SBE abroad - Portugal December 1st, 2016

What made you choose Portugal?
I had three criteria based on which I chose my destination:

  • I wanted to go to a warm place.
  • I wanted to live in a city that is cheap(er than The Netherlands). Regarding the costs of living, rent is roughly the same as in Maastricht, so you will spend between 300 and 400 euros on a decent room. Initially I was relying on the fact that I'd receive an Erasmus grant, but unfortunately the whole sum amounted to 630 euros for the whole semester, which is enough to cover roughly one month. Supermarket prices are lower (meat is especially cheap) and going out is always decently priced, not to mention that nothing beats a one-euro kebab or 1.5 euro sangria. Travelling and public transportation are also not very expensive, but in this respect, costs will add up quickly since there are a lot of temptations.
  • I wanted to go to a big city. Lisbon is not huge, but it is still a capital-city. You will find everything you need here and most importantly, there is a big supply of activities. Not only is ESN present, but so are two other organisations whose names both contain the word Erasmus. Confusing, no? Essentially, during September, there are at least two or three activities each day and trips every weekend. One of the organisations, ELL (Erasmus Life Lisboa) even plans trips with up to 300 participants. That's 5 or 6 busses full of Erasmus students that usually head for the south of Portugal in mid-September. And then, there is the rest of Portugal. I have to say I did not know that much about it before I came here, but once I arrived I started hearing about "this towns" and "this hidden beach" which "you have to go to". One month, two surf weekends and a few hundred euros later, I can say that I regret nothing and that most of the places are quite different from what I've seen in Western Europe. Oh, did I even mention the food and the wine? Amazing...and they only have 300 ways of cooking the fish.

What made you chose the first Semester?
I chose going abroad in the first semester since I did not want to start wearing my coat in October in The Netherlands, but also because I saw it as a welcomed break after two years of hard work, both from an academic and an extra-curricular perspective.

How did you find the culture and adapting in a new environment?
What I immediately noticed and positively surprised me was that the atmosphere in the city and Lisbon itself feel very similar to my home-city, Bucharest, which probably has to do with the fact that we are Latin-blooded as well. Portuguese people are quite friendly and generally open to foreigners. What's more, the language can be quite intuitive and it will be very useful in some situations (market, post office, etc), even though I am not aiming to speak it fluently. I, for one, have been moving places quite often since I left home and I've come to enjoy it. New environment, new people, new language, new way of doing things. I find it quite fun to be honest.

Similarities and differences between SBE and your university?
NOVA SBE (or by its full name Universidade NOVA de Lisboa) is, as Maastricht, a triple-crown accredited school. On top of this, it is a member of the CEMS group, which means that it's one of the few business schools in the world to have both. Moreover, their MSc programs are quite well ranked by Financial Times and it is under 50 years old. Here, courses last for one semester (roughly 13 weeks not including exams) with an exam period at the end.

Normally, students take 4 courses per semester, which was also my case. All courses have a continuous assessment, in the sense that the final exam will never count more than 70%. Most of the courses have mid-term tests, presentations, papers or other group-work deliverables. I'd like to assure you that even though this sounds quite intensive, it's nothing Maastricht students are not used to. I am taking Econometrics, Development economics, EU Law and Business Environment Analysis and so far I am not feeling that much pressure since preparation for the sessions is not really recorded per se, or at least it counts relatively little. Classes are also bigger (20 to 25 students, even though rarely will they all be present). What's more, courses have 2 theoretical sessions per week (lectures) and one practical session. What I don't really like about this system, in comparison with the PBL, is that you are very dependent on the teacher and on what is said during the sessions. For most of the courses, reading the book or the full articles is not mandatory, and the lecture slides are what you have to rely on. However, this means that knowing what you have to read and learn and which exercises you have to do is not as straight-forward as looking in your UM course manual. Furthermore, the facilities here are very limited. The library is extremely small and after trying to print documents on my own for a month, I gave up.

Would you recommend your destination to others? Why (not)?
Definitely! Great city, nice landscapes, amazing beaches, good weather, decent prices, delicious food, tasty wine, vibrant atmosphere, lots of fun activities, beautiful (Erasmus) people, one-euro kebabs, hilly streets, old castles, authentic fishermen villages and lots of places to explore. Be sure to take enough money and sunscreen with you!

George is a Romanian 3rd year IB student. He likes considering himself as fully integrated in the Dutch society since he'd lived there for one year before moving to Maastricht. Next to his studies, he has been involved with several non-profit associations, volunteering projects and has been Academic Activities Coordinator and Vice-President for SCOPE | Economics in the academic year 2015-2016. He likes moving to new places every few years and adapting to new environments and his motto is "Don't rush but never settle". He is currently doing his exchange semester in Lisbon at NOVA University.