When I entered the room for the first time where my first class of the week is held at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, I was greeted by the eery silence of a dark, empty classroom. Twenty five minutes passed and I was still alone in the dark. Neither the professor nor the students showed up. Where was everybody?
As I later learned, and will never truly understand, Brazilians don’t go to class for the first week or two of the semester. Out of four classes that I attended, the professor showed up to two, and the students to one. This has been frustrating, since the classroom is normally the easiest place to meet people at the beginning of the semester. However, Brazilians love English and Americans, and have definitely not been shy about approaching us, whether they speak English or not.
Regardless of whether or not people are in class, PUC’s tiny campus is always full of students. While nobody was in class the last two weeks, everybody was at the barzinhos (little bars) for a quick 10:00am beer. Night classes are popular in Brazil since many students work during the day, so the campus has a lively, jovial feel all day almost every day. It’s also a meeting spot on Friday and Saturday nights where people meet to drink cheap booze before heading out to the clubs in other neighborhoods of São Paulo. The student body gives off a somewhat bohemian vibe, and would be considered very liberal by American standards. The university was also an unfortunate victim of the dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, and since the fall of the dicatorship the police have not been allowed by law to enter the premises of the university. The extremely relaxed culture, cheap alcohol, liberal attitude, and lack of law enforcement combine to create almost the exact opposite environment of what I have experienced at Georgetown.
Now that I am fully matriculated, have a set schedule, and people are actually going to class, I’m looking forward to the rest of my semester at PUC. Although I hope it won’t be too much of a shock when I return to Georgetown, where it is unacceptable to go to class half an hour late.