The idea of going abroad for an internship appealed to me. In the beginning I had not chosen a specific country as my goal. Only after talking to friends at THI, who were already abroad, did I get the idea to go to Brazil. I applied for the two partner universities of THI in Curitiba and Florianópolis. Universidade Federal do Paraná (UFPR) in Curitiba accepted my application and had a free internship at the research institute LACTEC, which is located on the university campus Centro Politécnico.
Bureaucracy in Brazil
My knowledge of Portuguese was very limited in the beginning and I could only say "hello" and introduce myself. Therefore it was very helpful that I got a buddy from UFPR. He helped me with all organizational matters in the beginning (RNE, bank account, cell phone contract etc.). Nevertheless you have to have a lot of patience until you have all the documents together. All in all it took about 2 months until everything was organized. So the motto is "Tranquilo"! What is very recommendable is to get a CPF number right away with the visa you apply for in Germany. You need this number for every little thing, without it nothing works!
Work at LACTEC
My work at LACTEC, which is located on the UFPR site, was concerned with the measurement of batteries. This involved measuring lead-acid batteries for their impedance behavior at different aging states and states of charge. This was done by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and the different aging states were artificially achieved by constant overcharging at elevated temperature. My tasks also included the management of the measured data and the clear presentation. I developed an Excel macro which makes it easy to enter the data into an Excel document and to process it with MATLAB. In addition, I developed a script in MATLAB which creates uniform and tidy plots of the data.
Living in Curitiba
Curitiba is a big metropolis by German standards and you can compare the city a bit with Berlin. There are many parks which are worth a visit, especially the Parque Barigui. There you can find Capybaras (oversized guinea pigs). There is a tourist bus that stops at all the sights and big parks. Generally the bus network in Curitiba is very well developed and one of the best in Brazil. Since I had the possibility to buy a bus ticket, which was loaded monthly with a certain amount of money from LACTEC, the bus was one of the preferred means of transportation. What you should not miss at all is the Brazilian BBQ. It is traditionally served in Churrascarias which offer a wide variety of meat. It is always "all you can eat". After that you usually don't need to do anything! The nightlife in Curitiba takes place mainly in the districts of Batel and Sao Fransisco. There are streets with many bars and clubs to go out.
I already rented an apartment from Germany in a house near the Centro Politécnico, in the district Jardim das Américas. My buddy from the UFPR also helped me with that. This house accommodates 28 students, most of whom are Brazilians. But among them were also a lot of exchange students. I was warmly welcomed by the residents in the house and they helped me to find my way around the area at first. Later on I developed very good friendships, which still exist today. There was also an organization (REI Curitiba on Facebook) which takes care of exchange students in Curitiba and helps them with questions. This group also organized many events throughout the semester where you had the opportunity to make new contacts with people from all over the world.
A little tip on the side, when you are told that it is getting cold in Curitiba - believe it. Especially in June and July it can get around 0° at night and only around 10° during the day. So either go there in our winter semester or take warm clothes with you!
Traveling in Brazil
On weekends you can go to many destinations from Curitiba. Among them are highlights like Rio de Janeiro (a long weekend is recommended), Foz do Iguacu (huge waterfalls) and Ilha do Mel (an idyllic island on the coast of Paraná). With the night bus you can get everywhere and that in a comfortable way, because there are reclining seats. However, most bus companies exaggerate a little bit with the air conditioning. You can also rent a car. If there are several of you, it is sometimes more profitable than the night buses (which are very cheap), especially if you need to be mobile at your destination. If you want to make a trip to the north of Brazil, it is recommended to take a flight.
Since I had a lot of time at the end of my internship (beginning of July) until the new semester in Germany, I could spend even more time in the northeast and north of Brazil. Highlights are Chapada Diamantina (an old mining region with many table mountains and jungle - good for hiking), Jericoacoara (a paradise with beautiful beaches and lagoons hidden in dunes), Lencois Maranhenses (the only sandy desert in Brazil - good for day trips to lagoons and tours with a quad bike) and of course Manaus and the Amazon jungle. Here you can make excursions where you spend several days outside of Manaus in the jungle, highly recommended if you have time
In general, I can only recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to go abroad for a study or internship semester. Besides the professional experience, you can learn a lot about other cultures, make new friends all over the world and of course learn a lot about yourself. Such an experience and all its impressions accompany you for a lifetime.
Many thanks to the Aware team, who made this experience possible for me!
Lukas Welz, Bachelor of Engineering Mechatronic