A semester abroad does not only mean studying in another country, but it also means an incomparable intercultural experience. During my semester abroad, I got the opportunity to experience Portuguese culture from its origin. This report will reflect on my study abroad experience and give some practical hints and advice on how to plan your study abroad in Porto, Portugal.
Located just a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, Porto, overlooking the Douro River, has one of the most beautiful old towns in the world, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From October 2022 on, I, Lara Sophie Lichius, had the opportunity to spend my semester abroad at IPAM Porto in Portugal. The university, which is specialized in the field of marketing, offers a variety of courses with a combination of theoretical concepts and practical implementation taught by academic professors but also by lecturers who come directly from the industries. Get inspired and enjoy the beautiful and exciting city of Porto.
Porto is the destination of choice for many students every year for various reasons. Consequently, it creates a great student atmosphere, which is something every Erasmus student desires. There are many bars and clubs in the city that are very popular making it really easy to meet new and interesting people. Rua das Galerias de Paris is a very popular street for young people to go out and have an amazing time. Besides partying, you will be surprised by the great cultural offer and the friendliness of the people. You will have the chance to discover everything Porto has to offer, but I can already tell you that you will love it! There are many historical parks, museums, statues, cathedrals, and viewpoints. The most breathtaking sunsets you will enjoy from Jardim do Morro, the typical Pastel de Nata you have to enjoy at Manteigaria and the most cultural highlights are the church des Clérigos, the Ribeira or the Cathedral of Porto. What I like best, however, is simply strolling through the city and discovering great new places for myself. As soon as the sun came out, I always spent a lot of time in Foz at the sea and enjoyed some pizza or a glass of Port wine with friends.
During my semester I decided to study the subjects “Global Economics”, “Trendspotting and Future Thinking”, “Cross-Cultural Studies”, “Integrated Marketing Communications, and “Interpersonal Skills”. These classes were around 2-6 credits each and were held once a week for 2 hours mostly during the morning. This gave me the opportunity to explore Porto during the day. Most of my professors were extremely helpful and always available to answer questions. When selecting the courses for the exchange year, I would advise avoiding choosing courses from different semesters as it will lead to overlaps in the week, and in my case, I wasn’t able to change courses after applying for my first choice. Two different course models were offered at the university. You can choose between a continuous evaluation that is highly recommended by myself but also by professors or a final exam. However, the lecturers and I advise you to choose the continuous evaluation as you have the chance to participate in interesting projects and work together with internationally operating companies. Compared to the CBS, you have a significantly higher effort during the semester, but you also won’t have a concentrated exam phase at the end. In most cases, the evaluation is made up of attendance, participation, group work, a paper, or a test. As an Erasmus student, you are allowed to be absent 4 times during the entire semester. Generally speaking, the effort is greater, but the courses are not significantly harder. I was extremely disappointed with the work ethic of the Portuguese students who, to my surprise, often did not take responsibility and whose interest was definitely not in active participation in group work. The work ethic, the willingness to perform, and the reliability of the students often left much to be desired, so many of my friends and I had the experience that mostly the work had to be taken over for several group participants. With this knowledge in mind and a little bit of a relaxed mindset and your own sense of responsibility, however, the projects can be managed very well because of the background knowledge that you are equipped with from CBS.
At the Universities in Portugal your final grade for a course is made up of many individual grades. More specifically the average of your scores for class attendance, paper, quizzes, homework, and presentations will determine your final grade, ranking from 0-20.
Regarding the overall organization of the university, I, unfortunately, must point out that there is room for improvement in many aspects. Whether it is the online student portal that is unfortunately only partially available in English, some courses overlapped even during the semester due to some changes in the teaching system, information that was only available in Portuguese, or the general organization that was very intransparent. However, all these factors are bearable with the right mentality.
Porto is an ideal starting point for traveling through Portugal and Spain. There are several bus companies for example Flixbus with which you can travel around the country cheaply. In addition, there are fast trains from the main station to all directions of the country. The prices for these are much lower than German ICE prices. The entire Algarve, Lisbon, or small cities like Lagos or Sintra are definitely worth a visit. Some of us were lucky enough to be able to fly cheaply to Madeira, the so-called island of flowers, or even Marrakesh. I can highly recommend joining the Erasmus club which offers great trips around Porto for very cheap prices and is ideal to make friendships that will last.
Porto is compared to other cities not too expensive. As with many larger cities, Porto is experiencing a significant increase in tourists in recent years, which has also led to higher prices for living and rent. The costs of living in this city are usually around 400-500 per month. With an acceptance letter from your university, you will also receive a discount on your monthly metro card which is available for around 30 euros for all city zones.
Compared to other cities in Portugal, Porto is relatively cheap. However, I would advise everyone who wants to spend their semester abroad in Porto to start searching for an Apartment early as there are increasingly more students coming to Porto every year. I would advise keeping special attention to the furnishing of the apartments as many flats are not equipped with central heating which will be a big problem during the winter or are in very poor conditions. If you are willing to spend a bit more money on your apartment (400-600 €) I can highly recommend booking an apartment at student housing like Livensa Living or Live. They are furnished and have a pool, a gym, common areas, access control, and 24/7 reception. These housings are also perfectly located as they are situated near to the city center but also well connected to nearby metro and bus stations. In the university itself, you will also receive advice on how to find an apartment within a few days. There are also groups on Facebook where apartments are rented out but watch for scammers. Uniplaces is also recommendable. Generally, it makes sense to check the location of the apartment in advance and to see if it is located near a metro station. The metro system in Porto works very well and living next to a station makes daily life a lot easier,
My semester abroad at IPAM Porto was just fantastic! There is an incredible amount to discover in Porto – it never gets boring, and the people are amazing. If you are looking for a practical course of study and want to experience one of the most exciting cities in Europe, full of history, traditions, and charm, IPAM Porto is the right place for you.
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