I cannot believe it! It has now been 7-and-a-half weeks since I made Lisbon my temporary home. Those weeks have been filled with too many new adventures to remember (see my upcoming blog post for a list of my favorites). Making the trek to an entirely different side of the world has been more than worth it! I have been given a huge taste of Europe in the microcosm that is my university, ISCTE. The food I have tried has ranged from, “I can have it every day!” (any pastry) to “NEVER again” (bacalhau). I feel that I have grown as a person as well. Once I became accustomed to my surroundings, it became easier to focus on regular character growth and making friends. Luckily, Lisbon is an easy city to live in! Everyone is welcoming! So, I will follow my hosts’ examples, and welcome you into this lengthy halfway celebration post! Now that I have a routine here, I will describe my daily routine on a typical day. I will also reflect back on the goals I set for myself, and how those have been going lately. What has surprised me along the way? What have I learned so far? Find out by reading onward.
Tuesdays are my Mondays
Monday is a day that many people dread. The start of a new week of school or work; a return to having to think after a typical weekend of lollygagging. For me, Tuesday fits that bill. I have a lot of classes on a typical Tuesday (5 hours to be exact), as well as an 11 hour day at school. However, this day best represents the sensations I experience on a typical day. I start the day waking up at 8, and take a hot shower (when there’s hot water that is) and enjoy a breakfast consisting of whatever staples I feel like (eggs, bacon, cereal, bananas, etc.) It has to be quick, as I rush out the door at 9 to take the five minute walk to Marquês de Pombal Metro station. This involves weaving through masses of gawking tourists, and holding my breath as I pass a squadron of smokers polluting the air, and run down the stairs onto the platform.
Ominous gongs indicate the arrival of the next train on the dark platform. I shove my way into the train, and find a place to stand, as the seats usually are already full, and hang on for the 4 stop ride. I get off at Entrecampos stop, and traverse the underground tunnel to the street ISCTE is in, passing by tile art that looks like what us Americans use at the bottom of swimming pools (except dirtier). I trudge up the hill past grandmothers gossiping over galão, the local coffee. I dip into campus with a smattering of other students and rush up 4 flights of stairs to my first class of the day, Macroeconomics. My professor arrives on time (Read: 10 minutes late) per usual. This class is characterized by the cooing of nesting pigeons near the window, and the deafening roars of planes, as well as our charismatic professor, who loves talking about pasteis de nata and anything that could possibly relate to economics. That energy evaporates as I trudge out of the class to subject myself to three-and-a-half hours of studying in the library, which at least has a decent panoramic view. The environment is dead quiet, and I get lost in my work, only taking a break for a brief lunch in the courtyard. When the weather is good (which is almost always) students ensconce themselves in socializing, while also participating in the various activities ISCTE has on a regular basis in the courtyard (such as volleyball, dancing, bull riding, etc.)
I leave, sadly, to sit in another hour-and-a-half lecture, this time for Microeconomics II. This professor is much much more strict and serious, but he is a good professor nonetheless. This class is characterized by incessant chattering by the Portuguese students in the class, whether it be translating what our professor is saying, or disrespectfully ignoring him. It is not uncommon for the professor to call a student out by name and lecture them on their behavior, and how it will affect their grade. And, most of the time, the student does deserve it, because this class seems to spawn flat out disregard towards the professor. After this class, another two hours await me in the library, finishing up my homework for the week and writing many of these blogs that you read. After that, I head to my last class of the day, a 2 hour lecture on “Europe as a Global Actor.” The professor is young, humorous, and gregarious, and a self proclaimed nihilist, questioning literally everything someone says. This class is full of mental gymnastics by the various Masters students in the class, trying to get their names in the professor’s consciousness to help boost their grade.
After this class, I take the metro home, exhausted, and ready to rest my brain over dinner. Sometimes, all I want to do is go out to a bar and socialize with friends over a glass of wine or a beer.My favorite spots are Casa Independente, or Erasmus Corner in Bairro Alto. Other days of the weeks have much less class than this one. But, I always tend to have class in the morning and the evening, with gaps in between to be filled by work or napping. It is the weekends where I truly get out and enjoy myself, exploring a new neighborhood of Lisbon, joining the API excursions, or travelling on my own. In the future, I will spend these weekends travelling to Spain, Amsterdam, Budapest, and maybe France! That is my schedule in a pickle. It’s quite a day every day when you’re in Lisbon.
Action: Take Risks. Result: Have More Fun!!
Back in my second post (when my writing was woefully under-cooked; I really hope it has improved since then) I set some goals for myself in regards to my time here. I told myself that I would learn the language as best as I could, make as many international friends as possible, and to find myself feeling at home in Lisbon, like a native. How have those three goals developed since I arrived 7-and-a-half weeks ago? Quite swimmingly, if I am being unbiased. My Portuguese has improved in leaps and bounds, especially since I started the Portuguese course at NOVA. I can have a pretty basic conversation with the clerks in the local Continente grocery store, and understand essentially anything written. My pronunciation has also gotten close to top notch, as I have been complemented by both my professor, and some other locals. My vocabulary is still lacking, and that is to be expected. I am continuing to dedicate myself to learning every word I am unfamiliar with so that I have at least an elementary level of Portuguese by the end of this trip. Estou a animar para saber mais!
I have also made an uncountable amount of amazing memories so far, thanks in part to my openness to getting to know the many Erasmus and study abroad students around me! Getting to one is an invitation to go to their favorite part of the city, or to have a drink at their favorite bar, and get to know their worldview. It also provides companionship in classes that are dominated by Portuguese students who tend to stay in their own groups. I have made two amazing friends in my economics classes, Julius (from Germany) and Riccardo (from Italy) that have made those classes easier, and also provided good friends to talk about literally anything. I have also made acquaintances with people from Belgium, France, Russia, Zimbabwe, and many more who have been at events I have attended. I have gained so much for you. So my advice to you, no matter if you are studying abroad or not (but especially if you are), when you travel for an extended period of time, get to know the people around you! You learn so much more about where you are, and open up boundless opportunities. Without these friends, I never would have found some of my favorite spots in the city.
Finally, do I feel at home in this city? Without a doubt. So much so that I am rethinking my plans for after graduation. No, I still plan to graduate on time, and go into a career after I graduate. However, that career idea has changed. I think that I very well might want to work abroad for at least part of my working career. That is a testament to how comfortable I have been staying for. I am so much ease here, that I am slightly apprehensive about when I return (not that I’m not going to be excited to come home). I truly believe that the reverse culture shock will hit me much harder than culture shock did (although culture shock was basically non-existent for me). I was lucky enough to avoid the frustration stage of culture shock here, but I think I will feel it back home. Not that I hate home. I just love it here in Europe so much. So, my mind has been opened to working in an international company, finding a way to mix my interests in Statistics, Economics, and International Studies. I’m not sure what the name of that dream job is yet, but I will find it.
And that, ultimately, is why I titled this post as I did. I have been so happy these last weeks. I am equally excited to explore more! But, my future is more clouded, something I am not accustomed to, as I am usually self-assured. I will figure out my plans eventually, but for now, I will continue to enjoy every moment here! Ciao Ciao!
Thanks for reading loyal readers! Writing this blog was a joy to write, as I remembered all the good memories since I’ve been here. Thus, my next blog will be a list of my 10 favorite experiences since I arrived here! This experience has changed me, more than I ever expected. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been presented so far, and for the opportunities that have yet to present themselves to me. I’m going to keep living this experience day by day! Cheers to more exploring!