Abroad Experience in Lisbon, Portugal

Patrick S.

University: 
Study Period: 
Spring 2016
Academic Level:  Master
   

3From February 2016 until July 2016 I have been studying Information Systems and Computer Engineering at the Instituto Superior Técnico as part of a semester abroad. At the beginning, I was not convinced of the usefulness of an international semester abroad and also deterred from the organizational effort. Nevertheless, I took part in IS-Link's program and I was more than positively surprised. Not only the organizational effort was lower than expected, but also the accumulated experiences and the new social contacts left behind an instructive time.

 

Planning

The first step is to apply at IS-Link for an exchange with the chosen university. In the case of approvement, you can start selecting courses at the partner university. With the selected courses, a learning agreement is agreed upon, which is checked for an acknowledgment of the courses at the home university. Last, an online application at the Instituto Superior Técnico, indicating the courses to be taken, is required. This application leads to a further learning agreement, which has to be signed by the department and institutional coordinator of the home university. After uploading this learning agreement to the Instituto Superior Técnico, you are officially registered as a student there.

As I stayed within Europe, neither residence permits nor a passport were required. The statutory health insurance was also sufficient. As a precaution, I nevertheless concluded a private health insurance for stays abroad (~26€/month), which included costs for dental and private medical treatments. Otherwise, in Portugal it  ould be necessary to go to the hospital for any disease. I also applied for a credit card to be able to rent a car in Portugal. These hired cars are convenient there and allow quick trips to more deserted locations. That´s all. No additional arrangements were necessary except searching for an accommodation.

 

Accommodation

Before leaving for Portugal, I searched online for various accommodations around the university. There were enough offers. But from experience reports I knew that the photos of the ads do not often correspond to the reality. So, before renting an unseen room for six months, I decided to book a temporary accommodation on Airbnb and to look for suitable rooms on-site. After my arrival, it only took a week until I found a room near the university with good access to public transport. The average rental price for a room in Lisbon is currently about 350€/month including electricity, water and internet. But many of the accommodations have no fixed heating and the winter can be cold so that a heater may be necessary.

 

4Studying at the Instituto Superior Técnico

The Instituto Superior Técnico offers several introductory courses for IS-Link students, in which mentors present the student life at the university and are ready to answer any questions regarding the studies. Normally, it is about timetables and the exchange of experience on specific courses. But the mentors are also willing to inform about nonuniversity activities. This mentoring program goes over the whole semester and offers a direct contact person who can help you if any problem occurs.

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The courses usually consist of a lecture and an exercise, whereby the lecture provides the theoretical background for the exercise in which you get practical experience by using the knowledge in a particular project. Furthermore, certain courses co-operate with real existing companies in Lisbon to provide a more realistic application. Such projects helped me to get in touch with locals and to improve my capacity for teamwork in international projects at the same time. Regarding the teaching language, most of the courses d  not specify one. It is taught in Portuguese until someone attends the course, who does not speak Portuguese. The documents are always in English independent from the spoken language.

 

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Living in Lisbon

Lisbon and the surrounding area offer many cultural attractions, beaches and leisure activities. Combined with the lower cost of living compared to Germany, Lisbon is an ideal destination for students. In particular, basic food is more favourable in Portugal and in general you should count with 600-800€ per month. Because of the variety of public transportation (bus, train, subway, taxi, uber) a car is not necessary. But the "Viva Card", a monthly ticket for bus, metro and train in Lisbon (~35€/month) is recommended. During my stay I had no language barriers. Even older locals spoke understandable English. Portuguese people are very open-hearted and always ready to help foreigners. As in many other cities in the world, it is important to pay attention to pickpockets. Nevertheless, I always had a secure feeling. Even at night.

 

Traveling through Portugal

Portugal has a good network of buses. Thus, cities like Faro (Algarve) and Porto can be reached within a few hours for less than 20€. For Porto it is also recommended to look at low-cost flights. These flights are often offered for 10€. Although there are only ~300km between Porto and Lisbon, linguistic and culinary differences can be identified. In addition to the big cities, I would also recommend to visit smaller towns or villages in the middle of Portugal. Far from the tourists you get a better insight into the Portuguese mentality.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the Instituto Superior Técnico offers highly competent lectures and is well prepared for foreign students. Lisbon is also well prepared for foreign students and does not pose any obstacles in terms of accommodation, language or public transportation. Although I was not convinced of the usefulness of an international semester abroad, now I would do it again at any time. I could increase my professional knowledge at the university, improve my linguistic competence and enhance my intercultural communication skills in a beautiful city with very friendly people.