This past weekend I went to a small Portuguese island called Madeira. Madeira is an archipelago southwest of Portugal in the atlantic ocean. It’s estimated population in 2011 was 267,785. As you can imagine the island is extremely small. Despite it’s size, it has so much to offer! It’s vegetation is very tropical and it’s temperatures are fairly warm even in the winter. It has very well kept roads circulating the island and lots of signs which help when you’re driving. It has very old Toboggan rides that have been a tradition for a very long time in Madeira and additionally they had multiple Gondolas that make it easy to make it up and down the island. The land is very odd if you’re from a city where everything is flat or relatively flat. This is because the land in Madeira is all mountains. There are huge mountains that reach the clouds and then the mountains drop straight down in most coastal areas, straight into the water. The mountains are also covered in lush vegetation that is absolutely breathtaking! Additionally one of the most beautiful places on Madeira are natural pools. They are made of rock formations that make the most beautiful pools. I would recommend this amazing place to anyone looking for an amazing nature filled vacation! It might just be my favorite place in Portugal.
I wish I had more time to visit more places in Portugal but my time abroad is slowly coming to an end. I only have a month left!
Here are some pictures from this past weekend!
Until next week!
Lisbon is covered in small parks where the bus stops and metro stops are located. They are cute and well kept with nice landscapes that include not just grass but, lots of plants and trees and flowers. I love visiting these small parks that are usually only about half a block in size because each has it’s own personality. At each of the parks, apart from the plants, you usually find statues or monuments. The small park in front of my house has a bust of Cesario Verde which is a famous Portuguese poet who published almost nothing while he was alive. After his death, a good friend of his took many of his works and published a book with 20 poems Verde wrote. Also near the house there is a plaque that says: “Fernando Pessoa moro aqui”, which means “Fernando Pessoa lived here”. Fernando Pessoa is an extremely famous Portuguese poet whose works we are studying in detail in my Portuguese and Brazilian Literature class. I remember seeing this plaque for the first time and being so excited and thrilled to think that I’m so close to where this incredible artist lived his life. I kept this information to myself trying not to make the rest of the class envious, not that everyone would have found this as exciting as I did. In class we discuss each of the poets and writers one by one and we had not yet spoken about Pessoa until last week. On Friday of last week our professor told us that instead of having class at the university we would meet at Fernando Pessoa’s old residence and walk around the areas he lived and the places where he got inspired. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic to finally reveal to my peers that this was just outside my house and I was living in an artists paradise.
Unfortunately for me, he never lived in the same place for more than a few months which means he lived in at least 25 different locations in Lisbon. Additionally to this, since he lived in so many places and the city of Lisbon put a plaque up at every place, people began to notice those plaques everywhere and then began to put up more plaques as a joke. So not only is it super unlikely that he lived by my house for more than a month, it’s also very possible that he never lived there at all and that plaque was just one of the fake ones. I guess I should fact check things before I get that excited again.
On a happier note, Fernando Pessoa is one of the most interesting writers I've ever known about. He has a very intricate life story but the most interesting thing of all is that in his writing he created over 100 different personas that he used as authors. He would write poems as these other characters and not always as himself. He even wrote biographies for some of them and also wrote poems of meeting his other characters. To say the least, the readings have been amazing!
Anyway, here are some pictures from Morocco!
Ever since I arrived in Lisbon I knew I would have tons of free time. I take four classes between Monday and Thursday and they're only four hours a week each. Although this seems like a normal work load for some students, it doesn't for me. I take lots of science classes which means apart from a normal load I have at least two classes with labs every semester and the labs usually last about three hours. Science classes take a lot of time and a lot work to say the least. I'm taking literature, language and history classes and I've had the most relaxing of my life! I'm glad I am having this semester in a different country because now I can use all my free time to explore and that is exactly what I do with my free time.
