To be honest I was really scared and nervous before going on this adventure: Going to a country I do not know, being on my own, not knowing what is going to happen. This part of the Erasmus journey might be a little hard, but I can already tell you that it is totally and fully worth it!
I was a little bit concerned how I am going to meet new people there, but it was easier than expected. Every semester there is a Whatsapp group for all the Erasmus students who are coming to Setúbal. Very soon people started to ask if you want to do something and that’s the first way how to meet people. Moreover, we had two “Welcome Days” where we saw the city and the close region around Setúbal. On the second day we went on a hike to a hidden beach which was amazing to see. In general, we were all welcomed with open arms by our Erasmus coordinator, and she helped us with every problem and question we had. For that reason, I felt quickly very safe and comfortable.
The campus consists of different buildings with different departments. To reach the university from the center of Setúbal we always caught the train, and it just took us six minutes to go there. The campus is simple as well as the classrooms. For a lunch break I went most of the time to the cantina where you can get a whole menu for not even 3€.
In the winter semester it is not possible to attend classes in English, but it is also possible to visit classes in Portuguese and the teachers and students try their best to translate. Since I did my semester abroad during the summer semester, I was able to attend classes from the “International Curriculum” taught in English. My courses were “Portuguese Language and Culture”, “Sports, Tourism and Leisure”, “Children, Youths and Digital Media”, “Digital Storytelling”, “Performing Arts and Creative Processes” and “Cultural Diversity and Linguistic Communication”. Overall, the professors were very friendly and competent. I think it was beneficial to attend the course of “Portuguese Language and Culture” because we got a good overview of the language, and I was able to use simple sentences in my everyday life there. For students who like to do outdoor activities I can highly recommend “Sports, Tourism and Leisure” where we went climbing, cycling, kayaking and more.
All in all, I really liked to go to IPS and I would choose the same courses again.
Unfortunately, the school practice was not included in the international semester. However, it was important for me to get an insight of the educational system of primary schools in Portugal. Together with four other Erasmus students and the help of our Erasmus coordinator we were able to find a school where we could do our school practice. Because of the language barrier we most of the time observed the lessons and we had the opportunity to support the teacher in English and Arts lessons. It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities to the system in Austrian schools and I think I could learn a lot from this experience I had there.
For me it was not that easy to find a flat at first. In my opinion it is the easiest to get in touch with previous Erasmus students and ask them about their accommodations. Moreover, our Erasmus coordinator, Ana Dias, provided us a list of different landlords and accommodations. I would totally recommend searching for a flat in the city center and not close to IPS. In the end I shared a flat with three other Erasmus students which I found on the website www.erasmusu.com.
Setúbal is a very small and calm city. It did not take me long to feel at home there. In the center you can find cute cafés, small shops and you have everything you need there. With just a 30 minutes’ walk you can reach the closest beach as well as a beautiful fort where you can get an amazing view over the city. The people are enormously friendly, and I felt always really welcomed.
Moreover, we discovered a lot of different bars, and we spent our nights in the club “Twelve” most of the time.
To visit Lisbon there are the opportunities of taking a bus or a train and the connection is good. For students it is possible to buy a monthly transportation card for 30€ which you can use in a quite big area.
I never imagined having such a good time in Portugal. I know that this semester helped me to learn a lot, to be more open-minded and to grow personally. I found so many new friends, and friends for life. It always felt like having a second family there and it was wonderful for me to experience that. I know that I can use my experiences in my future profession as a teacher and I am very grateful for this opportunity I had.
Author: Alrun Frauscher