I study linguistics and foreign languages, which means here in São Paulo, I study at FFLCH, or ‘Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras, e Ciências Sociais’. If you want to study the philosophy of Descartes, anthropology, or French, this is the department for you.
FFLCH is divided into several buildings, all of which are connected or right next to each other on the main campus. Because I primarily study languages, I’m in the Letras building, which houses linguistics and foreign languages. This is one of the aspects I truly love about this university; the layout makes sense. All of the classes for linguistics are actually in the linguistics department, not spread out in any empty classroom anywhere on campus. It feels cohesive, and purposeful.
Another amazingly practical thing about FFLCH is the class roster. In every building, on every floor, is a complete list of all the classes offered in that building, what room they’re in, when they are, and who’s teaching them. This means that if you forget, no need to panic! Or if you missed the morning class, you can find the evening class with the same teacher and still go. This is a common occurrence at FFLCH. As an exchange student, I also like to drop in and observe classes that aren’t in my schedule; this makes it very easy to find one that I might like.
Culturally, FFLCH is a little odd. It’s a mixture of the odd, semi-insecure art students you knew from eighth grade–dyed hair, pierced lips, and thrift store fashion– and ‘serious’ intellectuals , who hang out under the giant ‘Trotksy Vive’ mural on the Letras wall. Everyone smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, and carries little pocket books of philosophy. The interesting thing? Everyone here is an active and dedicated student. I have yet to see a class clown or a back-of-the-classroom sleeper. The other thing? Communism is an accepted and expected aspect of being a FFLCH student. Even the official t-shirt of the department has a little sickle and hammer instead of the ‘C’ in FFLCH.
I love my classes here. As an exchange student at FFLCH, I am allowed to take up to three classes. Any more, I was told, and you’ll have no time to explore and make friends. The average course load for a regular student is five to eight classes.
The options for when classes are is interesting as well. You can have a class at 8am, 10am, 7pm, and 9pm. All of these classes are about 90 minutes, held in small lecture rooms or regular classrooms. Chalk boards with real chalk are still a thing here. The windows are always open in the classroom, and if you suggest closing them, you’ll get a weird look from everyone.
My experience with the professors has also been very positive. They’re very understanding of exchange students, and incredibly dedicated to a well rounded and academically sound education. Class sizes tend to be under 30 people, even 15 is fairly common. This means that there’s always lots of time for discussion and questions.
One last note; at some point, nay, several points during the semester, there will be a strike. It may be a student strike or a staff strike. You will show up for class and find the doors barricaded and the lights off. Everyone will be outside, chatting and drinking the FFLCH café coffee. It will be calm, and a good opportunity to listen to a lot of different opinions on school politics, regular politics, and Marxism. The first time this happened, I was so confused. Someone told me that there was a ‘pikachu’. They actually said ‘piquete’, which means picket/strike, but I totally walked around all day saying that there was a pikachu. I got a lot of weird looks.