Retrospective blog! Academic Life in Brazil!

I arrived to the beautiful country of Brazil on January 26th 2010 and left June 30th 2010 and now August 10, 2010 I am beginning to blog on my incredible experiences. This blog will talk from a retrospective point of view. Now that I have time to sit down, look back, and reminisce I want to share my thoughts with all the readers.

The city of Sao Paulo is a big metropolitan city with more than 12 million people, and more than 20 million counting neighboring suburbs and cities! It resembles much of any other metrocomplex city.

One of the main avenues is Avenida Paulista, which is the financial center of South America. It is like the Wall Street of Brazil. The city is busy, with tons of people walking on the streets, highly transited by cars, and the life of Paulistas (Brazilians of Sao Paulo) is seen through this intricate and conglomerated city.

First thing when you have to do upon arrival is go to the federal police, all foreigners need to do this lengthy process of registering with the Brazilian police. More than anything, is a bureaucratic procedure Brazilians use to obtain extra $$. You have to pay around $100 USD to the bank and then take your receipt to the police, where you wait long hours (around 5) to be attended, and fill out paperwork. Then they set up a second appointment where you have to return, and get your fingerprints taken. Again wait during line, and await a bit quicker process than the first visit. The point is that the Brazilian government hands you a slip that is called RNE, which is needed to leave the country!! So, is very important! This is just one of the ways I  learned how Brazilians handle business, very bureaucratic and a bit complicated.

Academic Life— Fundacao Getulio Vargas (Getulio Vargas Foundation) is the best Business Administration school in the country, and one of the bests in South America. The university itself is not a campus, it is a building that has one library, book store, administrative offices, computer labs, a bank, cafeteria, gymnasium, and classrooms of course. I think I like the big campus setting better (UT)! Anyway, facilities are nice and comfortable. The administration could be hard to deal with sometimes. There is a lot of miscommunication and things take a while to get done. Classes for exchange students are divided in modules, so there are two modules each lasting about two months. The classes are in English of course, taught by Brazilian professors. All my professors were really nice! They are understanding of the fact that we are exchange students and can be flexible with dates and travel arrangements.

At FGV, the class format in the IPM program (program for exchange students), consists of lectures followed by class discussion. The assignments are usually group projects that include a report and a powerpoint presentation. The final grade of the class is the final exam which is an essay that attempts to demonstrate the knowledge gained during the course. I think that the group projects were a great way to get all of us to interact and get to know each other. Not only that, but working with students from Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Belgium, Swiss, Peru, Colombia, Canada, and other countries made me realize of many cultural differences especially when it comes to the clash of ideas about how to go on school projects. I learned to listen, be receptive, and respectful of the others’ opinions and ideas.

One of the most important observations and differences between Brazilian university students and Americans is the amount of hours spent in classrooms. By American standards, it is common or average to take anywhere from 12-18 hours of class per week (4-6 subject courses), signifying the same amount of credits earned towards the degree. Brazilian students typically take anywhere from 8-12 different subject courses per semester. The workload is tremendously different. A typical schedule runs from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

FGV, being a small and elite university, class sizes are smaller and there are fewer extracurricular organizations to participate in. Nevertheless, Brazilian students are required to participate in one of these organizations and fulfill certain hours in an internship or “estagio.”

In contrast to American universities, Brazilian universities require students to take an entry level exam, and if passed students are automatically accepted into the university. It is sort of like an ACT or SAT but harder and specifically focusing on the major you are applying; in this case, a business administration exam. There is no high school transcript, resume or activities taken into consideration. Some students, after finishing high school, attend a specialized school for a year in order to prepare to take this difficult exam.

I have to admit that I am more of the big campus person, and it was hard to get used to the small college format, nevertheless I loved my classes and my classmates at FGV!!!

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