Wait, who is Lisbon?

Authored by:
Alexandra H.

Alexandra H.

When I first arrived in Lisbon, I felt a lot of pressure to travel all of Europe. I put pressure on myself that if I didn’t travel as much as I possibly could, I was wasting my time. I had my mind set on booking flights to places like Germany, Spain, France, and England. In fact, I did travel to many places outside of Portugal and I am so glad I did! The first month of being in Lisbon (September), I travelled most weekends and by the time October rolled around, I realized that my semester abroad was nearly halfway over, and I still hadn’t felt like I knew the city or country that I chose to study abroad in!

As such, I am incredibly thankful for the weekends I spent in Portugal. I did not plan many out of country trips for the month of October, and the plans that I did make, fell through because of cancelled flights. While I initially felt like I was missing out and not taking advantage of my time in Europe, I had some of my best experiences abroad during this time. I made the friends that I am now closest to in the program, and we did such fun weekend trips throughout Portugal! I love to hike and explore and was relieved to finally connect with my peers that had similar interests! We discovered so many underrated hikes in Lisbon and other parts of Portugal! The release of the pressure to fill my schedule to the brim allowed me to better enjoy weekdays in Lisbon because I wasn’t exhausted from a weekend of travelling far. It wasn’t until I took the time to be present and appreciate the location that I chose to study in that I found my closest friends and created my most fond memories. I didn’t know how much Portugal had to offer and more than that, I didn’t know how much I could discover and begin to feel less like a tourist and more like I was becoming part of another culture.

One of my favorite memories from my weekends in Portugal actually resulted from a weekend of “cancelled plans.” With CIEE, a group of students signed up to go dolphin watching in Setúbal – a city about a 45-minute train ride from Lisbon that is known for fantastic dolphin watching. Two friends and I signed up, so excited to see the dolphins! As the date approached, the dolphin watching was cancelled due to weather. My friends and I had heard that Setúbal itself did not have much to offer besides the dolphin watching so we debated not going at all and counting our losses with the money we had spent for a hostel. At the last minute, however, we decided to hop on the train and go. By the end of the weekend, we determined for ourselves that Setúbal was totally underrated. We found beautiful beaches and hikes there! We had a great time exploring and the rainy weather made the day even more fun and adventurous! All of this to say, cancelled plans or things not working out exactly as planned does not mean that you are wasting your experience! I chose to study in Portugal for a reason and what a shame it would have been to leave the semester feeling as if I didn’t know Portugal at all! I want to encourage you to embrace the situations that are out of your control and don’t overwhelm yourself with expectations while you are abroad – I am positive that no matter what, you will have one of the most incredible experiences of your life right where your feet are!

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