and a postdoctoral degree from the Université René Descartes-Sorbonne, Paris, France. She has taught classes for SIT on gender, Afro-Brazilian health, and prenatal care since 2006. She is associate professor at the Universidade Federal da Bahia’s Nursing School in Bahia. She works as a consultant and educator on health education, violence, and Afro-Brazilian healthcare. Climene is also academic director of a research project at the Universidade Federal da Bahia and a member of the Afro-Brazilian Health Program created by the Brazilian Ministry of Health to improve Afro-Brazilians’ access to the national health system.
There is no way for me to repay the huge debt I feel towards this program and experience so the next best thing is to take everything I have learned and dedicate myself to helping others.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will participate in several homestay experiences in Brazil for a varied and nuanced understanding of socioeconomic differences.
Urban Homestay in Salvador
During the first seven weeks of the semester, you will live with a host family in Salvador, where you will experience urban culture, practice your Portuguese language skills, and learn about your host family’s experience with the Brazilian healthcare system and other issues in the community.
Rural Homestays in Alecrim, Remanso, and Paraty
Rural homestays include four days in Alecrim, the rural area of Cachoeira; five days in Remanso; and two days in Paraty, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Most of the host families are small agricultural producers, mainly of cassava, okra, tropical fruits, and vegetables. In Remanso, you will live with a family in a quilombo outside the city of Lençóis in the Chapada Diamantina National Park. You will learn about the intersections between the environment, health, community access to social services, and the community’s response to the absence of basic human rights.
Other accommodations on the program could include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.
Students from many colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do important work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Health volunteer with the Peace Corps, Mozambique
- Intern at the International Rescue Committee, Miami, Florida
- Graduate research assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine’s Center for Health Equity Research, Chapel Hill, NC
- Education programs director with Thirst Project, Los Angeles, CA
- Intern at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC
Spend the final four weeks of the semester engaged in an independent project related to public health, race, and/or human rights. You will select a community organization with whom to partner and complete an independent project or case study that integrates what you have learned, culminating in a final presentation and formal paper or report in English or Portuguese. You may study in Salvador, elsewhere in the state of Bahia, or in another approved location in the Brazilian northeast appropriate to the project and program theme.
Sample organizations and topic areas include:
- Health of adolescent mothers and their children at the Climério de Oliveira Maternity Hospital in Salvador
- Factors affecting well-being in Remanso and Pitanga dos Palmares quilombo communities
- Healing in the Candomblé tradition at Ilê Axé Apô Afonjá Candomblé Temple and others
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs at a public clinic
- Mapping sickle cell anemia with ABADFAL organization
- Dengue, zika, and chikungunya diagnosis and treatment in Ilha de Maré
- HIV/AIDS education and prevention with the NGO GGB
- CEDAP Agency and Brazil’s AIDS policy
- Empowerment and self-care for women at Odara Institute
- Pre- and postnatal care in the Afro-Brazilian community
- Working with municipal nurses and community agents in local health centers
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Health, society, and culture
- Public health, community welfare, and social justice
- Brazilian public health policies
- Alternate health practices
- Race, gender, and diversity
- Methods and Ethics Seminar
- Intensive language instruction in Portuguese
- All educational excursions to locations such as Ilha de Maré, Santo Amaro (Landless Rural Workers Movement), Cachoeira, Remanso, and Manaus or Rio de Janeiro, including all related travel costs
- Public Health, Race, and Human Rights Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $3,020
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation; at the program base (Salvador); on all excursions; during the Public Health, Race, and Human Rights Project; and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (seven weeks in Salvador and rural homestays in Cachoeira and Remanso)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $400
Books & Supplies: $200
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.