Every Monday I end classes at 11:45 which gives me such a great opportunity to go out and explore Lisbon. I usually just start walking in a different direction than I did the day before and I find so many great places! The Baixa-Chiado area, or the "down town", has so many streets that even though I've been there over 20 times I still haven't seen all of it. I use my fertile to make sure I don't miss out on anything.
If I had one recommendation to future students it would be to make an EXTENSIVE list of places you want to see! No matter how many places you have on your list I'm sure you'd be able to get to them all eventually. When I started my program I started with a small list of places I really wanted to see but within the first two weeks, I saw everything on my list. So, please don't hesitate or hold back when making your must-see list.
Since I realized I had so much free time, I also signed up for a gym. Lots of the students in the program try to find a gym to keep themselves healthy and fit but also to stay busy. The gym I signed up at only charges 25 Euros per month and because I'm a student, the first month was free! That's also something future students NEED to pay attention to. There are student deals everywhere! For soccer game tickets, for gyms, for museums etc. This is definitely something to take advantage of to save a few bucks!
This week is our week of break with the CIEE classes. I was fortunate enough that my mom came to visit and we went to Morocco together. We went from Tarifa, Spain to Tangeer, Morocco over the weekend and now we are traveling in Spain and Portugal and I am so happy to see my mom. I've had a cold since last week and moms just have some kind of magic that makes you feel better instantly. I was also feeling a bit homesick before she came so her arrival was just perfect! I still haven't had the chance to download my pictures onto my computer since I'm still traveling but, I'll have some great pictures of Morocco and of this coming week too ready for my next post!
Until next week!
Coming from a tropical island, I love warm weather and luckily for me it’s been an abnormally warm fall here in Lisbon. I haven’t had to use a jacket other than at night but most of my friends don’t bring a jacket at all. Days are very hot and nights are cooler but, the air is always dry. Since Lisbon has bodies of water nearby (the Atlantic ocean and the Tagus river) there is always a chilly breeze blowing. I think this is the perfect weather, but locals tell me it is soon to change. In Lisbon there is a “rainy season”. Our program director advised us to bring rain coats and rain boots too. It’s supposed to begin soon. Unfortunately, the rain coat slipped my mind but, I have water proof and slip proof boots, which is good because of the slippery cobblestone all around the city. I also have an umbrella that I had to buy in Spain before I started my program because it started to rain very heavily one day right when I started to take a walk outside.
I’m not really a huge fan of the rain, especially when a cool breeze blows simultaneously. The breeze makes it very hard to hold an umbrella without it blowing away. I also don’t like having wet feet but, hopefully ill avoid that inconvenience by using my waterproof shoes and taking the bus instead of walking.
This semester the program is very small and for that reason I know everyone pretty well. Within the fifteen of us I found a group of three other girls that are amazing to travel with! They are very easy going and they’re interested in going to the same places as I am and it makes me feel so much better that I don’t have to venture around this city on my own. I’ve got my partners in crime and they could not be better! Apart from these students that are also from the US, the program assigns Portuguese buddies. Portuguese buddies are students of our university that help us with our Portuguese speaking and also show us cool places to go to or just anything we might need to know about the city from the perspective of someone that is our own age. I’m really grateful that we have buddies because it makes me feel like I am blending more and more into Portuguese culture and that I’m not just seeing it, I am experiencing it.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit an old friend in Munich, Germany. It was incredible. I loved Munich and I really want to go back. Apart from walking around the city, on Saturday we hiked up a huge hill until we came across a gorgeous castle. It was definitely worth the hike! See for yourself in the pictures!
Until next week!
I'm so happy I've explored my surroundings. My homestay is located in a very cute neighborhood called Estefania. There are supermarkets within a five minute walk, fruit vendors at the corner of the street and cute cafes around the block. There is a park at the end of the road which is where the bus stops are located for my ride to school in the morning. The buses aren't always reliable but it's not a huge problem since school is only a short walk away. The program places students in home stays that are up to 30 minutes away from school whether it be by bus, metro or on foot. Out of all the people in the program I am the only student that takes the bus. Most of the students in home stays walk and the students in the dorms take the metro. The dorms, although a bit far from school, are in an amazing location. The neighborhood of Baixa-Chiado!
