My name’s Alex and I am studying modern languages, I have just completed my year abroad in Lisbon, and here is my experience:

When I first arrived in Lisbon it was an uncharacteristically overcast and miserable day, but this wouldn’t be able to dampen my excitement. The buildings, multi-coloured and clean, were a constant and beautiful reminder of the newness of the city in which I found myself. I remember sitting in the back of an Uber, with a particularly grumpy driver, staring out of the window and acquainting myself with the alien roads -and moreover, with driving on the wrong side of the road!

After a short ride from the airport, I arrived at my destination -my new home for the year. A small and nondescript door stood before me, placed as an afterthought between a hair salon and a travel agents. However, upon peering through the postcard-sized window I saw a pleasant staircase –phew. Once the landlord’s representative had arrived to let me in, and had shown me the apartment and its common areas (I was sharing the apartment with 9 other people), I was left to my own devices in my new home. This is when the first wave of realisation struck me, I was going to spend a year living in a totally new country! For the first day or two I was a little anxious and homesick, but these feelings passed quite quickly. What helped me the most was simply walking around the city. Maybe subconsciously even at the time, but now I can recognise why this helped so much: living in a new and alien city is overwhelming and terrifying, but nothing will stay new and unknown forever. With every road and alley I explored, with every new cafe in which I shakily ordered coffee, Lisbon began to feel more familiar and homely. After barely a week I felt almost settled; well at least I was no longer feeling homesick or anxious. This was in part aided by the fact that my university term hadn’t begun which allowed me to freely take the time to acclimatise to my surroundings.

Another thing which helped a lot with the process of settling in was the people with whom I was living. We were all internationals, meaning we were all in the same boat in regard to having to get used to a new city. As it turned out we arrived in the flat one by one every other day, which allowed for us to get to know eachother well without it being too much to handle at once. Quickly, we formed a strong friendship which would last the whole time we spent together (and hopefully will endure for much longer). Together, alongside other friends, and friends of friends, we would explore the city and its surrounding areas and discover the beauty of Lisbon’s old buildings and the more rural areas in the city’s vicinity.

Soon after feeling fully comfortable living in Lisbon, the university term started, and I was thrust into a new environment with new teachers and teaching methodologies. But by this point, I had started to embrace the change and loved every second. Around this point my language abilities really began to grow and develop, which provided me much confidence as I could see my improvements week by week. I think that the thing which helped me most in my time studying at the new university was the fact that I was able to strike a balance between study, research, and free time. I was working constantly but because of this, I had a regular free time schedule which prevented a lot of the stress which I had expected.

Truthfully, a lot of time passed this way -I would attend university and do independent work during the week, and during the weekends I would go out, explore, party and have fun. It probably sounds like a cop-out but there was really nothing new to write about up until the end of my time studying in Portugal -almost every week followed this structure, but this is not to say that I didn’t love it because I did.

With the end of my time abroad approaching, the deadline for my reearch project was looming ever closer and it was time to really put the effort in for the final stretch. Thankfully, due to my regimen throughout the year, I was not under as much pressure as I could have been -I had budgeted my time successfully and the only thing which remained for me to do was make the finishing touches to the piece. Once I had handed it in, everything seemed to get a little brighter and the weight on my shoulders lifted.

Overall, I can only speak positively about my time abroad -I have really loved it, every second of it. The most important thing I can take away from my time here is the experience of being the foreigner in a country, I feel as though this has given me not only an insight into the lives of so many people, but also an appreciation for the differences in cultures and countries. There are many things that I will sorely miss about Lisbon and Portugal, just as there have been many things which I have sorely missed about the UK; but beyond missing the country and my life here in Lisbon, I am excited to bring with me my experiences from here to help me in my future!

YA in Lisbon -beginning to end

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