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Lisbon a perfect destination for international students

Published on Monday, June 12, 2017

Natalia Barata SEE Learning Center’s founder and managing director/owner, shares her thoughts on Lisbon as a perfect destination for international students in this interview.


Why do you think international students have chosen to study in Lisbon?


Lisbon is home to one of the oldest universities in world. The University of Lisbon dates back to the 13th century, so the city has a long-standing tradition in welcoming students.


See Learning Center’s students often come looking for Portuguese language, a language spoken by nearly 273 million people. As the official language of nine countries in the world, Portuguese acts as a gateway to business markets such as Brazil or Angola.


Another important point is that Portugal is still a cheap country compared with others in Western Europe. So if money is a serious consideration for studying abroad, Portugal is definitely a place to consider.


When it comes to lifestyle, Lisbon has it all: student traditions, rich monuments, it’s close to the beach and has great weather all year-round.


Do you have any interesting facts about Lisbon?


Lisbon, perched on its 7 hills (like Rome), is divided into neighbourhoods, each one with different views over the River Tagus. It’s full of interesting buildings and hidden secrets.


Lisbon gets more sunny days than any other European capital.  That, together with its proximity (20 min from the city centre) to the beach, makes it a perfect destination for enjoying both urban life and relaxing at the beach.


Another interesting fact about Lisbon is that it is home to the UNESCO intangible heritage music of “Fado”, which may seem rather sad or nostalgic to begin with but given a little time is appreciated by everyone.


What are your top five tips of things to do (landmarks or attractions to visit/local festivals to see for example) in Lisbon? (Please give a small explanation for your choices)


Lisbon’s must-SEEs are the impressive Jeronimos Monastery and the Tower of Belem, which transport you back to the Age of Discovery.


Sintra is also very popular for a half-day excursion. Its charming village and palaces enchant SEE Learning Center's students. The afternoon often finishes with a "travesseiro", a traditional pumpkin-filled pastry shaped like a pillow.
Lisbon offers several lively neighbourhoods at night, but the favourite of every SEE Learning Center student is Bairro Alto, a traditional neighbourhood on one of Lisbon's seven hills, where people fill the little streets with excitement and joy, especially at the weekends.


Although always lively, Lisbon’s most joyful date is June 12th, when St Antony’s eve is celebrated. Each neighbourhood has its own festivities, centred around sardines, “majericos” and folklore. The “marchas de Lisboa” is a unique event, where each neighbourhood competes to put on the best parade down Avenida da Liberdade.


Where do you suggest students eat (what is tasty, what is cheap, where can they find authentic Portuguese/Lisbon cuisine)?


SEE Learning Center believes that the student's language experience is not complete without a taste of Portuguese gastronomy. The most popular cake is the "Pastel de Belem", a world-famous custard tart. Even for those who don't like fish, SEE Learning Center always advises students to taste our national favourite, “bacalhau”(cod), in one of the more than 100 recipes they can find throughout Portugal.


With more than 600 Km of coast, it is obvious that fish is an important part of the Portuguese menu, but pork and lamb are very easy to find at restaurants as well.


Each region also competes to produce the best wine. Port wine, Madeira wine and Moscatel from Setubal are world famous, but the wine list is infinite.


Do you have any useful tips regarding visa applications, accommodation or traveling around the country?


Travelling in Portugal is cheap and efficient. Within Lisbon there is a good Metro system as well as trains, buses and trams. For longer journeys there are very punctual trains and modern coaches.


As far as accommodation is concerned, there are good, clean hotels of all categories and Lisbon has been highly praised for its themed hostels. SEE Learning Center students often prefer home stay accommodation with welcoming families.


Portugal is famous for its hospitality and visitors of all nationalities soon feel at home here. The Portuguese do their best to communicate with speakers of other languages and will go out of their way to try to help. People appreciate politeness, they like to form orderly queues and they use expressions such as 'por favor' (please), 'obrigado' (thank you) and 'com licença' (excuse me) a lot. It is normal for men to shake hands and women to kiss twice on the cheek each time they meet or say goodbye. These are some of the most important customs.

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