Friday, January 30, 2009


After my first introduction to Sao Joao do Estoril highschool (dont even try pronouncing that if you are American)classes became slightly more intense. My portuguese class was boring for me, because i really didn't understand much, but my math class the next morning was a shock. My class is very well versed in trigonometry, a subject I have only briefly studied. They were all preparing for a national test the next day, that i didn't need to participate in, so I the class was also fairly boring for me. I was really intimidated by the level of the math as well, and i pondered the best way to ask to be placed in a lower level math class the whole hour and a half period.
The breaks between classes are 10 min. long, but they seem like an enternity because i only know several people and even so i can't understand what they are saying all the time.
Mariana and Vera, who are friends of Ines, are also in my class. They help me with keeping up with the teacher and translating. Almost everybody in my class speaks English more intelligibly than I speak Portuguese, so I revert to English when the rapid pace of Portuguese becomes too much for me to understand or I cannot seem to get my point across.
Geography came next. Everybody warned me that it would be difficult and boring, and it was. The teacher stood in front of the class and went through a powerpoint full of notes to write down word for word. I managed to only get part of what was written in my notebook before the next slide appeared. I still have no idea what the slides were about, even after conferring with some other students and studying the notes later. Geography is definitely not the geography that a US student might study. I think it means more along the lines of the study of what triggers population variation, how far people will travel for a product and the patterns of centers of commerce, and etc.
Economics was my best class that day. I met 4 new people and talked with them, and I was assigned a seat by a girl who speaks English fairly well but prefers to speak Portuguese to me and listen to my broken sentences of Portuguese. She helps me constantly and I think I may actually be able to keep up with what the class is learning if she continues to do so and I study very hard.
My classes all finished at 1:30, as they will for 3 days a week (on Mon. and Fri. i stay in school till 6:30), so after I went home for lunch. Even on the two days that I will be in school till 6:30 I get an hour and a half for lunch. After a run on the treadmill (it was pouring outside), I fell into bed exhausted.

The next day Filosifia was the first class, which translates to Philosophy, but is really more like psychology class. The teacher seemed over the edge with the behavior of the class, and I quickly learned the correct pronounciation of "Disculpe", which means sorry, because she said it so often to quiet the class. I didnt understand much of what was going on at all. We were supposed to have Geography next, but the rest of the class had a national exam, so my next class was Portuguese again. This time I understood a little more of what was happening but I am still pretty lost as to what we are supposed to be doing in class.
Some people take notes the whole class, while others sit back and talk or text. There are two tests per semester and they both are the main deciders in what the grade for the class will be. I will most likely fail because several of the tests are coming up pretty soon and I still dont understand most of what is happening. There are homework assignments for some classes, but I don't know if they are mandatory or only for practice for tests. Maria, my host sister, studies constantly, but doesnt actually have homework. Both Ines and Maria have tutoring once a week, and I guess that that is fairly common.
My last class of the day was PE. It was very simple and straightforward, without any writing, which was perfect for me. We played a small game of volleyball after stretching and running a couple of laps and then we did some gymnastics.
Today, Fri., I had math again. Much to my relief, the math that the class is studying now is not as advanced as I originally thought. For all those fellow math students reading this, we covered the material in the first semester of PreCalc, so I was ahead of the class. However, the teacher demonstrated how to do the problems in a completely different way. I think that may be ok, though, as long as i come up with the same answers. I also had English class, which was kind of funny because it sounded just like my spanish classs with Mr. Clark, but in English. Economy was the last class of the day, and I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I boarded the train to go back to Estoril.


  1. ali,
    your classes sound interesting. I'm just amazed at the experience you're getting! It is so cool to learn things in a different country! Helen tells a great story about her AFS time--she was like you, new to the country (Finland) and had to try to understand what the heck they were talking about. The only thing she could understand was calculus on the blackboard. The hard part was that she did well at it, and her host sister didn't! Anyway, it all sounds good. On geography, let me know if you have any questions. I have a great map of Spain-Portugal in Roman times if your teacher is interested.

    Uncle Charlie

  2. Hey Alli, tried to call you today, maybe we'll connect tomorrow. just got back from dinner with ray and julie. snow here, ski tomorrow. love d

  3. alli!
    (of course my dad offered you a map -- as if that's going to help...oh boy!)
    ANYWAY! it's so exciting to read your blog. It sounds like everything is going great so far! it's weird to reminisce about my experience to Chile and the first few weeks...learning the language is the most exhausting thing. and YES -- staying out til 4! or 6am! That was rough. Do your grades count? If not, I advise that you just dont care about classes at all haha -- I used my class time to practice Spanish instead...
    Your family sounds so great! I'm so happy for you...and I've heard wonderful things about Lisboa!
    Cant wait to hear more...
    love you and thinking of you!

  4. my grades don't count, yet i think that trying during classes may be good thing because students here do spend a lot of time studying and everybody is concerned with their grades. However, maybe i will just study portuguese during geography and philosophy, because those are the two classes that i have absolutely no idea what is going on.