Portugal – Lisbon

Hello everyone! I am Müjde Güneş. I was studying English Language and Literature at Hacettepe University when I did Erasmus at Lisbon University in Portugal in 2016.

How Did I Decide to Do Erasmus?

Actually, I had no plan about doing Erasmus, I just applied for it and I got the chance to choose from different countries/universities. So, I had no idea where to choose, the decision was made in a few seconds during an Erasmus meeting. This “a few seconds” was the very important time of my life because suddenly I decided to go to Portugal without hesitation. It felt like the fate was making the plans for me at that moment.

Even though I had no emotions or opinions about Erasmus, after I went there everybody was saying that “It will be the most important and the happiest time of your life, you are lucky to do your Erasmus in Lisbon. You won’t regret it.”  erasmus lisbon

Yes, they were right and no regrets! (I think doing it with my best friend had the greatest effect on this.) Before I start, my first and the most important advice for you is that: Enjoy and live every moment (even the bad ones) of yours in Erasmus, because when you return you will remember every second of those memories by smiling and missing them a lot.

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Life in Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. Although it is a capital city, the prices were not high that much (just a bit more expensive than the other cities), people could always afford for fun activities. 😊 Although the people are poor in general, they are usually happy. Because mostly they don’t care about the money, they care about having fun from their lives. Even though they do not earn much money, they also do not spend that much money in their daily lives.

The prices of vital stuff in the market (especially in Mini Preço) are affordable like water(0,25€), milk(0,30€), a half kg of minced meat(5€). Also, you can usually have a meal outside that costs less than 10€ and the beverage included. If you want to shop economically, you can go to Primark and can find most of the things you need there, like clothing.

Portuguese People Are So Friendly

The best way to get to know a people and meet their culture is to live like them and do the ordinary things they do in their lives. We did not aim to do this on purpose but we found ourselves in this position, because Portuguese people are so friendly and good-humoured that you get used to the country quickly. Actually, I think Turkish people and Portuguese people have a similar sense of humour, that’s why I enjoyed almost every conversation I had with them.

On every Tuesday and Saturday, you can visit Freia da Ladra/Mercado de Santa Clara that is the biggest flea market in the city and also where I had a cup of coffee in the middle of a flea market for the first and last time in my life. There, you can have a closer look at people’s lifestyles, you can also buy second-hand or handmade objects as memories, and it can be a historical and touristic trip for you.

P.S. I bought the sun glasses on my head in the picture below for 5€ from there.erasmus lisbon

You cannot easily see a Portuguese in stress, they are so relaxed that sometimes it reflects to their job as a delay that could be annoying sometimes. For example, you can wait in a market queue around at least 15 mins only for 3 people in front of you. It could also take a while at a café to give your order.

Some Advices About Visa

The things are also slow in government tasks too, for example I had to extend the validity of my visa, and I was told to apply for it a month earlier before it expires. When I applied to have an appointment for it, the closest day the system gave me was in August. I already went back to my country in June, so for two months during there, my visa was invalid. Fortunately, it didn’t create a problem but not to have the same problem, it is better for you to take your appointment from www.sef.pt right after you arrived in Lisbon.

First of all, I was fascinated by the historical structures of every street and how clean the roads were. Then I witnessed a couple of times that every night around 4-5 a.m., the streets were being washed with pressured water.

How Was Weather in Lisbon?

The weather was very cold because of strong winds in February and March. Then it started to get warmer during April and May but the strong winds continued from time to time. In June the winds stopped and the heat was unbearable, so people especially the students started to leave the city for summer holiday. Generally, when there is not strong wind, the weather is warm in Lisbon.

Do Not Hang Your Bags to Your Chair When You’re Outside

When I was walking on the streets of Lisbon, I was feeling very safe and sound, and you could feel that those kind Portuguese people would give you no harm. BUT the country is famous for its thieves and purse snatchers. They are so professional that they steal your money, purse even mobile phone without you notice it. So, as we are used to do in Turkey, do not hang your bags to your chair when you’re outside, always keep an eye on your precious stuff.

Also, as students we are used to put our stuff on the desk to reserve it while going to wc or canteen. For example, one day, my friend (Turkish) hanged her leather jacket to the chair and there were 10 mins for the class to start. We went to canteen during this time and when we came back, we realised that the course was cancelled and the jacket was nowhere. We asked everyone around, if they saw it but we couldn’t find it. For three weeks we checked the security of the school if there was a sign from the missing jacket but unfortunately, we never saw it again…

This is just for warning not to scare you, as I said, if you will be careful then it will be alright. For example, to avoid this situation, we did not take any purse with us while going out at night. (It is okay to keep an eye on your stuff during daytime but if you get drunk, it gets harder.) We used the pockets of our jackets and took only enough money, home keys, Lisboa Card and mobile phones.

