Ten months have gone so quickly here in the beautiful and sunny Lisbon. The experience has been amazing and now that I have my last month to go I can´t believe how well everything has gone and how fast time flies. I have had great days and bad days and all those experiences have left a mark in my heart. I hope to return and at least visit Lisbon and other parts of Portugal somewhere in the near future.
I arrived here with my husband on September to study fine arts in the Faculty of Belas-Artes situated in the vibrant Baixa-Chiado area at the heart of Lisbon. The University is different of those that I have been used to in Finland. Belas-Artes gives you an memorable first impression with its massive plaster statues on the hallways, high ceilings and architecture from the past centuries.
The teachers have been very positive and helpful as well as the fellow students. It´s fun to meet so many Erasmus students all the time and its rather easy to make friends or start a conversation about almost anything with people you have never seen before. Portuguese people love telling stories about their culture, history and all that sort of stuff, so it doesn’t take long to get some insight to their views of the country.
Its hard for me to describe how Belas-Artes is different from TAMK ( Tampere University of Applied Sciences) but for instance it seems that there is lot more possibilities to do and learn different types of crafts in here. Whether ceramics, jewelry making, glass art, mosaics, plaster, and sculpture; metals, stone, wood in both more traditional and contemporary form etc. But there are also possibilities to study animation, photography, design, illustration, 3D modeling and lots and lots of other things. And of course drawing, painting and sculpting. Belas-Artes has lot more space to do all the things, since its a huge building with four floors.
For instance at TAMK we don’t have the possibility to do anything with ceramics due to the lack of space and equipment. I have always loved doing things with my hands and working with clay, so on my first semester I took courses with ceramics. I really enjoyed them, and even though I probably wont be making tiles the rest of my life, I really learned to appreciate the art of tile making and ceramics in general. It is not at all as easy as I first thought. It is all about chemistry and to be truly great with ceramics you need to know how different ingredients work together. You need to be a little bit of a crazy chemist and Martha Steward at the same time. And things can explode – in the kiln.
“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.”
― Edith Wharton
The city is very beautiful in itself a lot of old buildings and the culture shows all over. The art scene is lively and you just simply cant walk walk down the streets without sensing abundance of art, culture and history in various different forms, whether in music, typical Portuguese tiles, street art and traditional crafts. You can always stop to have a coffee and chat with a friend in reasonable priced coffee places. I really appreciate the Portuguese mentality that they keep the prices of coffee down for social reasons. Everyone needs to be able to have social life, whether rich or poor. That is culture for you, Finland! In here a galão costs about 1 € or 1,20 €. In Finland a cafe latte is an investment – the prices are hipster high.
At this week we are celebrating Portugal Day and St. Anthony´s Day and in Lisbon that means that the capital city turns into a welcoming village with music, food and people partying all over the city for the week. Evenings are crazy with loud music, crowds down the streets and the hot air.
There is something about that warm atmosphere and people hanging out down the streets and everything being so lively, that makes you feel part of the city. The music is really loud and people are cheery and of course the downside is that there´s now way to escape this celebration, especially since our apartment is located just above the craziness. Nevertheless its a fun experience.
I think that the exchange period is not only about studying in the school environment, but even more about the real life in here. It´s vital to get to know the local people – making Portuguese friends can help you a long way. If you´ll need someone to translate you things or to advice you with anything, it’s the locals.
During our days off in here we have gone traveling to different places: Sintra, Cascais, Mafra, Ericeira, Setubal, Sesimbra and so many other places. One of my favorites is definitely the island of São Miguel at the Azores.
Of course we have been getting to know the city very well. I already know my way around and overall it´s a safe city. I have never felt unsafe walking down the streets. There are areas to be avoided though, at least the night time. There is a lot of beauty to be discovered, foods and wines to taste and things to explore. I can imagine how in years to come after this experience has ended I will miss this.
The thing I will most miss though are the genuine friends I´ve made in here, the long conversations and the laughs that we shared. There are people at the school I will miss, like Sr. Martins, to whom you can ask anything ceramics related and he will have the answer and I will miss the lively atmosphere of the Portuguese students while they work. The students were always helpful even if they didn’t know me. After one conversation they would start greeting you down the long hallways of Belas-Artes. They really make you feel welcomed and curious about different countries.The Erasmus experience gave me a lot of confidence to move abroad again and even though I always knew I wanted to live abroad, this experience made it so much more concrete. We are already planning for new trips.
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”