We’ve already seen an American student’s perspective on studying at a Brazilian University, so here’s the much needed perspective of a Brazilian student, written by new Portuguese Blog authors, Luke and Daniela. We are looking forward to seeing more contributions from this team of linguists and Portuguese translators in the near future.
UNIVERSITY IN BRAZIL – A BRAZILIAN PERSPECTIVE
I am a born and bred Brasilera and I am on the verge of graduation from the PURCS University in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil after having studied linguistics for the last 5 years. I would like to enlighten you all as to what it is like to study at University in Brazil. Going to university in Brazil is a great challenge: financially, academically, socially and personally and for these reasons it is still considered a great honour and real achievement to graduate, especially from a well known university such as PURCS.
The system in Brazil is very different from western systems, whereas in the USA or UK financial assistance is more accessible, in Brazil, students have to work to pay for the privilege of studying. This normally means that courses are held during the evening so that the majority of students can work to fund their studies. Many do not complete their course work as they cannot afford the fees, particularly for private universities where tuition is very costly by western standards, regardless of wage differences. There are scholarships available, but only on certain courses and places are reserved only for the best students. The majority of scholarships are for teaching or public sector courses with a particular job of field in mind.
The quality of teaching is normally of a high standard but I will admit that there is a more relaxed approach to teaching and classroom discipline, but this does not detract from the difficulty of the end of year exams and the amount of work expected to be produced at the end of the year. Prospective exchange student should remember that this is Brazil, and we are more relaxed that German, UK or American Universities. Learning to absorb a new culture and adapt to that learning is essential if you are to learn and progress in a style that perhaps you are not accustomed to.
The educational and, dare I say, disciplinary issues currently causing problems in Brazil stem from our primary and secondary education schools. They are underfunded and teachers are way underpaid. A typical primary school teacher earns 750 Reals (430 USD) per month, bearing in mind the high cost of living in Brazil this is hardly a motivational wage to be an inspiration to your students. The result is wave after wave of the younger generation finishing secondary school without the maturity for university, university for many is where you develop your academic maturity, thus causing many classroom difficulties.
In terms of research and development, the majority of referencing still comes from the USA and Europe but we are developing our own national research with universities such as Sao Paulo and PURCS contributing on an international level to scientific and humanitarian research. Furthermore we have an extremely rich arts and literature culture, with influences from a diverse number of cultures be it Africa, Latin America or Europe.
One of the things that surprise many westerners is Brazil’s strong connection with Asia and China. We have huge amount of exchange students from China that come here to learn Portuguese, understand Brazilian culture and participate in all courses including the most demanding. If you come on an exchange to a Brazilian university you should expect to have a very multicultural experience indeed.
One of the advantages of studying at a Brazilian university is the amount of contact time with leaders in the field that you can obtain. High class lecturers will always make time for their students, talking after class, responding to emails, the majority of the lecturers teach because they love to do so, rather than for building a strong personal status in the academic community, this may be more common in more western institutions.
I love to study, and these institutions have provided the opportunity of millions to educate themselves in what many might call a “developing” region. Harvard may not be based in Brazil, but in a society that has suffered greatly in the past we are proud of how much we have achieved and I am sure we will continue to develop our great education systems for the foreseeable future.