The location itself seemed to be extremely appealing, as I also heard about it from last years’ CEMSies who have been on exchange there, and saw pictures of them lying on the beach in November. About the professional side: I saw that I would be able to choose subjects on negotiation, entrepreneurship, marketing and consulting, which all made me interested. And while searching for Nova, I also found that it has been elected CEMS School of the Year in 2010&2011, which was not a bad sign about quality either.
I spent around 5 days searching for the right apartment online, so it was not easy at all… the one that I finally booked was through an independent site. Do not expect too high level of English by the landlords, and writing a contract is apparently not a necessity here either. So when I arrived, I was still a little bit afraid about what can I expect, but finally the landlord turned out to be super nice, gave me a ride to the apartment from the airport, and it looked exactly like on the website. Under 300€ you can find a proper room at a good location, but it definitely needs time.
2 hours after landing, I was already at the Erasmus corner, which is really the Omega of student life in Lisbon – imagine hundreds of people having drinks (beer is around 1€!) on the streets. The ease of getting into touch with new people equals the summer festivals. So I spent the first days with visiting the touristic destinations, discovering the city (prepare for a lot of climbing), surfing, registering to both Erasmus student organizations which organize a lot of programs (literally every day in September), and participating on these.
The hotel in Estoril (30mins from Lisbon by train), where we had the Block Seminar was actually 100m from the ocean, so the surroundings were the best I could imagine. We had 4 CEO’s giving lectures to us, and the core courses were about creativity and innovation, seasoned with an entrepreneurial approach, provided by great speakers. On the last day, we had to make up a group project on one of the guest speakers’ companies – it was not easy, but the overall workload was totally fine. Additionally, we had cultural visits, an extra dinner, an extra party, drinks every night, we played football on the beach with the sunset, we had team-building activities, and we also spent one night at the local Casino (one of the biggest ones in Europe, and the venue of the Casino Royale James Bond movie). So overall, it was very well organized, and we had lots of fun while learning a lot.
CEMS Courses and Academic life
The class selection works through a ‘Bidding system’: every student receives points, which they can allocate for courses, so basically it is an auction for the different classes. I take the two core strategy courses for 7 ECTS’s each: Negotiation Strategy and Strategy in Global Markets, plus electives for 3.5 ECTS’s each: CRM, Integrated Marketing Communications, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainable International Business. The semester is divided into two terms, and these electives are for one term, which means an exam period in the 3rd week of October. Moreover, we had two interesting Skill seminars as well.
Compared to Corvinus, Nova looks very demanding for me. We need to make up a whole Integrated Marketing Communications plan, a Business Plan with a pitch, analyse global strategies, etc. As skipping social life on the longer term is not an option either, so the semester overall is very intensive. Beyond the courses, we need to prepare ourselves for class discussions, write individual assignments, and do a lot of group projects, which require frequent meeting, good coordination and hard work.
Overall, I feel that I really learn a lot throughout the whole semester – and one of the most interesting classes, Negotiation Strategy has just started!
Picture: happy team after pitching our startup business idea and plan to the professors.
To sum it up: you have the chance to actually go out every day and night (especially at the beginning of the semester). ELL, ESN, and CEMS Club organize a lot of programs, not to mention the ones which you do with your new friends. Talking about the parties: you can enter one decent club with your ELL/ESN card for free each night, which are called ‘Erasmus parties’ those times. You can go to rooftop pool parties, dance to electro in the building of an old church, have thematic parties as the one at Halloween, and even on a Sunday night, they play techno at a rooftop bar. Among the clubs, you should at least try Urban Beach, Lux, and Main, and see which one you like. Then the others: pub crawls, international nights, botellóns, concerts, birthdays, housewarmings, beach days, surfing, playing and watching football, cultural and professional programs, travelling… the opportunities are endless, and everyone can find the ones they like. And when nothing special is going on, you just go to Bairro Alto with a few friends (or even on your own), grab a beer, and have a random night, which almost always turns out to be very good. For football fans, the Lisbon derby (Benfica-Sporting)is a must-visit, with 65 thousand people chanting... goosebumps!
Lisbon is a city where you can feel like home very fast. There are a lot of little grocery shops, and supermarkets at reasonable prices as well. To balance the unhealthiness of endless ‘socializing’, you can enrol to a gym for 40€/3 months with a student discount. Regarding the people, there are no major differences from what you would expect from the Iberian culture, however, never compare Portugal to Spain in front of local people – they like it just as much as Hungarians do to be compared to their eastern neighbours… On weekdays, you can chill, study at one of the many parks, rooftop bars and green viewpoints of the city.
The most basic Portuguese food is codfish, which is not bad, but there are a lot of better options. For example, the salmon: surprisingly enough, it is among the cheapest dishes on the menu (below 10€) at mid-range restaurants. In Lisbon, everything is a Pastelaria: it can mean a little restaurant, café, pastry shop (which would be the original meaning), or even a grocery shop with 2 small tables… the point is that you find them everywhere, so staying hungry is impossible. The most famous sweet treat is Pastel de Nata/ Pastel de Belém, which is and incredible must-try, best with cinnamon. The prices anyways are similar to the ones at Budapest, and you can also easily find everything for cooking (even small and strong paprika, and sausages!). At the university, you can eat lunch for 3€, which is good value for the price. One more hint: illegal Chinese restaurant. Just ask any fellow student in Lisbon about it, they will know.
The monthly public transport pass is 35€ in Lisbon, and if you don’t want to endlessly climb, you will need it. There are four metro lines, one of them takes you directly to the airport, and as the main districts of the city are lying on quite a small territory, you can get to anywhere in the downtown in like 30 minutes.
Taxis are cheaper than the ones in Budapest, but the night buses also commute – not too often, but at least those might be the only ones running on time in Lisbon. The ‘cultural shock’ can be strong though, people smoking weed on the back seats while the drivers push it to 80km/h.
The Europe-wide famous beaches (Costa de Caparica, Cascais, Carcavelos) can be reached with other buses and trains in 45 minutes as well, for around 4€ return. Moreover, close to Lisbon, you can find the biggest waves in the world (Nazaré), a town with palaces which seem like the ones in Walt Disney’s world (Sintra), and the western cliff of continental Europe (Cabo da Roca).
When you would like to leave Lisbon, you have endless opportunities, too: flights to Madeira or to the Azorean islands can be booked around 50€, Morocco and Spain is easily reachable as well, and the Southern region of Portugal, Algarve’s beaches are simply breath-taking, while other towns as Porto also call for a visit. Car rental can be a reasonable option in case of city visits and road trips.
Personally, I try to make the most out of the 4 months which I spend here, highlighted by:
1) Algarve: I went there for a weekend with 14 others, self-organized. Beyond the ‘little inconvenience’ of our cars’ windows getting smashed in the parking lot while we enjoyed one of the beautiful beaches, and a lot of valuables stolen from the cars (don’t expect the Portuguese police to do anything), the experience was one of the bests in my life.
2) Porto: ELL (one of the student organizations) organized a weekend trip there by buses, 80€ including city visit, boat trip, parties, wine tasting, and 150 other people – which is the limit for a good trip which it was.
3) Azores: just going there, 1 day after I’m writing this J very popular destination, beautiful nature – a lot of my friends already went there during the semester for a longer weekend.
Well, swimming in the ocean in November is not that bad after all…
Contact the author: Trombitás Károly at firstname.lastname@example.org