100 international students are studying this semester (2018/19) at IPP in Portalegre and Elvas. There are 13 Erasmus students from Poland, Spain, Lithuania, Turkey, Sweden, Germany and almost 90 people from Brazil and Africa – That is one of the highest numbers of international students at IPP in Portalegre and Elvas.
Going abroad is a good opportunity to learn more about yourself and to broaden your horizon. There are different ways to go abroad. One possibility offers Erasmus+, the European programme which supports people going abroad for educational reasons. There are different ways to participate at the Erasmus+ programme. Probably, the most common way is to study for one or two semester/s abroad as an Erasmus student within Europe. Around two million students are studying in Higher Education for one semester abroad and around 200, 000 students in a Master degree.
As an example, you can read about the experiences of Erasmus students studying in Portalegre. The Instituto Politécnico de Portalegre enables Erasmus students to study for one semester or even longer. This opportunity exists at IPP in Portalegre since the year 1994/5. In addition to the Erasmus+ programme, the IPP has cooperations with Brazil and Africa and welcomes therefore even more international students. Carlos Afonso, IPPs’ international relationship’s coordenator said to JC online that “the number of students with foreign nationalities has been growing. There’s a tendency that the number of international students coming from for example from Brazil increases in comparison to the number of Erasmus students which is declining”.
José Polainas is one of the responsible persons for the coordination of international students in Portalegre. He describes his job like that: “I am the helping guy. I am the person for the first contact. Here, in Portalegre I try to receive them when they arrive and then put them in the contact with the school, with the coordinators for the academic part and I try to live with them in the daily basis”. The number of Erasmus and international students varies every year. In the current autumn semester (2018/19) 100 foreign students study for one semester, one year or all full three years in Portalegre and Elvas. That is a huge number of foreign students studying at IPP. However, the number of Erasmus students is not as high as in the past years: “I think we have twelve [Erasmus] students. We have some students from Poland, from Germany, from Lithuania, from Turkey, from Sweden, from Spain. Last year we had in-between 30 and 35 Erasmus students during the two semesters”.
Experiences of Eramsus students
Moreover, there is the question how Erasmus students experience their time here in Portalegre. Justyna Podwyszyńska and Augustinas Garunkštis give us an insight into their lives as Erasmus students in Portalegre. Justyna is from Poland, Augustinas from Lithuania and both of them are studying in ESTG for one semester but in different courses. Justyna describes her first impression of school: “It is very modern. Teachers are very good people and they always want to help you – we don’t have it Poland, so I am very impressed”. Nearly the same is Augustinas Garunkštis saying about school: “My first impression is good because my collage has a modern style and my teachers are very nice and the quality of studies is very good too”. ESTG is a very modern school where you can learn everything connected to science and business. However, in Portalegre there are further schools like the Health school and the school for education and sociology where other Erasmus and international students are studying.
Except of studying, Erasmus and international students get in touch with another culture and another way of life. Justyna likes to explore new places and the life in a foreign country: “I really like [Erasmus] because it is a good opportunity to travel and meet new people, new cultures and you can live on your own and live abroad and try new things – so, this is the best”. Although the most Erasmus students stay in Portalegre for only one semester, there is a lot to experience. For Augustinas Garunkštis it is important to be open for that time: “In the short time I am going to stay here, I want learn as much as possible. People and culture from around Europe and make some good contacts for my business”.
However, there are some difficulties concerning the Erasmus programme. One of the biggest challenges for both parties is linked to the language. José Polainas explains the situation: “I have the problem that I must give you the guarantee that the spoken language is English. But some teachers don´t speak English, just like some students coming from abroad too. Because the level of English, sometimes is very complicated.”
“The first difficulty here is, that many people don´t speak English. So, I am trying to speak 50 percent of Portuguese and the other 50 percent of English,” said Augustinas Garunkštis. Furthermore, there is another difficulty concerning the language. “The language is difficult for me, because I don´t know English that well. I have to learn it. You know, I can speak in English but studying in English is something different. But I am trying, so I think I will do it,” said Justyna Podwyszyńska.
Erasmus enables you the possibility to study in a foreign country, however you should be prepared for some difficulties because of the language barrier – that is nothing impossible, but something you can grow with. José Polainas gives us an insight in his opinion concerning the Erasmus programme:
However, there are other ways of participating at Erasmus. It is possible to go abroad as a volunteer and gain experiences while working or doing some youth exchanges. More than 500, 000 young people participate at these kinds of programmes. Furthermore, there is the opportunity to go as a teacher, lecture, trainer or as a youth worker to a foreign country within the Erasmus programme. Around 800, 000 people are taking that opportunity. There are a lot of different possibilities to participate at the Erasmus+ programme, so that everybody should find the suitable way to go to a foreign country. That programme connects seven different programmes for individuals and for organizations too with an overall budget of 14.7 billion euros. Concerning the Website of Erasmus, the “aim of Erasmus+ is to contribute to the European 2020 strategy for growth, jobs, social equity and inclusion”.
Autor: Lena Schaffer