There is a word which only exists in the Portuguese language; ‘Saudade’. It’s described as being a feeling of melancholy or nostalgia in relation to something being absent from you associated with the Portuguese character, and I think this a perfect way to describe how I feel when thinking about my year abroad in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Now looking in retrospect, I want to give a couple of tips about spending time studying abroad.
Join any international student organisations you come across.
This is a very important tip in my opinion as some of my closest friends I met through events by organisations for Erasmus students. They hosted a variety of events although admittedly some were very boozy, more cultural options were available. I visited the popular Algarve region and had an amazing day at a beautiful hidden beach, some highlights of my time abroad. These organisations definitely were a blessing during my time in Lisbon and can often be found on Facebook before you arrive. In my case they were also available to help you with accommodation, sim cards and other general problems you may have. The kind of organisations may differ for each study abroad destination but this one big thing I would definitely suggest looking into for students going abroad.
Do your research regarding accommodation.
Some destination universities offer accommodation to exchange students however this isn’t always the case. I lived in a private student residence for international students and it was the perfect place for me. I was living with people from all over the world and it began to feel like a home from home and I had my own Lisbon family. I would definitely recommend living in a residence where possible, especially if you are arriving alone, as this does mean meeting lots of people and always having some one around if home sickness should strike. Some people prefer to sort accommodation out prior to arriving or some prefer to arrive, stay in a hostel and then book their accommodation but the thing to remember is to ensure the landlord is trustworthy to avoid being caught out.
Attempt to do things outside your comfort zone.
Studying abroad in itself is one big leap from most people’s comfort zone and it does feel like after you’ve been brave enough to do this, everything else seems so much easier to face! On one of my first nights I decided to take the leap and attend a bar crawl alone which seemed quite daunting but it really paid off after meeting lots of friendly people and I was really glad I did it afterwards. I also tried surfing for the first time which before I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing but by the end of my second semester it ended up being a highlight for me and something I’d love to try again. Being around like-minded people who are all willing to try new things is very encouraging and can give you a whole new outlook to bring home with you to apply to your social life and also your professional career.
Don’t forget to take it all in
Your time abroad will fly by; so make sure sometimes you take a moment to really take in your surroundings. It’s one of those experiences that is unforgettable, incredible and 100% worth it. In Bairro Alto a popular drinking area in Lisbon there was a quote on the wall of the Erasmus Corner reading: ‘Erasmus is not one year of your life but your life in one year.’ The author is unknown but I can definitely relate and I’m sure in retrospect, you will too.