Oh right…I came to Brazil to study

Well, two months into the semester, I finally got to experience school-based stress for the first time since finals last December. The first round of tests came midway through April. There are two names for tests in Portuguese: provas and avaliações. They basically mean the same thing, but their specific translations are “tests” and “evaluations,” respectively. Up until this point in school, I really hadn’t been that freaked out about my classes. My teachers don’t give homework, and all we had to study were the PowerPoint presentations and selected readings from textbooks. Most of this material was in Portuguese, but some of the readings for my climatology class were in English. Lucky me! Unfortunately, my grades in my classes are very dependent on my performances on the tests. The weights of the test grades are offset slightly by attending technical visits and, in my climatology class, a group and an individual project. All my classes have only two tests the whole semester. So basically, I get two chances to make sure I pass these classes. The Brazilian grades are on a scale of 1 to 10. If your grade average is above a 7 by the end of the semester, you don’t have to take the final. Above a 5 is passing, below is failing. Regardless, my goal is to score as highly as possible so that I can avoid the picky details.

I got really lucky the first week I was supposed to have tests: both my climatology and my environmental health tests were moved to later dates. Unfortunately, this placed my climatology and water treatment tests on the same day. A WHOLE day of testing: 8-10am climatology and 2-5pm water treatment. Ewww! So in preparation, I started reading and reviewing a week before my tests. Back home in the States, I usually put off heavy studying until a few days before. Can’t really do that here since I have to account for the Portuguese. I spent anywhere from 5 to 6 hours a day reading. By the time my tests were over, I was going cross-eyed, my back was killing me, and my brain was throbbing. Before taking the tests, I wasn’t really worried about having to write in Portuguese on the tests. What freaked me out the most was the format of the tests, the type of questions that would be asked, and just how lenient my teachers would or wouldn’t be while grading. I was practically shaking when I sat down for my climatology test. Let me just say the experience wasn’t really was I had expected.

First of all, my professor didn’t even show up for the exam! Apparently it’s customary for the professors to just send a grad student to proctor the test, though for my other two tests, the professors showed up for like 10 minutes then left. Secondly, the test was one sheet of questions, which you had to answer by writing a bunch. I found this incredibly strange for a science test. While it kinda made sense for my climatology test, I’m just not really used to writing significant amounts on a test. Thirdly, the tests seemed to be more focused on regurgitation of material rather than application of knowledge. Once again, this kinda made sense for my climatology exam, but I was expecting more of a focus on problem solving on my water treatment and environmental health tests.

After I finished the exams, I actually felt pretty good. My environmental health exam was two weeks after the climatology and water treatment exams, but even though I had more time to study for that one, I felt worse about it. I have received my first two grades: 8.6 on climatology and 7.4 on water treatment. I guess they’re pretty good, but the 7.4 was a bit of a let down after seeing the 8.6. Very few of my mistakes were actually based on the language, which was very exciting for me haha. I’ve never had to write that much Portuguese in such a short period of time. Before my climatology professor handed back the test, he praised me for how good my Portuguese actually was. One little problem with this though: he’s basing my proficiency off my writing skills, which are light-years ahead of my speaking ability hah! Oh well, I’m still waiting to get my environmental health test back, and, honestly, I don’t really mind not seeing it any time soon.

The best way to end a week of testing is to party it up with the other international students at a churrasco (aka barbeque)! Lara’s madrinha Mirza organized the party at her apartment, which had a nice area where we could congregate and a pool! I was quite impressed with Mirza’s organizing skills: she had to contact people to provide food, run around Fortaleza collecting money from all the international students, and manage the food and people at the actual party. The whole event ended up as such a success that the plans are in the works for a churrasco part 2 in Cumbuco or somewhere.

Once again, Lara and I got to experience trying out new buses and, for once, everything worked out the first time around. Once we got to Mirza’s apartment, we got fun little event bracelets in enter the apartment. Some people were already there but the slight rain kept the party pretty muted. A lot of the people we went to Faroeste with were there too, so it was fun to re-meet them. As more people showed up, the food came out too.  The food included rice, beans, a sort of wheat salad thing I can’t remember the name for, an assortment of meet, a sort of potato salad, and caipirinhas (of course). Once the rain let up, a few people jumped in the pool, others started dancing, but most just sat around and talked. I had a lot of fun just chatting with the people from my Portuguese class because I never seen them outside the classroom. Later on Rafael, one of the guys Lara and I met at Faroeste, tried to teach me how to dance forró (a style of music and dance native to the northeast of Brazil). It was hysterical. Whenever I do try to dance, my brain tends to get in the way. Same thing happened trying to learn forró. Rafael kept telling me I was thinking too much and just needed to feel the music. Hah he also said I had the basic materials but just needed a good teacher. Last time someone tried to teach me to dance was back at camp, and they told me I looked like I was trying to kick a soccer ball rather than dance. After a while, Lara and I decided to jump in the pool for a bit. We also started talking to a group of Mirza’s friends. It was so much fun to just chill and speak in mostly Portuguese for such a long time. They wanted to practice their English but they knew we needed to practice our Portuguese more. I even ended up racing a couple of the guys. While I managed to win all the races, I found out that I am incredibly out of shape. It was ridiculous. But sooo much fun! Can’t wait for round two!

Até o próximo! Abraços e beijos!


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~ by dfsg1991 on May 16, 2012.

One Response to “Oh right…I came to Brazil to study”

  1. Jack Sparrow is hot! Meus deus, tenho o mesmo problema tentando aprender a dança brasileira. Não consigo com a Samba. Mas os brasileiros são muito pacientes.

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