8 week Portuguese course
As I had never been to Europe before, I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from the whole adventure. I was very excited to experience a European city, meet new and different people as well as get to learn a new language – Portuguese – which has always been a dream of mine. Linguistically, I was hoping at the end of the course to be able to grasp the basics of Portuguese and have the ability to participate in an every day conversation.
My expectations were exceeded. I met a host of wonderful, different people, had a very enriching experience in all areas and I am now able to converse in Portuguese.
The language lessons at the Portuguese language school in Lisbon, were definitely a challenge, which was a definite positive. You feel like you are learning! I loved the fact that the teachers only spoke Portuguese during the lessons as this gets you thinking in Portuguese constantly. My teacher for the 8 weeks was absolutely brilliant – very patient, great sense of humour and didn’t only teach us the language but taught us about Portugal in general. He was also very reassuring in his teaching methods, always encouraging and getting you to improve. I found that the 3 hours in the morning was sufficient – you came out of the lessons feeling like you had used your brain! I think more than this in the morning would have been too much – for the more serious students the afternoon lessons available are perfect.
All the teachers in general at the school were friendly and took the time to interact with you whether you were in their class or not. They were very convivial and created a great atmosphere for fun learning and always made you feel very welcome. The staff at the school really did their best to assist with any queries students had and make sure we had the right information to learn fully as well as get the most out of Lisbon.
The location of the Portuguese language school was perfect – from my experience it was very central and I found you could get anywhere from the school, whether you were walking or taking public transport. Social activities were well organised, very interesting, and a really good way to ease yourself into finding your way around Lisbon.
Most certainly all the facilities are available for students to use Portuguese in every aspect of daily life – from buying your bus ticket, to ordering coffee and a pastel de nata from the pasteleria, to asking for directions, buying phone credit, so on and so forth. Lisbon is such a diverse city that you will constantly have something to do. From sight seeing, shopping, lying on the beach during the day to dining in a Fado restaurant, going to the movies, partying away in Bairro Alto till the early hours of the morning. One of my absolute favourite things to do was get ice cream from any number of cafes or the more specialist ice cream parlors – really, really good!! There is a great place near Chiado which is generally open till midnight – be warned that you may have to queue if it’s a busy night.
Travelling is a great confidence builder as well, as long as you are prepared to take a leap of faith and put yourself into situations where you can converse with people. The one great thing about Lisbon was that I found people to be very patient and happy to help you along, so don’t be afraid / shy / nervous to open your mouth. You will benefit from making an effort to interact with the community.
I was delighted with my accommodation in Lisbon and hosts. They were incredibly welcoming, friendly and helpful. Breakfast was great – cheese, bread, coffee, tea, chocolate spread and always ready at 8am. I was even lucky enough to be spoilt with unexpected surprises of ‘just made’ desserts and special cookies every now and then – remember how you treat your host is most likely how they will treat you!
I would advise future students: do your research and make sure if you are arranging your accommodation through someone else that they are aware of your expectations. Thus you will then be informed of what to expect before you arrive. Living with a host family is living in someone’s house, not in a hotel. Also remember that not only are you living in a different culture to your own, you are not in your own personal home so don’t expect everything to be as you would have it in your home.
As James Michener says: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” You are living an experience, enjoy it as such and learn from it – go into the experience with an optimistic view and open mind.
I was very pleased with the attention, service and very helpful assistance that CESA provided. My million and one questions and requests were dealt with patiently, informatively and within a respectable time frame.