I chose to apply for exchange in Portugal mainly for two reasons. First, I wanted to do the exchange together with my boyfriend and we needed to find a destination where they accepted more than one student from TAMK. Second, we wanted to live in somewhere a bit warmer and relaxed than Finland and escape from the grey and dark autumn months of Finland. So, when we found out about the city of Porto in Portugal we were sold.
Studies at ISCAP the accounting and business school of Politecnico do Porto
My exchange experience at ISCAP didn’t begin quite as well as I had hoped for. Already on the first orientation day we were told that the exchange would be one and a half months shorter than we were told before arriving. This was a disappointment for many and also messed up a many exchange students Erasmus grants. Later, during the orientation week we were informed that some of the ECT’s of the courses were actually lower than what had been written on ISCAP’s websites. So again, many of us exchange students were in trouble, because suddenly we didn’t have enough credits. But as the exchange went on I came to learn that this was very normal in Portugal. Anything was never clear and straight forward and as the Portuguese say you should just relax and take it easy.
Otherwise studies at ISCAP were ok and I would say that the level of teaching and tasks were pretty much the same as in TAMK. However, what did disappoint me was that most of the courses I had were like basic level courses even though the when I was making the course decisions the descriptions had suggested the courses were more advanced.
At ISCAP students have the possibility to choose either continuous assessment method or final assessment method for the courses. In continuous assessment students have obligatory participation on the lectures and essays and group works that they have to do during the course. In final assessment students don’t have to participate on the lectures at all and they only have one big final exam at the end of the period. I had courses with both methods and this way only had to go two times a week to the campus.
Free time at Porto and Portugal
I started my Portugal experience with a road trip together with my boyfriend. We flew to the southern end of Portugal to Faro and rented a car from there. We spent two weeks driving along the coast up to Porto. In my opinion there couldn’t have been any better way to start the exchange.
During the exchange we also made quite many trips both in Portugal and abroad. Quite early on we made another road trip with a group of friends to the north of Spain to Vigo. A bit later we went on a one-day-trip with a company called Student Travels to see the Douro valley and its vineyards. In November we flew to Malta (with super cheap flights) and spent four days there. Just before Christmas we visited the town of Guimaraes which is said to be the birth place of Portugal. And the last four days in Portugal we spent in Madeira (highly recommended).
In Porto there is also a lot to do as long as you love partying. If you don’t (as I don’t), then you might feel a bit left out from the exchange groups and it might be hard to find other activities. Luckily there are a lot of great restaurants in Porto offering food form all over the world. Downside to this is that most of my money went to the restaurants even though they are a lot cheaper than in Finland.
When choosing Portugal as your exchange destination be aware that things don’t usually go as planned and that the culture is actually very different from Finland. For me since I guess I am a bit of control freak living in Portugal was very hard from time to time. However, travelling around Portugal and the destinations near it is amazing.