Lição 1 (Lesson 1): Arriving to Bauru
It was our first day as exchange students at the University of São Paulo School of Dentistry in Bauru, Brazil. Walking into the classroom, we quickly realized that we were the only ones wearing all white. As if our unfamiliar faces among this close knit class of 30 dental students didn’t make us stand out enough, my colleague, Amy Lesch, and I were clad from head to toe in all white according to the school’s clinic dress code. There was no clinic today, only classes. Slightly embarrassed, we scrambled to find our seats. This very same moment, however, was when we discovered how friendly and welcoming the people of Brazil really are. The professor came to our seats to introduce himself and welcomed us in his slightly broken but cordial English. Many of the students flocked around to meet us as well.
“Muito prazer (nice to meet you),” I would say, trying to use some simple Portuguese I learned before leaving.
“Ah, fala português! (He speaks Portuguese!)” they glanced to each other, surprised that I knew any. I don’t really speak Portuguese that well, but I had managed to learn to say some basic things, and it seemed to be enough to delight everyone we met. Enjoying the attention, as Amy can attest, I began using this little tactic to impress the Brazilians, albeit undeserved praise.
All of the students were kind enough to go out of their way and introduce themselves. They did their best to speak to us in English and make sure we were enjoying our stay.
Soon the class settled in, and we began the lecture. The topic: Dental Law and Professionalism. I was reminded of our classes at UMSOD on the same subject. Eventually, we came to a lecture on a Periodontology, or ‘Periodontia’ in Portuguese. During the lecture, the professor came to a slide with the classic venn diagram of the three contributing factors of periodontal disease: hospedeiro (host), micróbio (microbes), and ambiente (environment). Amy and I looked at each other and smiled because we had seen this slide so many times in our endless lessons on periodontal disease.
“I wonder if they have Dr. Fenno’s famous biofilm cartoon as well,” Amy laughed.
We started to feel more at home, as dentistry was the common ground we had with everyone else in the room. We followed the 4th years throughout the day for the first week of the exchange to classes, clinics, and even dinners and parties, or ‘festas’, afterwards. We quickly became friends with many of the students and were off to a great start of an incredible trip.
Justin Pisano is a D3.