This neighborhood and it's surrounding area is and incredibly historical area that is also by the river and has tons of museums and plenty to see. We've learned so much about this area and it's fascinating history in our Colonial history class and in our City and Architecture class as well. Portugal suffered a very catastrophic earthquake on November 1st, 1755. The earthquake was followed by huge fires all over the city of Lisbon and as if that were not enough, a Tsunami soon followed. Some say that no matter where you dig in Lisbon you'll find a layer of ashes from the fires that followed the earthquake. The earthquake was measured to be between 8.5 to 9.0 on the MMS. After this very catastrophic event Lisbon was rebuilt and almost everything was relocated. They took the opportunity and expanded their use of the land in Lisbon and they rebuilt the Baixa-Chiado area in a grid like form that is very easy to navigate.
A curious bit about Lisbon is that everywhere you go, every side walk is made out of cobblestones. Some streets are too. The cobblestones are tricky to walk on since they have become very old and people have walked on them so much. They are pretty worn and they tend to be very slippery. My advice on shoes for future students in Lisbon is: comfort and traction. The cobblestones are slippery and hard so you definitely don't want to fall and you are going to be doing way more walking than you will on our school's campus. Most people wear sneakers and closed toed comfortable shoes or sandals that are strapped you your foot and won't come off easily. I've only ever seen one or two brave women walking along the cobblestones with heels. My advice is not to bring heels or shoes that are difficult to walk in. They will only take up space in your suitcase and then sit in your closet.
This past weekend we all took a trip to Porto! We took a walking tour, visited contemporary art museums and we even attended a concert in a lovely hall called Casa da Música. Porto is very famous for a few things like port wine and some people say that it is where JK Rowling got her inspiration to write her very famous Harry Potter books. For that reason, it was very crowded and the lines outside the places that she used to visit were packed. We took a boat ride along the river which lots of people seem to enjoy! Unfortunately it was a very short trip but I definitely want to visit again!
This past Tuesday I was lucky enough to get tickets to a Portugal vs. Switzerland soccer game which was a qualifier for the upcoming world cup. Portugal won 2-0. It was an amazing experience and it was so exciting to see so many fans at the stadium. Check out some pictures below!
Until next week!
This past weekend I traveled to Madrid, Spain! It’s incredible how easy it is to travel throughout Europe. I met another Susquehanna student that is studying in Barcelona there and we had a blast. This is one of the things I have to thank the GO program at Susquehanna for. Since it is mandatory to go abroad, a lot of times I get to visit new places with some of my best friends that are abroad too! What could be better than exploring a new country with good friends? (Check out a few pics below) In Madrid, we visited the Santiago Bernabeu Soccer Stadium where Real Madrid plays. We also visited Plaza Mayor, The Royal Palace and some very cute cafes where we enjoyed breakfast.
A quick note on methods of transportation:
This past weekend it seemed like a really good idea to me to take an 8 hour bus ride all the way from Lisbon to Madrid. I’m usually an adventurous person and like trying new things but a few hours before my 8 hour bus ride, there were several ideas running around my head. The idea of being in one seat, next to a complete stranger, for 8 whole hours started to bother me. More than anything it was the length of the trip that made me uncomfortable, especially since on a plane the trip is only one hour. I’ve taken long bus rides before. For example, I traveled to the south of Portugal in a bus that took four hours. The difference is that I traveled with a big group, so I wasn’t alone. I have type one diabetes and traveling alone for such a long period of time requires meal planning and lots of other details that can be extremely anxiety provoking. Anyway, when I began to get nervous I called my mom for advice and she suggested to look at the companies reviews. After a quick look, I bought plane tickets almost immediately. To be fair, the reviews weren’t horrible but I scare easily and they did not have five stars. As my weekend came to an end I realized a few things. First, given my health condition I’ve decided to make things as easy for myself as possible even if it is a bit more expensive. The comfort of a safe and quick flight is really significant. Second, It’s totally ok to be scared! As long as you are proactive and find an alternative solution to your problem. Third and last, definitely look at reviews before you buy.
