On Friday I visited the Seropédica campus of the Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ). This campus is the first and largest campus of the university. It is about thirty-minutes away from the Nova Iguaçu campus when traveling by car, without traffic. I was not entirely sure what to expect. I was told that the campus is a lot bigger than the Nova Iguaçu campus, but since Nova Iguaçu is small I did not know what “a lot bigger” actually meant. On Friday, I found out that it means “huge.”
The Seropédica campus occupies 3,439.6 hectors of land. It offers 2565 student spaces (vagas) annualy and 40 undergraduate majors. Driving to the Seropédica campus from Nova Iguaçu, the first thing I noticed were the bike paths that surround campus and provide an alternative mode of transportation for commuting students. The bike paths began long before the main entrance, where security allowed us to pass and a large circular drive-way leads up to the main building. Other buildings on campus included the library, student housing, department buildings, and maintenance buildings. None of these were too close to the front building, which is the first place where the university operated.
Touring the main building, I recognized all the signs that this was a university space. Unlike at Nova Iguaçu, where there are not many extra-curricular activities, billboards advertised a number of events and student groups. Others offered information on housing and ads for rooms available in the area. While Nova Iguaçu is shaped in the shape of an “H”, with a ramp system in the middle, a courtyard occupied the center of the main Seropédica building. Complete with a pond, fountain, and garden, the courtyard is a scenic space for talking with friends, reading, and relaxing. Classrooms make up the surrounding three-story sides of the building. On the first floor, there is also a university post-office, bank, bookstore, museum and auditorium. The museum documents the history of UFFRJ and the founding of the first campus. The auditorium is used for events such as graduations. Like campuses in the U.S., the bookstore was well-stocked but very pricey.
On the other side of campus, students reside in on-campus housing. The residential part of campus consists of about five apartment buildings, a cafeteria and a student health center. The residential side of campus is also close in proximity to the campus’s gym and fitness center. While most of the university’s students do not live on campus, this option is very useful for students who are coming from out of state; on-campus housing makes the university more accessible to people across the country.
Only eighty kilometers outside of the city of Rio de Janiero, the university is also accessible to students living in Rio, although commuting can sometimes be difficult with traffic. Buses operate daily in order to help students move across campus and between Seropédica and Nova Iguaçu. They are especially important at night since the campus is open and it is not always safe to walk between buildings. There are no buses (or metros) that run directly from Rio city to Nova Iguaçu and Seropédica, although many people have commented that such a system would be very useful.
While my visit to the Seropédica campus was short, I can easily see why most people think of this campus when UFRRJ is referenced. The size of the main campus is comparable to universities in the United States and the politics and administration for the other campuses run through the Seropédica campus. All major events, such as graduation, also take place at this campus. Although the largeness of the university may cause some difficulty in communication and administration for the other campuses at Nova Iguaçu and Tres Rios, which must always rely on the Seropédica campus, there are also benefits with being associated with one of the largest and oldest federal universities in Rio de Janeiro.