I would like to greet everyone at the beginning. My name is Lucie Plchotová, and I am currently studying for my master’s degree in Marketing Communication at FMK. I extended my studies because I wanted to go abroad, and there was no other option. This year (2023), I have my master’s state exams ahead of me. | Erasmus Aveiro

Erasmus Aveiro

Why Portugal in particular?

I went to Portugal for the first time with my friend in September 2020 and explored the southern part of the country. I was excited and definitely wanted to come back to Portugal. When I later thought about going on Erasmus and saw Portugal in the list of options, the decision was made. I applied to Porto because I wanted to experience a proper party and Erasmus life. However, Porto was already filled up, so I decided on Aveiro. And it was the best decision I could have made! Aveiro is not as big as Porto, but it completely won me over. You can walk through the whole town, get anywhere you want in just a few minutes, and the beach was only 15 minutes away by taxi or bus. So I got everything I wanted. The town, cafes, parties, and even the beach and surfing. You’ll have all of that in Aveiro.

What were your first feelings upon arriving in Portugal?

I arrived in Portugal a week later than originally planned due to illness. I missed the introductory week from ESN where you get to meet the most people. However, I wasn’t afraid, and I contacted people through social media who were in Aveiro. I met with some Czech girls the very first evening and went to a party where I met other Erasmus students. I remember being absolutely thrilled about the trip, and upon arrival, I immediately went for coffee and pastel de nata (traditional Portuguese sweet pastry). I waited for the train to Aveiro, accidentally paid for first class, and at the train station, my apartment landlord was waiting for me. She drove me to the apartment, explained everything, and quickly showed me around Aveiro. I was looking forward to exploring the city, meeting more people, and enjoying my Erasmus stay.

How does the university and studying work there overall?

Within the university, there is the ESN organization that organizes various events, parties, trips, and more for Erasmus students. The study department also sent us informative emails before the start of the semester, where we could pick up confirmations, cards, lunch chips, and so on. The organization worked great before the semester started. However, the study department moved, and they did not respond to emails, making it a bit more challenging to obtain confirmations or change courses. Nevertheless, everything was eventually resolved without any problems. It’s just important to be aware that complications and issues can arise at the beginning. Everything will be resolved, always.

At the university, you enroll in courses that match your interests. However, some courses didn’t open for me, and they notified us a week before the start. So I had to change some courses. Another major problem that arose was that some instructors didn’t speak English, and I had to drop one course because the instructor didn’t have materials prepared in English.

As for my field of study, marketing communication, we had all courses without in-person teaching and worked on projects and group work with other Erasmus students, and attended regular consultations with the instructor. The only in-person teaching we had was Portuguese, which I definitely recommend because it was great, and we had an amazing teacher who really taught us Portuguese! However, this is very individual because my friends had a regular in-person class schedule, with a different subject every day, and everything was taught in English.

How does student life work there?

Student life works absolutely amazingly! As I mentioned before, the ESN organization organizes a lot of events, trips and everything is worth it. The parties were great, but it is important to keep in mind that if a party starts at midnight, it really starts at maybe 2am. Portuguese people are used to starting very late and not at the time that is written on the invitation or event. Otherwise, there are plenty of opportunities to go on trips, but you have to be quick and follow ESN on social media, because there is often a limit of students. So, for example, only 30 people could go and you had to be able to buy and pay for it online or at the ESN Aveiro office. For me, definitely great, I was satisfied!

If I’m not mistaken, you also had an internship there.

Yes. First, I started my student stay in Aveiro at the university, where I was from the end of February 2022 until the end of June 2022. And then I looked for opportunities to extend my stay in Portugal because I found a boyfriend here and I wanted to give our relationship a chance. I searched through Erasmus portals and LinkedIn, but the specific portal where I found my internship was: www.erasmusintern.org. I then had an online interview, and honestly, I didn’t know it would work out, but it did, and from July 2022 to February 2023, I had an internship at The Walking Parrot company, as a Digital Marketing Intern. And it was an amazing experience for which I am incredibly grateful and which taught me a lot!

Did you have the opportunity to travel during your time in Portugal?

