Rounding off the first days of class

Just one quick note because I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this yet: while Ole Miss has squirrels running around all over the place, UFC has cats everywhere. It’s crazy how many of them there are. And the university staff leave food out for them.

But, getting back to my classes…Monday was a bit different for me. Lara has all her classes on the Pici campus since they are all “technology” classes. I have one class in the social sciences department located on the Benfica campus. I still went to Pici in the morning to get on the Internet for a bit and grab my nice, cheap lunch at RU. I tried googling the building where my Brazilian culture class was supposed to be, but just for confirmation, I texted Felipe my mentor and he confirmed the location. Still paranoid from being an hour late to my first class, I left for the Benfica campus about an hour and a half before my class was supposed to start. Incredibly, it only took me about 10 minutes to find where the building was located. Finding the classroom took a bit longer but I still managed to locate it with 20 minutes still to go before class started. Some kid was already in there and he confirmed that indeed I was in the right room. My teacher didn’t get to the classroom till about 20 after. I figured it was just a fluke since it was the first day of class, but no, she runs on Brazilian time more than any of my other professors. Professora Jania is really nice. She also looks like she’s about 28. She went around the classroom asking for names and majors. She also announced to the class that we had an exchange student from the US, and she wasn’t talking about me! There’s a kid from Florida and he’s super shy. When Jania got to me, I very nervously stuttered out “Dora Frances” and “engenharia química” until she realized I was also an exchange student. I talked to her after class and somehow managed to have a bit of a conversation with her. I think she took pity on the fact that not only did I have the language barrier to overcome, but I’m also not in my area of study. She said we would negotiate on the kind of test I would take since my Portuguese isn’t strong enough to handle a heavy written exam on racism, nationalism and cultural identity in Brazil. It’s a pretty fun class because everyone in there loves to talk and voice their opinions. I struggle to follow along when multiple people talk at the same time and argue in top-speed Portuguese, but I enjoy seeing the difference between the technology students and the social sciences students. The difference is quite striking; there a definite physical difference but even the way they talk is different. I couldn’t quit laughing to myself the first day when I noticed how different people wore their hair, the style of clothes and the manner in which they spoke. But back to the actual class material…this class will definitely build my vocabulary more than any of my other classes. The amount I have to read and the types of reading assignments I have constantly require my dictionary to get through. My first few reading assignments could all be found online, so I postponed experimenting with printing assignments off on campus for a few weeks. When I finally was unable to find one of the texts online, I had to search out where students get their reading material. The way Brazilian universities work, as far as I understand is common everywhere, students don’t buy textbooks like they do in the States. Professors give the photocopy center a copy of the material, and the copiers keep everything stored and organized so students just walk up and get the specific reading assignment they need and pay about 5 centavos per page. It’s super easy, but terrified me the first time I tried it. I can’t wait till almost the end of the semester when we talk about the culture of football in Brazil!

Tuesday I had my first class with André, Saúde Ambiental aka Environmental Health. I noticed that almost the same group of students is in my Climatology class.  They all seem pretty close, like they’re accustomed to having the same classes together. Kind of reminds me of the group of chemE’s back home at Ole Miss. I really enjoy André’s class: his Portuguese is pretty easy for me to understand and he’s so enthusiastic about the subject so it’s easy to pay attention. Part of his introduction to the class included pointing me out and introducing me as the American studying at UFC as a part of the exchange program he’s in charge of and used the time to advertise the program to the class. Some of the material we go over in André’s class overlaps with my Water Treatment class. When I first noticed this, I was giddy with excitement. *Nerd moment alert* I love being able to connect what I’m learning in different classes because each approach the subject in a different way. For example, in my Water Treatment class, one of the parameters we look at in water quality is the amount of cyanobacteria in the water (which is also what I’m currently doing research on, but more of that later). In my Environmental Health class, we looked at cyanobacteria with a microbiological focus rather than how it affects water quality. I’m sure I look ridiculous in class when I randomly start grinning with randomly timed enthusiasm, but I have with my little mental connections such as that.

Wednesday, I had Cultura Brasileira again. Since we still didn’t have any reading assignments yet, I basically sat there the whole class trying to keep up with the introduction my professora gave the class. Lara and I finally had our first class together that night: Língua Portuguesa para Estrangeiras aka Portuguese language for foreigners. Once students started to arrive in the classroom, I noticed most of them were Brazilian. It didn’t make any sense at all! Finally our professor arrived and she explained that she opened up the class to non-foreigners as well as a part of the research she was doing. Then she and her student researchers split the class and Professora Eulalia took the foreigners with her. She and one of her students interviewed each one of us to see what our levels of Portuguese were and to see how they would split the group up. While we were waiting, we started talking to see where everyone was from and why each person chose Brazil. There are a few Mexicans, a relatively large group of French, a handful of Germans and four Americans, including Lara and myself. Some of the students had already been in Brazil for over six months. Others had been studying Portuguese for several years. Therefore Lara and I were at the bottom in Portuguese ability. Our specific group meets Monday nights; we’re level 1. Our class has 3 French students, a German guy and a Korean who isn’t a student at UFC, but is married to a Brazilian and is trying to learn the language. We’re working at a pretty basically grammar level, which is a little frustrating for me since I’ve learned up to a pretty complex grammar level already. Yet, the class gives me a more relaxed atmosphere to practice my spoken language. My level of Portuguese is in an awkward position between level 1 and level 2. I chose to stay in level 1 since I would’ve been completely overwhelmed by the students in level 2 who sound almost fluent when they speak Portuguese. Definitely not where I am. However, I am improving and it’s super exciting when I have extended conversations with Brazilian in my other classes. One girl in my Climatology class and I have had several long conversations about music, books and movies. It’s a lot of fun and I’m so incredibly glad I’m here.



~ by dfsg1991 on April 8, 2012.

One Response to “Rounding off the first days of class”

  1. Hey there, Boa Páscoa.
    Posso concordar com os sorrisos na aula as vezes. Acaba comigo também e a Professora ta sempre um pouco confusa e surpreendida do pourque. Mas somos de uma outra cultura e temos pensativos diferentes na cabeça. É divertido. Beijo

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