Tina Vardič is finishing her Master’s degree in General Psychology at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. This year, she spent one semester studying in Portugal as an Erasmus+ exchange student. In this interview, she will tell us all about her experience studying abroad — at the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Lisbon!
1.) Tell me more about your journey abroad.
I simply applied for Erasmus, which is fortunately not that hard. I met plenty of students from other countries (Russia for example) for whom Erasmus is not something normal and easily accessible, so that made me appreciate the simplicity of my Erasmus process even more.
I wanted to do a semester abroad, because I thought it might be an interesting experience. I had almost no expectations, and was just going with the flow.
2.) Now, tell us about coming to your host country. Where do you live? Was it hard to find a place to live/make new friends/get accustomed to living in a foreign place?
I live in a university residence, I decided to apply for dorm accommodation, because I saw that prices for single rooms in shared apartments are extremely high – Lisbon is in general not that expensive, but a monthly rent can cost you more than 400 euros. Most of my Erasmus friends were paying even more than that.
3.) How did you explore your new country? Anything you would recommend to anyone travelling there?
Lisbon has a lot of opportunities for Erasmus students, or for basically any student living there. In Portugal they have a very strong tradition of students associations, and getting into one is an interesting and unique process. You have to attend plenty of activities and find your ‘godmother/father’ who will serve as some kind of a mentor for all your years of studying. And when you are baptized you earn the right to wear their uniform- that served as an inspiration for J.K. Rowling and are indeed very much alike to the ones from Hogwarts.
However, for Erasmus students, who are there for just one or two semesters, this is not really an option. Fortunatelly, there are two very active organizations in Lisbon who organize events for Erasmus students, including trips. So with them I travelled throughout most of the country.
Portugal is a stunning country, with rich history and beautiful nature. If a person has the option of travelling around, I would definitely recommend one of the most beautiful places – the islands-Azores and Madeira. While flight tickets to these little paradise islands can be quite expensive when flying from other countries, they can be very reasonable when flying from Lisbon or Porto.
4.) How is living in your new city?
Lisbon is wonderful. In my opinion the most beautiful town in Portugal, and I travelled all across the country. It’s very safe, clean and has a good metro network. One thing that bothered me was that Lisbon is so full of hills, so walking can get pretty exhausting. But because of these hills, Lisbon offers some of the best miradouros- viewpoints. And guess what – one of my favourite things was watching sunsets there with my friends.
5.) What’s the best thing that happened to you since you moved abroad? What was the worst experience you had?
The best was meeting all the people here, and learning so many things about myself. The worst? How much money I spent.
6.) What is the thing you love most about your host country?
People are very nice and friendly, during my whole semester abroad I never had any bad experience with people here.
7.) What would you tell someone that would also want to move abroad to study in your host country?
If you find a room in a good location for 350€ (or less, if you are the luckiest person in Lisbon) immediately take it. Because getting a room in Lisbon is a mess.
8.) What’s the biggest difference between »your two countries«?
People in Portugal are more relaxed, they are not in rush that much.
9.) How much money do you spend in your new country every month?
160€ for my rent in student residence, around 150€ for food, metro ticket costs 40, or less if you are younger than 23.
10.) Did leaving your home country change your life in a significant way?
I think my Erasmus experience was mostly life changing because of all the people I met and things I learned about myself. I grew as a person, but I think it wasn’t because of Portugal in particular. It was just the whole leaving abroad thing.
11.) What do you do on days when you’re not expected to attend lectures, seminars etc.?
Travel and hang out with friends.
12.) What do you miss most about home?
Friends and family.
13.) Where do you see yourself settling down – in your home country, host country or any other country?
Portugal is a great country, but you have to pay for your education (not if you are an Erasmus student) and health care. Also, rents in Lisbon are just too high for the living standard and average salary. So, I wouldn’t stay. However, if these problems wouldn’t exist I would really consider it. The weather here is amazing, food is fantastic and people are open and nice.
14.) What is the most important thing you learned because of your experience?
To trust myself more.
15.) Is there something else you would like to share with the EFPSA community of other readers of the blog?
If you are an EU citizen, Erasmus is a very easy thing to do in terms of organization. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and learn more about other cultures. It’s like EFPSA congress, but longer. So go ahead and do it! 🙂