It’s been almost three months since I first walked through the gates of Coleguium. I don’t think much has changed, but I’ve picked up on a few more peculiarities I still struggle to wrap my head around.
My school doesn’t make exchange students do anything but show up. Personally, I don’t think I could sit from 7-12:30 five times a week without at least partially paying attention.
The classes I enjoy the most are history and philosophy (by a landslide) and then literature, english, geography, sociology, and sometimes wording. Math and science here go much more in depth than in the US. For that reason, my lack of Portuguese vocabulary, and the fact I’ve always sucked at math, I sincerely have no idea what’s going on in these classes. I usually spend this time writing in my journal, sketching, or reading books.
The history classes are by far the best.
History I focuses on the history of Brazil. Right now, we’re discussing the end military dictatorship. The teacher is incredible. She’s very passionate and manages to incorporate pieces of Brazilian culture, like music or movies, into each class. Unfortunately, we only have this class once a week for two hours on Tuesdays. Tuesdays have become my favorite day of the week for this reason.
History II is just as incredible. It focuses on world history. It’s the same thing I talked about in APUSH. We just talked about the war in Vietnam and the teacher asked me to talk a little about how that influenced US culture. Somehow this discussion ended in me defending modern economic policies.
I appreciate the fact that these teachers cater to me in small ways. In history, for instance, they started talking about conspiracy theories about the end of the dictatorship. A boy referenced a lady I didn’t know and the teacher took a brief second to explain who the woman was. It’s small things like these that make all the difference.
I talked in my first post about a girl named Bela and a boy (Emanuel) that helped me with the alphabet. These are the people I talk to the most. Bela is the “go-to” person of the class. Have a question? She probably knows it. Missed the homework? She didn’t. She’s the most put together teenager I’ve ever met. And on top of that, she’s just nice. Genuinely nice. Emanuel is great too. He seriously, seriously pushes the language, which I really appreciate. Even though I’m really embarrassed to speak in front of him, I’ve learned a lot that has helped me communicate in crazy situations, like when I ended up taking the bus an hour and a half away from my house late at night.
Overall, I still really like school. But there are some issues that go a little deeper than having to wake up at 5:30 to be to school on time.
I think the Brazilian education system is severely flawed. Here, to go to college you have to pass a big test, either the ENEM for public schools or vestibular for private schools. No recommendations. No grades. No essays. Your entire application is this one test score. I am and have always been very strongly against the idea that tests define your intelligence and generally I think the US is moving towards this philosophy as well, implementing the test optional policy. Here, there’s no sign of things changing (that I’ve seen, at least). I’m teaching a 13-year-old girl English and she’s already talking about the pressure she feels from this test that’s 5 years off. That’s no way to run an educational system. In my opinion, at least. School here seems to exist solely to help people master this test.
Another notable thing is school! turnover! Here, students come and go all the time. At least 5 people that were here when I started three months ago have left, either for personal or academic reasons. We’ve also got new additions to our class.
I’ve mentioned it before, but one thing I really like is the relationships with teachers. In the US, I spent a ridiculous amount of time with my teachers and they ended up becoming some of my best friends. In the US, my friends would make fun of my excessive love for teachers, but here I think everyone is friends with most of their teachers and feels the same way I do. The math teacher sometimes takes students out to an arcade. In my opinion, that makes school SO much enjoyable.
I found out about a month ago that I can’t return to Coleguium after summer vacation. I’m kind of excited to experience something new, but I’m really going to miss it and the people I’ve met there, including some teachers. I’m still uncertain of where I’ll be going next semester (it’s a big work in progress) but right now it looks like I’ll be going to a university here to study relações internacionais (international relations). Reading and writing Portuguese are going well, but I sincerely don’t think my speaking skills are good enough for college. I guess we’ll see!