Accommodation in Lisbon

Some universities provide accommodation on their own dormitories but Lisbon University was not one of them. 🤷🏻‍♀️ So, I stayed in a hostel for a week while searching for a place to stay. I booked my hostel (Liv’in Lisbon Hostel) before going there from “booking.com” but there are many other options you can choose and they are not very expensive. Then I found a site called ONDACITY, it was a bit more expensive than the other accommodation sites but their apartments looked fresher and cleaner to me. Also, they had a perfect room for me and my friend in the centre of the city called Marques de Pombal.

So, we rented a room in an apartment and paid 225€per person, all the bills included. The other people who lived with us (2 Italian, 1 Turkish) paid around 450€ because they were staying alone in their rooms. But later, a friend from school said that she and her boyfriend rented a flat with furniture for 400€ a month and the bills included and without sharing with anyone else. As I said above, the options are various, you just have to search for and chase after the better one. erasmus lisbon

Transportation in Lisbon

Transportation was easy and cheap also. Because it is a small town, you can go to many places by walking. If you want to use transportation many times, then it is wise to have a Lisboa Card and fill it every month. Once you paid 36 euros each month, you could have limitless right to use every vehicle; bus, tram, train, underground. (I am talking about 2016, it is probably higher now. It was even 35 euros at the beginning of the year.) To go to another city, you can either choose to go by train or bus. The prices of both transportations are close to each other, but do not expect the same comfort we have in our bus companies from the buses there. 😊

Education in Lisbon University

Before the courses start, I had the chance to attend the orientation programme, however the programme does not have a walking tour around the school. So, we discovered the school by ourselves. The last thing we discovered in the school during 5 months was that one of the canteens, which was our favourite, was selling alcohol (only beer and sangria). We were sorry to discover it so late because after that discovery, we had more fun during the Portuguese courses.

Yes, the university provided A1-level Portuguese course for foreigners, it wasn’t expensive. (You can also match this course with a course from your home university, but I didn’t know that then, so I couldn’t.) I enjoyed learning it, however sometimes the courses were really boring because of the monotony of the lecturer. At the end of the semester you take the exam and if you pass it, they mail and e-mail the certificate to your home country. However, if you don’t improve yourself later, whole classes turn into a waste of time and money. And it is just A1 level do not expect to learn enough to talk. erasmus lisbon

Students Choose the Courses According to Their Interests

Moreover, there are not many must-courses as we do here, students choose the courses according to their interests. It was hard for me to find the courses in English, and the website of the school was only in Portuguese so I had some struggles about it. Over 5 courses I could take, there were only two courses in English, the others were in Portuguese and the attendance was obligatory. Two of the lecturers allowed us not to come to courses because we did not understand anything and one of them offered to give private course for free at the school. We attended the other Portuguese course regularly, even though we couldn’t understand, but at least the materials were half English and half Portuguese.

Somehow, I managed to pass four of the courses, and I owe some part of it to the international students from Portuguese classes who offered to help us about our homework and exams. The one I failed (one of the English courses) was because I couldn’t find the classroom of the course during a whole semester. At the end of the period I coincidentally found the lecturer and it turned out that the classroom had been changing for each week. Unfortunately, EU Office there, was not very helpful in most of our problems unlike my home-university, that’s why we couldn’t figure it out sooner. erasmus lisbon erasmus lisbon

Lets Talk About Exams

Their examination style was also interesting to me because every student was buying a standardized exam paper from the school before the exams. For each exam you should bring that paper, a pen (not a lead pencil), a glue and a photo of yours because you stick the photo to the exam paper. The lecturer gives the question paper and the questions include the works that we do not study during the courses. I really respected and loved the method because this way the student gets free while analysing a work of art like a poem. And your paper is graded according to how well you support your argument, not according to the memorised and single analysis taught by the lecturer, as it should be in a literature course. Another interesting thing for me was that, after the announcements of the grades, the lecturer gives you the exam paper back and it stays with you. I was surprised because here in Turkey we are not even allowed to take a photo of our own answers.

