My Erasmus Exchange in Lisbon, Portugal - by Elvira

Why did you choose to go to Lisbon, Portugal?

Why did I choose to go to Lisbon? Well, I have to be honest with you, it wasn't actually my first choice, nor was it my second. It was one of the last cities on my long list of preferred destinations. It could have been the work of fate, or some fluke (or just that I didn't have the grades to go somewhere else) which meant that I ended up going to this wonderful city.

I remember the day that they told me that I'd be doing my Erasmus exchange in Lisbon as if it were yesterday. I felt a real mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was angry that I'd not gotten the city I wanted (which was Warsaw), since Lisbon wasn't that far away and I thought it'd be like going on your Erasmus exchange in Barcelona (when you're Spanish yourself! ), which is actually just as far away from my home city as Lisbon is. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't consider rejecting it, but a person very close to me helped me to clear my head and realise that this would be an incredible experience, no matter where I'd be going, regardless of the country, the city, the culture, etc. The second feeling I had then was happiness, as I was going to go on an Erasmus exchange, and my application for a grant, which had taken months of paperwork, of visits to the university, of meetings, of medical insurance etc. (you know what it's like) had been granted. Hooray!

When I first set foot in Portugal, I just loved it there. Its history, its culture, its people, its charm. Lisbon is special, unique, incredible, but above all, unforgettable. I'd even go as far as to say that I spent the best five months of my life there, five months in which I learned to live and cope with my problems by myself, got to know people with other mindsets and from other cultures, learned to speak Portuguese, learned how to get around a city I wasn't familiar with and which was quite a lot larger than my own, learned to fight to achieve things, and that the best form of learning is experiencing.

Lisbon is for me not just a Portuguese city, but a city which contains so many stories that you'll never discover them all unless you've been and visited.

Erasmus 2012, just spectacular and unforgettable.

Thank you, Lisbon. Thank you, Portugal.

How long did your exchange last? How much were you paid?

I only spent the second half of the academic year there, from January 25th to June 18th. You can extend your stay however, or apply for a year's exchange in the first place (nine months). The year I want, the grant was 130 euros a month, if you're not receiving a grant from the Spanish ministry (which I wasn't).

What's the student life like in Lisbon?

Fantastic. There are loads of Erasmus students from all over the world, and the natives don't hesitate for a second to help you if you don't understand something or need help.

Would you recommend the city and the University of Lisbon to other students?

The city, yes. The university, not so much. The professors were of a normal standard, not better or worse than those I had at the University of Castilla La Mancha. I had quite a lot of problems with my Erasmus co-ordinator there though in terms of her signing my Erasmus contract and sending me my grades. An administrative mess (as always).

What's Portuguese food like?

Very tasty and very cheap. The university canteen, if I remember rightly, offered a menu for 2. 40 euros (for a starter, main meal, dessert and drink). There's also traditional Portuguese food in the city centre, which in addition to being very tasty, is also very affordable.

Did you find it hard to find somewhere to live in Lisbon?

No, I used and other online sites and Facebook groups to find people who were already studying there, and found my accommodation this way.

How expensive is living in Lisbon?

The rent is cheap, if you compare it with somewhere like Madrid, or any other European capital. I paid 240 euros a month for everything (rent, electricity, water, internet and a weekly cleaning service).

How are you finding the language? Have you signed up to a language class at the university?

The language is pretty easy. Spending time with Portuguese friends is more beneficial than any course, however. I went to two though, and they were quite interesting.

What's the cheapest way of getting to Lisbon from your home city?

I drove to Madrid in the car, and then flew to Lisbon from there. The flights aren't usually that expensive - 50 or 60 euros return if you book them in advance.

What are the best places for partying in Lisbon?

El Bairro Alto is a neighbourhood full of little bars and clubs, where the majority of people sit out drinking in the street, which is pretty funny to see. There are more clubs in Cais do Sodre.

What about eating out in Lisbon? What are your favourite places?

I didn't do a lot of eating out - normally I ate in the university canteen or went to the supermarket and cooked for myself at home.

What does Lisbon have to offer in terms of culture?

There are lots of free tours, where they'll briefly explain some Portuguese history and the history of the city. However, there are also the buses which take you on round tours of the city.

Do you have any advice for future students coming to Portugal?

That they live their life there to the full, as before you know it, it'll be time to go home again. Be careful with taxi drivers (especially if they're women), as they can be quite dirty. xD

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