Discussions in the midst of a pandemic have become a test of obstacles, which change shape and intensity every week. And Brazilian students currently abroad regret having lost some experiences, but at the same time they are enjoying the advantages, like the possibility of working remotely.
With consulates closed or with reduced attendance, the first challenge is to obtain a visa. Then, you have to follow the border closing rules, and hope that they are favorable at the time of boarding. And, finally, to be lucky that the destination country is having a good pandemic time, with fewer activity restrictions.
In early 2021, two of the top destinations for Brazilian students, Canada and Ireland, tightened entry restrictions. In Canada, you will need to quarantine yourself when you arrive at specific hotels with a stay paid by the traveler.
Another highly sought-after country, the United States continues to close its borders and suspend the issuance of visas. Then President Donald Trump ordered the reopening a few days before stepping down from the presidency, but Joe Biden rescinded the measure shortly after taking office. In practice, the blockade has never ceased to exist.
“We live one day at a time. Brazil having failed to control Covid, we are penalized abroad,” said Maura Leão, director of Belta, an entity that brings together the country’s foreign exchange agencies.
According to her, some foreign consulates have asked the agencies to guide students so that they follow the rules and not try to subterfuge, so that they are not stopped at airports.
“The advice is made so that students do not believe information from WhatsApp groups and follow official regulations,” warns the director. “The association had to do an information check to deal with this.”
In order to cope with this scenario of uncertainty, the money changers began to offer flexible terms, such as free rescheduling of course periods and tickets.
“Our advice is that people buy to go in August, September, and if they get there and can’t go, reschedule for free,” says Celso Garcia, director of the CI agency network. “Sales are inhibited, but there is a strong pent-up demand”, he assesses
The company, one of the largest in the sector in Brazil, closed 2020 with 38% of the sales it made in 2019, but had a better January 2021: the turnover was 50% compared to to the previous year.
With blockages in major destinations, other options for studying English, such as Malta, in Europe and the United Arab Emirates (in the Middle East) are gaining ground. Bruno Araújo, 29, arrived in Dubai on December 31, after postponing a trip scheduled for April.
“My classes are in person. In the second week here, there was a case of Covid in my class. They quarantined the person for a week, and to go back to school, everyone had to be tested negative. “
By this time Bruno was also infected, but had mild symptoms and did not need to go to the hospital. Even so, he says the trip is paying off very well. “I had been here before before the pandemic and felt no difference except using the mask and a few rules of detachment. Everything remains open, people keep going out. The pandemic is more under control here, and vaccination is going fast, “he said., Who lived in Boa Vista, capital of Roraima.
Another Brazilian who recently started an exchange, Caroline Manolio, 22, traveled to Spain in December, for an exchange as an architecture student in Madrid.
“There are a lot of people in the street and I manage to enjoy the city. Parks and museums are open. Restaurants and bars close at 10 pm, but around 9 pm the waiters already check in and send us back, ”he points out.
As an advantage, she found a wider supply of properties for rent and got a room for 210 euros (around R $ 1,300), which is much lower than what was billed before the pandemic. “Since there are fewer people coming, there are more rental options,” he says.
Caroline said she was having trouble getting a visa interview. “The consulate reduced the number of consultations, and we had to look at the site at dawn to see if anyone would give up and open a post. Due to layovers, his trip from São Paulo to Madrid would take two days, but last-minute changes saved him time. On the way, she had to test negative Covid-19 several times.
She now takes one day of face-to-face lessons per week and two of virtual lessons. And, to help pay the bills, she continues to work remotely. “Due to the pandemic, I managed to keep my job in Brazil and work from here. Maybe it was something that maybe I couldn’t do before, ”he says.
Beatriz Rejani, 21, also took advantage of the new possibilities offered by the pandemic. She left to study English in North Carolina, United States, in December 2019, and decided to stay there for another year. This was only possible because the courses in his law course at Mackenzie (in São Paulo) are held remotely.
However, she struggled early in the pandemic. “I work as an au pair [babá], and suddenly I had to spend three months looking after two four-year-olds all day at home when the schools were closing. Sometimes it was 10 hours a day, ”he recalls.
The children have already returned to face-to-face school, but she has not yet done so. Your English course continues with distance learning. Beatriz also caught Covid. “I had all the symptoms, but I didn’t go to the hospital because I was afraid of getting a really high bill afterwards,” she says.
She is not recommending an exchange trip now. “You mature more, because you have more difficulty, but you can’t have the full experience, like going to school and talking to crowds. I had a lot on my mind, but had to cancel the trips. that I would do in the United States, ”he says.
Ana Cláudia da Rocha, 24, has a similar feeling: she went to study a master’s degree in geology in Russia, also before the pandemic. “Overnight, all the classes were online, and that dramatically reduced my learning,” she says, who lived in São José dos Campos, inside São Paulo. “And some students who left the country during the holidays were unable to come back later.”
Lucas Catelani, 21, who will be studying medicine in Russia, has not yet been able to get started and started the course by taking distance Russian lessons in Jacareí, also in São Paulo state, where he lives.
“The school offered the possibility of taking lessons at a time more suited to our time zone, so I study from 9 am to 2 pm, on time here,” he says, who studies in the same virtual classroom with Ecuadorian colleagues, Yemen, Mozambique and Syria. “As there are pair and group activities, we talk a lot via WhatsApp, even on other subjects,” he says.
“There is a concern as to when I will be able to go. There is no information about it. But I am continuing my study routine until then,” he comments.
For students who are already abroad, it is expected to be able to get the vaccine soon, probably sooner than if they were in Brazil. Caroline hopes to be vaccinated by the middle of the year. Your travel insurance includes the immunizer.
In the United States, vaccinations will be free and au pairs are included in the first groups, as they are caregivers. “I have friends who took care of this,” says Beatriz. And in Russia, students are already vaccinated in some cities, such as Moscow.