BY LEAH KOSOWAN, FOURTH YEAR STUDENT IN GLOBAL MANAGEMENT STUDIES, TRSM
Since high school, I knew that exchange would not only be an option for me, it would be an essential part of my university career. Exchange has lived up to everything I hoped it would be, and so much more.
I chose to study in Lisbon, Portugal and I could not be more pleased with my decision. People often ask me, “Why did you choose Portugal?” and to be honest, I do not have a concrete answer. I have always been a “go with your gut” decision maker, and something about this country felt very right. I have travelled to many countries, but had never been to Europe, and many local Portuguese people often say that Portugal tends to be a country in Europe that is skipped over. The reasons for that could be because of the incredibly welcoming people, the mouth-watering seafood, the flavourful Pasteis de Nata (a Portuguese tart), the astonishing landscapes, and last, but not least, the countless sunny days. Worth skipping, right!?
No matter where you go on exchange, it is guaranteed to be a life-changing experience. Getting the chance to learn in a different environment, with professors from all over the world is something to be so grateful for. The people you meet is the best part of all. Before I even left Canada, Ryerson was able to connect me with students from other universities who were also going on exchange in Lisbon, who I now live with and call my best friends. I have also met up with friends from Ryerson, who are on exchange in other European countries, as well as making many other friends of all nationalities. When you meet these people you instantly have a bond because you share this exchange experience together.
Each week is completely different and new, but I am going to give you an example of a typical week on exchange here in Lisbon:
Morning– Enjoy a nice relaxing morning at home, with fresh fruit and coffee. Write deadlines, social activities and any trips planned for the upcoming week. Prepare and review what needs to be done.
Afternoon– Walk to the university and attend my one class for the day.
Evening– Buy groceries and make a “family” dinner together with my roommates that are from all over the world, while chatting about our day!
Morning– Tuesday is the longest day of classes, with breaks in between. The campus is beautiful, with many cafeterias serving delicious Portuguese food, as well as coffee and Pasteis de Nata! There are also several courtyards to enjoy your lunch or some studying while taking in the sun.
Afternoon– Finish classes in the early afternoon and catch the metro directly down to Bairro Alto, where I can watch the sunset at a rooftop patio.
Evening– Meet for dinner with other Canadian friends, and devour some shareable tapas and wine at our favourite inexpensive restaurant nearby.
Morning– Wake up early to enjoy a walk around the corner to the Marques de Pombal lookout point, and take in the calm of Lisbon in the morning.
Afternoon– Head to the university for one short afternoon class.
Evening– Get a group of friends together and head to Anjos 70, which is a live music joint that has shows every Wednesday night. It is really hip and fun, and many students from all of the universities like to go.
Morning– Enjoy a lovely bica (the name people in Lisbon have for espresso) while attending morning classes.
Afternoon– Done for the day! It is beautiful outside, so I get on a 25-minute train ride to the beach and bask in the sun.
Evening – While the sun sets, I am appreciating my pizza and sangria at the beach side restaurant, as my “tough” week is now over.
Morning – Ah, the day off! Another sunny day, I will be renting a popular scooter that you can find all over the streets of Lisbon, and I will be scooting to Belém. The area has so much history, filled with iconic landmarks, including Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. Guess what else… more Pasteis!
Afternoon– After a long day of sightseeing, friends and I will pick up some fresh bread, cheese and wine and head to the park for an afternoon picnic.
Evening– Have friends over at my place and get ready to embrace the Lisbon nightlife!
The weekend is here and there are so many options!!
1) Europe is at your feet. You can book an inexpensive bus, train, or plane ride to wherever you feel like. Maybe Paris, maybe Madrid, either way, you will be back in time for class Monday morning.
2) Spend the weekend exploring Portugal. Half of the country is surrounded by coast, so there are countless beautiful beaches, or you can rent a car and immerse yourself in Portuguese history by exploring old castles.
3) Relax in Lisbon. Hang out with new local and international friends. Eat all the food. Drink all the drinks. Explore markets. Buy souvenirs. Convince your friends and family back home to come visit!
Each week is always so new and exhilarating, and I look forward to them more and more, even though I get sad that they are ending. To live your life in this way is so incredible and these are the weeks that you will cherish forever.
One thing I have learnt is that even though your weeks are fun filled and full of making memories, do not be afraid to take time for yourself. It is in those times that you are alone and relaxing, or maybe going for a walk or jog, that you realize where you are and how lucky you are. You are not wasting precious moments; you are giving yourself the mental energy to take advantage of all the sightseeing and social moments. This is your short-term home, so get comfortable.
The weeks go by, and people come and go, but your memories and inspiration will always be there. Going on exchange provides you with an open-mind and an excitement for the future. Who knows, maybe my next exchange will be an internship abroad or maybe even a full-time move somewhere new. The world is ours.