Between typical villages and cities with a multicultural landscape, olive groves and fine sandy beaches, going to Portugal is a paradise for post-graduate students.
9 million people have benefited from the European Erasmus programme since its creation in 1987.
Before Leaving: Learn Portuguese
Even though you may be able to find some English-speaking Portuguese people, you will have to take the admission tests in Portuguese and take the courses in the language of the country.
If you are not a Portuguese-speaking person, it is, therefore, better to enrol in Portuguese language courses, otherwise, your application will not even be accepted by your UK university.
However, the Portuguese have a much better level of English than the French: the country ranks 20th out of 85 countries tested on their English language skills with a good command of English compared to 32nd for France (source: English Proficiency Index).
Films in the cinema are not dubbed and are offered in their original version with Portuguese subtitles. Since they were very young, Portuguese people have been used to hearing real Anglophones speak and 42% have mastered a second language (French, Spanish or English).
British students with some basic knowledge of Portuguese can get by, but it is still essential to learn Portuguese to pass the language test to be able to enrol to the university curriculum.
How Expensive Is It To Study In Portugal?
Going to study abroad entitles you to an Erasmus scholarship if you apply. Through the exchange program, the tuition fees of the host university are covered.
The student only has to pay the registration fees of their home universities unless they benefit from a scholarship.
But how much does a year of international mobility cost in Portugal?
The minimum wage in Portugal is less than £600. As a result, the cost of living is lower than in the UK. The most notable difference you will be able to find is when it comes to eating out: you can eat a 3-course meal for less than €10 at a restaurant. And there's plenty of choice in Porto or Lisbon!
For everyday food, you will also pay less in the supermarket: on average 35% less than in the UK. Beers are also more affordable. Partying will only be cheaper there but lest not forget to study.
You will also be able to notice an appreciable difference in the cost of housing. You will have to spend between £180 and £400 per month for a shared flat depending on its location and the quality of the flat. Finding a place to live is not very complicated, especially if you are looking for a shared apartment.
Of course, prices vary depending on the location, with Lisbon having slightly higher prices than Porto or other smaller cities but even in the capital, these prices remain much lower than what you could find in London.
Transport tickets are rather cheap but if you stay for a long time, do not hesitate to take out a monthly or annual subscription to public transport in your city (about £30 per month, much lower than a Zone 1-2 Oyster card in London ).
In town, most establishments accept credit cards and you can find ATMs everywhere. In the countryside and near the sea, it is better to have some cash with you. For a long-term stay such as an Erasmus year, you can open a bank account to avoid international transfer fees. Choose one of the most known banks: Portuguese Commercial Bank, Banco Espírito Santo or Caixa Geral de Depósitos.
Network coverage is good everywhere and if you stay for a long time, you can take a Portuguese package from one of the national operators: MEO, Vodafone and Optimus.
Finally, tipping is not mandatory in Portugal but it is not frowned upon either. It works a bit like in the UK, if you leave one, you can only make your waiter happy.
Be Ready To Adapt To Your Host Country
Even if you won't be too out of touch in Portugal, there are some cultural differences between our two countries.
At the university, for example, the classes are more lively and there is more exchange with the professors than in our very quiet amphitheatre.
Portuguese students do not wear uniforms but have a strong student style. They are not always very welcoming or even a little envious of Erasmus students, who they believe received preferred treatment when it comes to marking scales. It is part of the Portuguese mentality in general: they compare themselves a lot with each other and with their neighbours.
Of course, let's not make generalizations. Each person is different and you may be able to make Portuguese friends easily at university.
What often comes back is the openness and friendliness of the Portuguese who, although they may seem cold at first sight, are in fact very helpful and smiling.
No confusion with their Spanish neighbours: the Portuguese are less extroverted, more formal and committed to decorum. If familiar language is the rule in Spain, so is the rule among the Portuguese.
In Portugal, mealtimes are more in line with our British schedules than with the later schedules in Spain. Coffee is king in the country and if you are a fan, you can enjoy a good espresso up to four times a day.
During your studies abroad, you will have to adapt to the personality of the Portuguese and local customs. The Catholic religion also occupies an important place in Portugal and the family is at the centre of a Portuguese's life.
Tips To Study In Portugal
Going abroad with the Erasmus programme means joining a family of many students discovering a culture and a country while validating their diploma.
Leaving your home town to live abroad will go smoother if you prepare your scholarship application and find out more about your destination.
Here are some additional tips to help you join the ranks of expatriates in Portugal:
- Check the insulation of your home. There is no heating most of the time. Although temperatures are never very low, they can reach around 10° between December and February. Invest in a space heater and a kettle!
- It is not easy to find a student job in Portugal. Server or salesman contracts are real jobs and even if you can find them, a bartender or server gets about €20 a day... Before you leave, think about saving or taking out a student loan,
- In the evening, don't go out without a jacket or scarf. Even if the temperatures are mild, there is often fresh wind and humidity, especially in Lisbon. We're never far from the coast!
- You can order in restaurants at any time of the day, even outside the city,
- The beach is never far away but be careful: the water is cold and the currents are strong,
- Feel free to taste the local dishes often made with fresh fish and summery vegetables: Dourada, Bacalhao a brás and grilled sardines to name but a few. For meat, the most typical dish is Picanha and for dessert, treat yourself to a little something sweet with Doce da avo or the famous pasteis de nata,
- Immerse yourself in Portuguese culture by listening to fado,
- Take advantage of your expatriation to travel in the country: Lisbon, Belem, Algarve, Cascais, Porto... There is plenty to do!
Being at university abroad is an excellent opportunity to discover a country. So if you want to go to Portugal as soon as you get your A-levels, be ready to make the most of your language stay while pursuing your higher education.
When are you leaving?