I don’t know if this is childish or not but, complimentary snacks on planes make me so happy. I feel like it's a small gesture of appreciation for choosing their airline. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal but I love the little pretzel bags or a cookie or whatever.
Traveling in Europe is easy and that is something you need to take advantage of if you plan on coming to Lisbon with CIEE. It doesn't have to be Madrid and it doesn't even have to be out of the country. Lisbon has so much to see and at such a close distance. As you already know from previous posts, the south, called the Algarve is filled with beaches and coasts that have amazing views. The north of Portugal is also Beautiful too. This coming weekend we have a program trip to Porto! I am beyond excited to go up for the weekend and explore this very popular and beautiful region of the Country that I have enjoyed so much so far.
Apart from the trips in Portugal, I've traveled to Spain. I've been to Madrid and Barcelona and I have plans to visit Germany, London, Dublin and Paris if I get the chance. My trip to Munich, Germany is already booked and I'll be visiting some old friends. October has been and will be so exciting! Im so grateful to have this opportunity of a lifetime this semester. I'm trying to soak up every second. My only wish is for time to go by slower, I can already feel myself missing my host family, my new friends and this Country a great deal.
Until next week!
I've been loving Lisbon for four weeks now and I don't know where the time has gone! Time has disappeared and I'm already a fourth of the way done. I have so much to see and learn and I just wish I could stop time.
My classes began a few weeks ago and I'm at that point where I'm starting to get overwhelmed with the amount of work. It's not that much work but I'm also getting sick which makes me sleepy and lazy. I'm taking four classes which are: The Portuguese Colonial Experience, Portuguese and Brazilian Literature, Lisbon: City and Architecture and finally Intermediate Portuguese. All the classes meet for four hours each week and are offered for CIEE students almost every semester. The Language class is like any other language class I've ever taken. We practice Grammar and Reading as well as speaking and pronunciation. The Portuguese Colonial Experience is very interesting because our professor presents the history in a somewhat unbiased way which is refreshing since we have also learned in this class about how the Portuguese feel about their own history. In this class we also discuss ethical topics like whether it's right or wrong to commemorate the history of Portugal even if it does involve unsettling topics like slavery. The Portuguese and Brazilian Literature course requires twice a week readings but since its so early on I've only had the chance to read short stories by one Brazilian author. So far the stories are quite interesting and present lots of different topics. Lastly the City and Architecture course might be my favorite. This is because every Tuesday, instead of sitting in a class room I get to meet my classmates and teacher in a different location in Lisbon and we go to museums and castles and all sorts of amazing sites. All the other classes also have occasional trips to museums and sites as well. For example, our trip to Sintra was a trip for our language class. We also had another language class trip to The Pepper Palace which has now been transformed into a museum of Portuguese history. They also had a very interesting temporary exhibit about Mexican masks. I love having these class trips because I feel like they really open our eyes to each and every corner of this amazing city.
My classmates are great too! I take classes with other CIEE students but in a few of the classes we also have other European students which is great to meet new people. Next week we all got tickets for a Portuguese soccer game and I can't wait!
See you next week!
I learned this week in my Colonial Portuguese Experience class that people used to think that the westernmost part of Europe was the end of the world. No one had traveled far enough to find land in that direction when they navigated many years ago. This past weekend we had a program trip to Cabo da Roca, which happens to be the westernmost point in Europe. The area is very popular for wind surfing and kite surfing since it's so windy on the coast. The views from that point are breathtaking. (pictures below) The program trip also took us to Cascais which is a coastal town with the cutest streets to walk around. The best part is it's only a quick train ride away if I want to go back!