Definitely, you have the opportunity to travel here, but you need to be financially prepared for it, it won’t be free (haha). Although ESN organized several trips, especially to Porto and Lisbon, I wanted to go to these cities alone or with friends, so we set out on our own. FlixBus works great here, as well as low-cost airlines like RyanAir, WizzAir, or TapPortugal. During my study stay, I visited Porto, Lisbon, Coimbra, and Madeira (which was absolutely breathtaking for me). During my internship, my boyfriend and I traveled to other Portuguese cities and remote areas. I returned several times to Porto, Lisbon, Coimbra, Nazaré.

Did you experience any culture shock?

I was pleasantly surprised by how easygoing and friendly the people are. That really surprised me and made me happy. However, I wouldn’t call it a cultural shock. On the other hand, what surprised me unpleasantly was that not everyone speaks English, especially in restaurants and other businesses, so it was sometimes difficult to communicate. When we traveled by train, it was also more challenging, as some people had difficulty with English (often the older generation). And what really shocked me was that Portugal as a country is not developing much. They have a very low minimum wage, the buildings are very old, the marketing is at a very poor level, and if you travel within Portugal, you will see that only Porto and Lisbon are moving forward, while the rest of Portugal seems to have stalled and appears very old. Cafés as we know them are only found in big cities and are often few and far between. There is also a strong racism towards Brazilians (my boyfriend is Brazilian), and I felt it several times that some Portuguese people behave really badly. It is related to history, but this also shocked me.

What do you miss the most in Portugal?

I wouldn’t have believed I’d say this, but I miss Czech trains, haha. I don’t live in a big city, but when I need to go to a bigger city, I usually take the train. However, trains here run as they please and there are often strikes that no one announces in advance. This means that I stand at the station and the train simply doesn’t come. There’s nothing written on the website, and there’s no information board at the station, so it’s sometimes very difficult to get from a smaller city to a bigger one if nothing is running.

Another thing I miss terribly are quality cafes where one can sit and work or do schoolwork. The cafes here are of a very poor standard, and the good ones are really few and far between. So in smaller towns, there’s usually only one cafe that’s very old, doesn’t even have an electrical outlet for a computer, and in larger cities, they’re often overcrowded or overpriced.

The last thing I miss the most is a proper drugstore. You’ll be surprised, but in Portugal, the “drugstore” operates within a supermarket and is more of a “drugstore and pharmacy” in one. It’s just not like DM, which I’m used to, and I really miss it. However, the Notino e-shop also delivers to Portugal, but they send it from the Czech warehouse, so there’s a long waiting time (haha).

What do you like the most in Portugal instead?

What I like the most in Portugal is the climate. It’s not brutally cold and snowy like in the Czech Republic. So there are more degrees here all year round, and it’s divine. The sun here is completely different from anywhere else. Another thing I love is that my friend and I can just get in the car and be at the beach in 30 minutes. There we can just walk, go for a swim or go surfing. The last thing I would highlight is the fresh fruits and vegetables. Not always and not everywhere, but there are local markets here, and you can get strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapples, and avocados all year round at very reasonable prices in stores.

What is your biggest experience that you will never forget?

I don’t have one biggest experience that I would boast about, but rather several smaller but funny ones. The one I like to remember the most is when my boyfriend and I met. We wrote to each other on Tinder in English, but when it came to the first meeting, I found out that he didn’t speak a word of English and only spoke Portuguese. And I was like, what? How are we going to talk, for God’s sake? So our first date looked like we were both on the phone, using a translator to talk to each other. And a year later, we got engaged, and we speak Portuguese without any problems. YES, there are still things I don’t understand, but during our everyday conversations for a year, I learned Portuguese.

And the second such funny and nice experience is from Porto, where we went with the girls to explore, and in the evening, we went to a party and ended up at a transvestite show, met lots of new people, and had an absolutely unbeatable night and party with the girls!

Do you have any advice or tips for other students who are considering going on Erasmus? | Erasmus Aveiro

I absolutely love a quote from Ray Bradbury, who said, “Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” And I live by that. So I would like to say to everyone who is considering Erasmus, just go for it and jump! You will gain experience, memories, friends, and maybe even find your soulmate. And that’s a good deal, isn’t it? And even if it doesn’t turn out as planned, you will still gain great things from it. So jump and then write an article like I am now and share your story and experiences. But the decision is yours, no one else can make it for you. So decide if you’re willing to sacrifice your comfort and find your happiness anywhere in the world. Because I found my happiness in Portugal, and you might find it in Norway. Go and find yourself. Find what’s missing and what you need in life. Make the change NOW, because you will remember it for a long time! Obrigada = Thank you.

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