Want to do your exchange in an affordable, warm and idyllic location? Porto, Portugal might be the right choice for you! Even though the winter months might be quite rainy and a bit chilly, there is plenty of sunshine and warm weather well until November. Budget won’t be an issue either as a nice lunch will cost you only 5 euros in the center and 3€ if you use the services of ISCAP, the university.
I was surprised about the level of English, it is rather good in Portugal and the classes at ISCAP were actually held in English. The classes were quite similar to the ones in TAMK: there’s group work, some lectures and tests. There were two major differences: some classes were held even in the evening and students could choose between final or continuous assessment. In final assessment participation was not mandatory and there would be one final exam in January per course. Continuous assessment meant that 75% of the classes should be attended and there would be lighter tasks such as a group project and mini tests delivered throughout the course until Christmas. Like most, I chose the latter option.
I lived in a shared apartment with 11 other exchange students. I think for exchange, it is a good option as it forces you to make friendships, learn about different cultures and get involved more easily to free time activities.
Portugal is a more collectivist country compared to an Individualistic one of Finland. Yes, TAMK and Tampere has plenty of student activities to offer but I felt in Portugal people see them more as “we” rather than “I”. A great way to get involved in the local culture is by joining a sports group in the university. It was a nice experience to be part of the university team. In addition to practices and games, the collectivism can be noticed by for example pre-game lunches where all teammates are expected to participate before the battle.
If you really want to learn Portuguese, you should get involved in activities with the locals. As my studies were in English, I really needed to have some other places where I could maintain my Portuguese skills I’ve acquired from my high school exchange to Brazil. Not only did I play games with the ISCAP team but I also was welcome to be a part of a private futsal club, Sporting Clube de Silvalde. There I had to deal with the European Portuguese, learn new types of practices and some habits from the locals. It was a nice custom entering the locker room as teammates greeted every single person by handshakes. This is once again a difference between the Portuguese and Finns. Nothing wrong with the Finnish ways but it was nice to experience a more open and collectivist culture also.
In conclusion, exchange is mainly what you make of it. There are many possibilities to join student activities, make friendships with locals and even focus on studies if that is what you want. I had a nice experience on exchange, I hope you as well reading this blog post.