On a completely different note, being homesick can sometimes feel like the end of the world. At first you don't feel it because of the excitement. The adrenaline running throughout your body keeps you awake, alert and unbothered by anything that is really different than back home. Unfortunately, the adrenaline tends to take a quick drop after a few weeks. It's not to say that things aren't still exciting but, not everything is new. You start building your own routine. This makes you realize the things that you don't really enjoy, things that are still odd despite facing them everyday and more than anything the things that you miss the most from home. For example, I'm still not used to the fact that everyone in Portugal has dinner at about 8pm, and my host family specifically eats even later because of the young children's sport practices. I'll eat dinner at about 10 most nights. Coming from my university where the dinning hall closes before eight, I usually feel a black hole starting to form in my stomach by the time dinner is ready. It's not just dinner time though, it's also the food. I'm not saying it's not good it's just different. Now that I am missing home a little I was craving some comfort food. Unfortunately I couldn't find it anywhere so I went to the supermarket and bought the necessary ingredients to make my favorite dessert. I am lucky because my mom taught me how to cook lots of dishes and whenever I need comfort food I can make it myself. My number one tip on homesickness is to know how to prepare yourself that perfect homey comfort food dish before you leave. It can be whatever suits you, whether its mac and cheese or a nice burger or a decadent slice of cheesecake. Know how to make your own comfort food! Today, I made my great grandma's Guava squares. All the homesick and the longing for something familiar went away with the first bite. It's not that I don't miss home anymore but at least I had something familiar and I didn't feel like I was totally lost, even if it was just for a few seconds. Additionally, if you're feeling super homesick you should just walk out of the house! Something as simple as going to the grocery store and just spending a while distracted can be good for you! Even if it doesn't take the homesickness away, at least you're not thinking about it non stop for another hour. You could always just curl up in bed and watch some Netflix if you're feeling lazy but, definitely find what's right for you to get rid of homesickness.
Anyway, next week we're going surfing! Can't wait to catch some waves in Ericeria!
I've been exploring Lisbon for two weeks now and I must say my legs are still not used to the hills of this beautiful city. Even though there is a very nice underground metro system that I use often, my closest metro station is about a 10 minute hike up an extremely steep hill. The closest metro station to my host family's home is about a five minute walk but, unfortunately that one is closed indefinitely. Just my luck! It's not the worst thing in the world but that hill to the other station is going to get irritating.
Out of the 15 students currently in the program this semester I am the only student that takes the bus to school. By now I've learned how to use it and it's easy and convenient, except when it is ten minutes late without warning. It still gets me to school on time because school isn't very far. I can also walk to school and it only takes about 25-30 minutes. My first time on the bus, I did not know how to use my transportation card and I was just told what stop to get on and off by my host family. So, Monday morning on my first week of classes I got on the bus and smiled as I held the card. My first instinct was to swipe it as I do with our ID's at Susquehanna to get into buildings and such and that is exactly what I did. I smiled again and just walked to find a seat. The bus driver did not say anything and so I assumed it had worked. After the second day of doing the same thing again, I asked my teachers because I noticed that there was no sound or indication that my pass was working. My teachers informed me that I have to touch the pass to the monitor until it makes a sound and also turns on a green light. Once I actually saw that happen I felt much more comfortable. The first two days I was honestly worried the bus driver would tell me to get off the bus, or something along those lines and I wouldn't understand because it was angry/fast Portuguese. Luckily I figured it out quickly and that did not happen. Now I use the bus like a local and the bus driver even greets me in Portuguese sometimes! Around the city it is not very common to own a car. Most people simply have a transport card, like I do, that allows for metro and bus use in Lisbon.
