STUDIUM & FREIZEIT
During my stay in the capital of Portugal I learnt very fast not to rely too much on the English language, that Portuguese food is delicious and that Surfing is a lot of fun. Why Lisbon is an amazing city, which spots you must not miss and how to move best around the city.
When I think about my time as an Erasmus Student in Lisbon, I associate it with lots of great memories. After all, there’s a reason why the city was chosen as the winner of the Erasmus Awards 2017 for being the best city for staying abroad. The weather is great every single day – it is sunny, warm and the climate is very different compared to that in Essen (in a positive sense). The people I had the pleasure to meet were very kind and friendly.
Like every typical exchange student, I was excited whether it would be possible to find new friends within a short period of time. Now, after living in Lisbon, I can say that this is true for the city. I made my first acquaintances within the first few days and made lots of friends during my stay. However, it is worthy to say that the people you meet are mostly other foreigners and mainly other exchange students.
Eu não falo inglês - I Don’t Speak English
There are various reasons for that, but one that has come up again and again throughout the semester I spent there is the fact that most of the Portuguese people I encountered either only had basic English skills or none at all. This made communication complicated and sometimes I had some trouble with everyday activities: You should be prepared that nobody speaks English in the supermarket or at the post office, for example. However, you can rely on Google Translate for these situations. I would definitely say that as long as I had my phone with me I was able to cope with those situations quite well. At university, the staff and the professors I had to deal with, were very helpful and proficient enough in English. Nonetheless, you can still notice the difference between them and the peers you interact with in group work. I even encountered a colleague, who was participating in an English-taught module but could not even say his name in English, yet he passed just like me and was allowed to take the exam in Portuguese.
Putting these impressions aside, I would like to continue with a short overview of the university in Lisbon. I was given the opportunity to study at Tecnico, a subsidiary of the Universidade de Lisboa focused on engineering and technical studies. The campus (if you can call it that, since it is way smaller than the one in Essen) is located quite centrally in the city and lies in the Alameda district, where you can eat exquisite dishes for half the price you would pay here. The lectures are usually supplemented by weekly tutorials and, compared to the University of Duisburg-Essen, you mostly have mandatory attendance and get weekly homework, which you are obliged to submit. However, all lecturers were very supportive and understanding regarding this different teaching system and make it absolutely possible for an exchange student to pass his or her exams.
Eat around the Clock
Moving on from the university to everyday life in Lisbon: I can’t recommend a trip to this city enough. The variety of cuisine offerings can satisfy every taste and especially for students there are many (small) restaurants that offer a good menu at a more than reasonable price (My top two picks: 100 Montaditos and Ground Burger). Furthermore, you have a huge cultural variety, including many museums, theaters, cinemas, etc. all providing interesting insights into both Portuguese and international cultures.
When living in Lisbon, you are best off subscribing for the public transport card for around 36€ per month. This way you can travel as much as you want within the city and it gives you the freedom to be wherever you want whenever you want – the subway is open for 19 hours per day and busses are available around the clock. As a passionate car driver, it was not easy for me to get by without a car, but the public transport in Lisbon is sublime. Also, parking in Lisbon is a nightmare – there are almost no free spots and even if you find one, they are horrendously expensive. Luckily, Uber is available in Lisbon, also at an extremely low cost, at least compared to transportation costs in Germany. I ended up not missing my car as much as I thought I would.
Let’s Get Physical
Another aspect I would like to talk about is sports. Unfortunately, at Tecnico there is nothing like “Hochschulsport” in Germany. This means that you have to pay for every sports course you want to sign up for. Therefore, I decided not to participate in any of their courses and went surfing instead. Surfing is an unbelievably great experience and for Erasmus students. It is offered at a very reasonable price – around three Euros to get to Costa da Caparica where the surf lessons take place and 15 Euros for two hours of surfing lessons, including the rental fee for the equipment (for more information look up Gota dÁgua Surf School). Since you can’t just spend multiple days worth of time at the beach and a minor change of pace is always uplifting, you might want to consider signing up at the gym, which there are plenty of, or heading for your closest public swimming pool. While the gyms are a tad more expensive than they are in Germany, the public swimming pools are quite cheap.
All in all, I am very satisfied with my Erasmus experience in Lisbon and would recommend it to anyone, who enjoys the warm climate and the Mediterranean way of living. However, if you are interested in going to Lisbon you should take into account that prices and especially housing prices are going up rapidly right now because of the hundreds of Erasmus students going there every semester. Therefore, it is not any longer a destination, which you can enjoy on a low budget. It is by far not as expensive as the Scandinavian countries but I am quite confident you could get more value for your money if you decide to go on Erasmus in Spain or Greece, for example. Yet, I am very happy I chose Lisbon as my exchange program city and sometimes I miss living there so much that I have visited it multiple times since I am back in Germany.