This is a piece in an occasional series of articles about the BRIC nations. If you are looking for international students, these rising powers provide an important opportunity, but you have to know about the land and the people to effectively recruit.  This week, we’ll be discussing Brazil- it’s rise, obstacles it faces, how recruiters can appeal to potential Brazilian students, and how to make sure students are adjusting well to life in America.

In yesterday’s article, we discussed the reasons why Brazil is considered a rising power, and why it has seen such remarkable economic growth. This is a huge boon for heads of international departments looking to attract students to their school. Brazil is becoming a major member of the global economic community, and the experience of studying in America can be an introduction to that, a life-changing event.

Of course, as with any country, especially one that has seen such rapid development as Brazil, there are pitfalls and problems. Brazil was rocked by the economic turmoil caused by the collapse of the U.S. housing market it 2007 (as was the whole globe), but it still managed to keep growing, albeit at a slower rate. That is an expected part of plugging yourself into the world, a downside to connectivity. But there are more endemic, fundamental problems keeping Brazil from reaching its full potential. However, as you’ll see, these problems show an unexpected silver lining, both for you as a recruiter and for the future of Brazil.


Are there dark clouds on the horizon for Brazil?
Image from morgueFile user sweetgunner

Corruption- the persistent menace

There are a few major types of corruption that can plague a political system. There is the kind where politicians give out jobs and contracts to friends and families who may not be qualified. There is the kind where politicians can be bought and sold by major interests for generous concessions, which may or may not serve the greater good. And then there is the kind where politicians just skim off the top, outright stealing from the public coffers- sometimes to buy votes, sometimes for personal profit. The political corruption in Brazil falls under the fourth category, “all of the above”.

This is a major problem for an economy that wants to grow, and a nation that bills itself as “the country of the future.” It is estimated that in 2013, corruption cost Brazil close to $53 billion dollars. The spectacle of theft was highlighted by a series of indictments and convictions that reached to the highest level.

Corruption isn’t just an abstraction, or something that costs dollars, and it isn’t simply a noun, either. It is a corruption of a process, one where hard work and decency can pay off. When the connection between doing the right thing and getting ahead is severed, as it often is in an arena where the worst reap all the benefits, it is hard to convince yourself to try. People become corrupted themselves, as a means of survival, and cheapjack penny-ante schemes flourish, as day-to-day life becomes a hustle. This can result in a stagnating economy or, in the worst case, outright violence, especially if it leads, as it always does, to growing gaps in economic equality. 

Rio slums

The massive and sprawling slums of Rio stand in stark contrast to the wealth elsewhere.
Image from

Environmental degradation

This is Brazil’s problem, and ours- the decimation of the rainforest, the mighty Amazon, with its global consequences.  The reason this is in our article is because it is tied to the corruption issue- developers and large farming interests can pay off officials to get permission to deforest huge tracts in the jungle, destroying native species and wrecking the ecosystem. This isn’t something most Brazilians agree with– their birthright is being sold out from under them and paved over. But in a system that is dependent on who has the most cash, there is little they can do. This can heighten that feeling of frustration, and cause a lot of people to drop out. It can also spur activism, but activism is hard to sustain when the basic needs of the day press against you.

Additionally, the environmental issues pose a conundrum for Brazil- if it is to keep growing, it needs room. Brazil will have to find the balance between wanton destruction of its natural and lifegiving beauty and stagnation. It is a major problem facing all nations today, but especially those that have come of age in an era where we recognize the impact of our actions.

Circuses and violence

Over the nest two years, Brazil is host to two major sporting events: the World Cup this summer and the 2016 Olympics. The latter is a particularly huge honor, as the Olympics are never awarded just because they want a nice place to host the games- it is a signifier, and this signifies that Brazil is truly a global nation, a part of the world, and is ready to lead South America into the 21st century.

That is not without its flaws. Olympic processes tend to mirror both the greatness and the flaws of their host nations, as seen with the recent Winter Games in Sochi. The Rio Olympics have been plagued by mismanagement and our persistent friend, corruption. The nation is worried about its readiness for both games, and fears being embarrassed.  

All these issues dovetail. The amount of money Brazil is spending on the Games, combined with its corruption, an economy that has slowed, massive economic inequality, and a police force that seems to be private security for the rich, led to massive protests last summer.  Hundreds of thousands, if not more, clogged the streets and battled with police and soldiers. It looked like nothing more than a nation in chaos, not the next world power.

The silver lining

As mentioned, a nation mired in corruption can accept it, or rebel. It seems like Brazil is choosing the latter. The protests showed that there is a generation fed up with the cheap schemes and parasitic political class. They showed a pent-up energy and a desire for something better, to create a real change for their nation. They showed they didn’t want to remain a corrupted basket case.

This is great news for the country and for the international department at your school. Brazilians showed they didn’t want to drop out or leave- they wanted to make Brazil a better place. And to do that, there needs to be systemic changes, but there also needs to be a well-educated political and economic class, and that starts with you. You can tap into and harness that energy, and help to mold it into something productive. You can help make its young citizens ready to take on all challenges and continue the transformation of their great nation. In tomorrow’s article, we’ll talk about how you can make sure that yours is the school of choice for Brazilian students.


The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.