This past weekend we went to Lagos in Algarve. This area in the south of Portugal is absolutely breathtaking. They have plenty of beaches, since it is on the coast. Unfortunately the water at these beaches is from the atlantic ocean and it tends to be very cold. Since I am from Puerto Rico and I am used to warm waters, this was a bit of a shock to me. I was surprised at how people would just hop in without even mentioning the temperature meanwhile, I was very satisfied just having the waves coming back and forth to touch my toes. Lagos Portugal is only a four hour bus ride away and definitely worth the trip. There are many different bus services as well as train that transport you all across Lisbon and Portugal as well. This past weekend we went all the way down to Algarve but on weekdays after school sometimes there is enough time in the day to take a quick train down to the beaches in Lisbon. The best part about all this extra transport is the price! All of it has been extremely reasonable especially for students on a budget.
Another very useful tool when traveling and trying to find your way is to use google maps! If you are traveling to another country and don't have an international plan for internet, a sim card is a feasible option. There are different ones with different costs and features but all the students so far have been able to find one that suits their needs. Wifi is available in lots of places and some people get around with just that but it does get difficult when you are trying to find a place you've never seen before. Google Maps is the app I've used the most and without it I would've had lots of trouble getting around. It might just be my horrible sense of direction but everyone else seems to like it too. The Only downside to using google maps is that if you're holding it sideways and looking for street signs, you might as well stamp the word tourist on you're forehead, which brings me to my last point about transport. Street signs are very very rare. What is most common is for the name of the street to be on the side of buildings and not on a sign. This took a little getting used to since in the US there are signs everywhere.
Stay tuned for more fun information about Portugal and Lisbon!
Orientation began this week and my legs are super sore! The initial orientation to the program is not only about academics, it's about everything we'll experience during our time in Portugal. During the orientation we were asked to take a placement test for our language class. Having never taken Portuguese before, I asked if I should be taking the test but since Spanish is my first language I was asked to take it. I got about a 50% which placed me in the intermediate course along with 4 others that had all taken Portuguese before. Right after the placement we began our first four hour daily class.
Have you ever had someone ask you a question, but you weren't able to answer? Not because you didn't understand the question, and not because you don't know the answer but because you don't really know how to speak the language. It is by far the most frustrating part of my trip so far. The problem is that I understand everything the teacher says and since its an intermediate course she expects us to reply in Portuguese, which I've had a significant difficulty doing. On the bright side its only a two week intensive course and i'll be done in five days.
When the class began we talked about many topics related to Portuguese culture and we talked a lot about food. The first presentation in class was about coffee! I love coffee and drink it at least three times a week. The teacher explained how to order coffee because in Portugal, even though they consume lots of coffee, they only have espresso in tiny cups. Our teacher explained that if you order anything but an expresso you'll be exposing yourself and everyone will know that you are not from Portugal. So, in an attempt to blend in I decided to only drink a specific kind espresso called "pingado" which means it has only a splash of milk. Something I've found really odd yet super useful and I think we should start this at Susquehanna is that they have espresso vending machines all over the university! For 40 cents I can get my tiny Portuguese coffee in just seconds. With the coffee, people also have pastries and there are "Padarias", which are probably most similar to a bakery in the US, and they have all sorts of tasty treats. The most traditional one is called "Pastel de Nata" its a custard-like filling inside a delicious flaky and doughy cup. (pictures at the bottom) but enough about food and more about the trips this week!
This week we visited a Market which was part of class and we had to go around asking the vendors questions about their products. Despite my lack of vocabulary, it went surprisingly well! I asked vendors about prices and most popular products and also bought some kiwis! We spent the afternoon there and then we spent some time at the beach after. The beach is easily accesible with the transport card provided by the program. Public transportation is very easy to use here and most people don't have cars because they're not necessary and its also difficult to find parking on the streets.
Lastly, we went to a very old and historic town called Sintra! In this town there are many castles and palaces worth exploring but we only had enough time to visit two this week. The tours were great but the views of the palaces and the areas surrounding were just breathtaking . Lisbon and also Sintra are very hilly which makes for some amazing views where you can even catch a glimpse of the ocean! During one of the visits to the castles we saw Madonna's new house! This town is also easily accesible by train so I will definitely be back for more exploring.
Until next week!
I'm Isabella! Welcome to my semester in Lisbon, Portugal!