And this is just the first day of school…

Classes started Thursday, February 23rd. Since I am in Brazil to focus on Sustainable Drinking Water Studies, most of my classes focus on water. Here’s my schedule for the week:

Mondays-        Cultura Brasileira 14-16h; Língua Portuguesa para Estrangeiros 18-20h

Tuesdays-       Saúde Ambiental 8-10h

Wednesdays- Cultura Brasileira 14-16h

Thursdays-     Climatologia 8-10h

Fridays-           Climatologia 8-10h; Tratamento de Água e Esgoto 14-17h

Translation: I’m taking Brazilian Culture, Portuguese, Environmental Health, Climatology, and Water & Wastewater Treatment. It’s a bit different having to sit in class for 2 to 3 hours straight. My attention span really isn’t that long and having to concentrate even harder since all my classes are in Portuguese just makes it even more fun. The only class Lara and I have together is our Portuguese class, so we’re pretty much on our own for the whole week.

The first couple days of school were an adventure. My first class was Climatology at 8am on Thursday. Lara has a class at 9am so she decided to come with me to find her class early on as well. Our schedules only list the class, the time it meets, the professor and the building where the class meets. When you get to the building, you’re supposed to either find the list of class with their rooms listed or ask someone.  Since we were new to this particular first-day-of-school system, Lara and I decided to leave super early for school. We woke up at 5am and left our apartment at 6am in order to be at the school by 7am therefore giving me an hour to find my classroom. We also had to take two buses, because at this point we still hadn’t found that one bus that goes straight from our neighborhood to the Pici campus. Oh, and it pour buckets and buckets of rain while we were running to the bus stop and frantically trying to make it school. Finally, we arrived to campus around 7ish giving me plenty of time to find my classroom. Yeah right. My climatology class was listed to be in Bloco 708, aka building 708 the Civil Engineering Building. If the torrential downpour hadn’t been an indication of how our day would go, things went downhill quickly. My class wasn’t listed to be in Bloco 708 and Lara’s class was listed but the classroom where her class was supposed to be had a different class listed for the same time. At this point, I started frantically texting Laís, the Brazilian student who was at Ole Miss last semester, and Felipe, my PAI mentor (projeto de apoio dos intercambistas aka support project for exchange students). They told me how finding my classes was supposed to work and who I could ask for directions. Unfortunately, the people in the building who were supposed to have the official schedules had absolutely no idea where my class was listed. Then 8am comes and goes. I’m officially late for my first class. Awesome. Just what I wanted. So Lara and I continue to run around campus looking for my classroom and trying to figure out where her class is supposed to meet. We went to Dr. André’s building to look for help but the doors to the professors’ offices were locked. We’re both stressed out, still soaked from the rain, and sweating profusely. We even had students asking US if we knew where certain buildings were or if we knew where certain classes met. It was comforting to know we weren’t the only lost souls scampering around. At one point I even saw a professor running back and forth between two buildings trying to find his classroom. It was chaos.

Finally Lara and I just sat down on a bench feeling utterly defeated. It was 9 o’clock by this point too. As we’re sitting there on the bench, André and one of his grad student walk by, and Lara and I basically jump and shout for joy at the familiar faces. Turns out Lara’s class was just her lab and didn’t actually meet the first week of school. André called my professor to find out where my class was and directed me to Bloco 727. It wasn’t even in the building it was supposed to be in! So I showed up for my first class an hour late. And there were only like 5 or 6 other students in there so it was very obvious that I was super late. My professor studied at Columbia so he speaks English and welcomed me and told me if I had any questions or didn’t understand anything, I was welcome to speak in English. It was just icing on the cake that I had actually walked past my classroom about four times looking for schedules of classrooms, but the official schedule hadn’t been posted till around 9. Loads of help at 8am when the class was supposed to start! After class was over, I went and apologized to my professor but he just smiled and said it didn’t matter and that he understood. Very sweet of him. Then I walked around to the other classrooms in the building to see if any of my other classes just happened to be in this random one. I’m so glad I did because my environmental health and water treatment classes were both in that building, which is definitely not what my schedule listed. After that, I went back to the grad student lab in DEHA (Departamento de Engenharia Hidrológica e Ambiental aka Department of Environmental and Hydrological Engineering) where Lara and I hang out to get Internet access.  Then it was lunchtime. Another huge adventure.

One of the great things about studying at a public university in Brazil is the price of food. Lunch costs R$1,10 or about 60¢. It usually includes rice, beans, salad (aka thinly sliced cucumbers), either beef or chicken and, if we’re lucky, some sort of veggies. Prior to heading towards the restaurante universitária (university restaurant aka cafeteria), we knew we could some how acquire a lunch card so we could put money on to avoid paying for lunch with cash every single day. Unfortunately, we weren’t entirely sure HOW we were supposed to do this. Once we got to the cafeteria, the place was swarming with students and there were about four or five different lines headed all over the place. We just kinda sat there shell-shocked by the chaos. I got somewhat helpful directions from my PAI mentor, but those didn’t really help since the cafeteria people had a different system set up for the first couple days. Once again we had students coming up to us and asking if we knew what they were supposed to do to get lunch. I got used to saying “desculpa, não sei” over and over again haha. After waiting in the wrong lines for about 30 minutes, finally one of the workers saw that we looked utterly lost and explained that we just had to get our schedules signed, pay for one day of lunch and show our schedules to the lady manning the entrance to the dining hall. Some random guy in the line behind us heard our English and decided to jump into our conversation and help us out for the day. At the end, it took us about an hour and a half to get lunch. Then we went back to the computer lab to wait for Lara’s afternoon class. Turns out the professor canceled class for the first week, so we just headed back home and crashed from all the emotional and physical exhaustion of the day.

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~ by dfsg1991 on March 26, 2012.

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