Night Life in Lisbon

To enjoy the night life and Erasmus to the fullest, I strongly recommend you to follow the activities held by Erasmus Student Network and.Erasmus Life Lisboa.(By the way “no regrets” is the motto of ELL.) If you have any question how to reach them, don’t worry they will find you at the very first day of your school, in the orientation programme. 😉 Other than this, there are two famous spots in Lisbon called “Erasmus Corner” in Bairro Alto and “The Pink Street”. Before starting the night people, especially the students, make a botellon which means gathering in a public area to get drunk and socialise, so they pay less for alcohol in the clubs or other places. The botellon is usually done in (Jardim de Sao Pedro de) Alcantara and the night usually starts in the Erasmus Corner and ends in Pink Street or in the clubs. The most famous night club then was Urban Beach Club.

Another famous one, also my favourite, Place was closed two years ago, unfortunately. ☹ One of the reasons that people enjoy night life in Lisbon is that the alcohol is cheap and Portuguese people love to have fun. One large cup of beer was 0,50€ while sangria was 2€ only, you imagine the rest. 😊

Food And Beverage

If you like sea food, you will love Portugal dishes, they are really good at it and they have a wide range of sea food. Their desserts usually contain too much sugar and fat, because they mostly like fried sweets as desserts, which is not my style. However, their most famous dessert is Pastel de Nata or as its original, Pastel de Belem and I have never seen anyone who didn’t like it including me. I recommend you to go to Belem and try the dessert in its original kitchen, even though you have to wait in a long queue. 😅 😅😅

Usually they have breakfast by that dessert and an espresso. If you order a coffee in any café, they will most probably bring you an espresso. Many places did not have a filtered coffee option, so when we wanted to have coffee as much as we wanted, we usually preferred to go to Starbucks. 😄 You can find in almost every corner, a place that makes “döner.” Its ingredients were much more various than the ones in Turkey but I like them. However usually the food of Portuguese kitchen did not serve to my appetite, so I missed Turkish food so much and preferred to cook at home. Even once I cooked taze fasülye and pilav and invited Turkish friends who missed their mothers’ meals. 😇😇😃 erasmus lisbon

Places to Visit

If you want to visit as many places as you can in a short time and also get informed about its history, then the “tuk-tuk” is the best option for you! It is a mini-car driven by the local people. You can find them in Praça do Comércio and around 2 hours you can visit the biggest part of the city like churches, cathedrals, famous streets, important hills by learning about their history and the life style of the people from the driver. The more crowded you are, the lower the prices will be per person. In Lisbon, there are many places you should visit but I will not list them all here, because most probably you will discover them by yourself (as it is a small city) and you will have many advices from many people about those places like Cascais, Carcavelos, Costa da Caparica (These two are recommended for surfing especially) and Almada. erasmus lisbon

My favourite historical place in Lisbon was St. George Castle (Castelo do S. Jorge) because it has one of the best views in the city. I liked sitting at its wall and watching the city’s sunset. (To do this you don’t have to go inside and pay.) Also, my favourite activity was watching sunset anywhere in this city, because wherever you go, you fall in love with the view. Portuguese people are also aware of that, and they have the habit to gather around some spots of the city like hills and terraces and to watch the sunset by drinking with their friends. It is like a pre-botellon and the most popular spot for this activity is Miradouro de Santa Catarina.

Unfortunately, I had no chance to visit other countries during Erasmus but I could visit other cities in Portugal: Evora, Porto, Coimbra, Algarve. In Evora, I wanted to teach at Evora University although I didn’t want to be a teacher then, because it is the most beautiful, historical university I have ever seen.

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In Porto, I recommend to spare a day for Crystal Palace, it is a huge and an amazing place. erasmus lisbon

I went to Coimbra to attend Queimas das Fitas Festival, it is a magnificent graduation ceremony which is held by Coimbra University every year. I also strongly recommend to attend this one, too if possible, because that day took its place among my most unforgettable ones.

Algarve is a continent in Portugal, me and my bestie preferred it for our birthday (which is the same day) holiday in June. We visited Lagos and Faro, although the water was freezing and very salty to swim, the water was so pure that we couldn’t resist it and managed to stay in the water around 20 mins ignoring the look of shocked people. 🙂 The view felt like we were on heaven and the holiday was a good way for us to say goodbye to this wonderful country. erasmus lisbon

Summary..

In conclusion, I enjoyed being a student, a tourist, a citizen and everything in Portugal. If you decided or must go to Portugal for Erasmus, don’t worry just enjoy because it will be the most unforgettable period of your life! I hope this article isn’t so long and it is and will be beneficial for you. Actually, it could only be the quarter of a quarter of the memories; there is more I couldn’t write here, so if you have further questions you can send a message to me. Always remember: No regrets!


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