Lisbon, Portugal

Aquatic Ecosystems & Sustainability

Summer '23 applications open!
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Information for term Aquatic Ecosystems & Sustainability

Application deadline, and cost information.

Application Deadline

January 18, 2023

Program Deadlines and Pricing Info

  • Deadline: January 18, 2023
  • Dates: Jun 18 – Jul 8, 2023 (3 weeks)

Application Deadline

January 18, 2023

Program Deadlines and Pricing Info

  • Deadline: January 18, 2023
  • Dates: Jul 9 – 29, 2023 (3 weeks)


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Combine your passions for ecology and the sea in the port cities of Portugal.

Observe different aquatic species, from starfish to bottlenose dolphins; swim, snorkel, surf, and study the stars at night. Each day you’ll explore a range of fascinating topics related to water resources and aquatic biodiversity as you immerse yourself in conservation and sustainability projects in scenic coastal towns of Portugal, around Setúbal, Tomar, and Lisbon. You will also engage in activities with local peers – playing beach games and sports, performing community service, and practicing your conversational language skills in the most authentic way possible!

Through lectures, field and lab work onsite, you’ll be introduced to Mediterranean and Atlantic natural history, climate, habitats, and sustainability challenges. On side trips to nature reserves and marine parks you’ll explore both river and ocean biodiversity. Through direct observation and by meeting local communities, you’ll be exposed to sustainability and climate challenges today. In popular vacation destinations, known for their beautiful rivers, beaches and sea life, you will observe first-hand and critically discuss how sustainable tourism can help to protect its fragile ecosystems.

These three weeks are all about water, so get ready to get wet! When not kayaking or swimming for fun, you’ll find yourself knee-deep in various river, coastal and maritime ecosystems while gathering and analyzing data with your team. Working alongside marine biologists, conservationists, and sustainability researchers, you’ll develop important skills in a short period of time.
Surveying plants, birds and marine biodiversity in the wild provides invaluable experience and lifelong lessons. Back home in the US, you can apply these insights to future studies on ecology and spread your message about the importance of long-term sustainability for our society and our planet.

COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

CIEE is requiring all participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before traveling on programs. Read more ›

The Take-Aways


    Get ready to bring out your hiking boots and flippers to explore the Portuguese coast and rich aquatic ecosystems! Assess the ecological role of the ocean as a life-support system and recognize the importance of river ecological recovery for long-term sustainability as you learn to identify river and maritime ecosystems: history, species, and challenges.


    After just 3 weeks away, you'll build self-confidence, gain a broader world view, improve your interpersonal communication skills and make lifelong friends from all across the U.S.


    Topics for your college essays, experience to inform your future career, a portfolio of work to showcase your program and 12 hours of community service.

Location & Culture

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Sunshine and sea breezes make for pleasant, temperate coastal climates.

With half of its territory bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is a prime location for this program. It features a pleasant mix of Mediterranean oceanic climate and prime proximity to valuable ecosystems for content studies.

As Portugal is a small country, it's very easy to travel from place to place. It’s also safe, affordable, and friendly. Setúbal, where you will be based for the program, is a beautiful coastal town, only 1 hour south of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. You can have a full meal for 8-10€ and for 6€ a taxi will take you pretty much anywhere in the city. In Setúbal, you can enjoy beautiful historical monuments, one of the biggest fish markets of Portugal, an amazing shoreline and a dolphin population that adopted its waters as their home! We will also be travelling to Tomar to explore the river ecosystem and getting to know its river biodiversity. Tomar is packed with Portuguese history! It’s a wonderful place to get to know the local culture.

The best parts of Portugal? Many students name the beaches – among the top places in Europe to go surfing – and the food! Because of the sea, the Portuguese eat a lot of fish of all kinds – grilled, boiled, or roasted. Vegetarian options are gaining popularity around the Portuguese community as well.

CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. Local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter in Lisbon.

Daily Life

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Daily Life

Every day brings new discoveries and fun, but you can always count on a perfect balance between interactive instruction, excursions and free time! Here's what to expect on a typical day:

  • 7:00 am: Get up and have breakfast at your dorm/hotel
  • 8:00 am: Walk or take public transportation to CIEE for morning instruction
  • 9:00 am - 12:00 pm: Interactive class with a local teacher. Format may change to workshops or guest lectures, depending on the day.
  • 12:00 pm - 1:00pm: Find a fun spot to grab lunch with your friends (your program tuition includes a stipend for lunches).
  • 1:00 pm - 1:30 pm: Gather back at CIEE to go on today's cultural activity or excursion.
  • 1:30 pm - 5:00 pm: Each activity or excursion is designed to echo what you learned in class that morning.
  • 5:00 pm - 7:00pm: Free time! Hang out with your friends and shop. Commute back to your hotel/dorm.
  • 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Dinner
  • 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Wrap up any homework. Usually just readings or personal research for your project.
  • 10:00 pm: Lights out!


Learn more about daily life on a high school study abroad program by reading our blog posts below.

  • Housing

    You will stay in a hotel in Setúbal.

  • Local Support

    24/7 Support from your CIEE program leader and in-country CIEE staff members

Program Blogs

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Program Blogs


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Sample Activities

  • Venture to local natural parks to study river and ocean ecosystems.
  • Kayak or canoe in local rivers.
  • Swim and snorkel in the sea.
  • Sign up for a surf class or play beach soccer.
  • Join a beach clean-up initiative with the local community.
  • Visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, the Sea Museum in Cascais, and historical and cultural sites such as the Roman ruins of Tróia or the Work Museum in Setúbal.
  • Kick up your heels in a traditional dance class.
  • Participate in a tile painting workshop.
  • Stargaze with fellow students at Astronomy Night.


  • Tomar – Overnight excursion to the beautiful Ribatejo region, where you will explore its natural and historical heritage  such as the river and lagoon biodiversity of River Tagus and Castelo do Bode, and the Convent of Christ, amazing Renaissance construction, that belonged to the Templar Knights.
  • Cascais – One of the most popular touristic destinations, Cascais is known for its palace-like summer residences and great beach life. We will visit the Maritime Laboratory of the University of Lisbon, where researchers have their aquariums and do their scientific observations, as well as the town center of Cascais, where you will eat one the best ice-creams in Portugal!
  • Lisbon – The capital of Portugal, Lisbon is more ancient than Rome. We will visit the Oceanary, one of the biggest aquariums in Europe, do a walking tour around the ancient hills of the city, enjoy the magnificent views and have a meal in one of the fashionable restaurants of downtown Lisbon.

Please note this list of activities is based on past programs and subject to change at CIEE's discretion to both adapt to local circumstances, covid-related measures and restrictions and participant feedback. Our goal when revising itineraries is always to enhance your experience. Every activity is designed to provide you with a deep immersion in your topic, local culture and sights. Get ready for maximum fun!

Dates & Fees

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Dates & Fees


  • No specific requirements for standard sessions.
  • Program open to all current high school students: Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. 
  • For scholarship eligibility requirements, please check our Scholarship page.
  • This program involves engaging in moderate to high intensity physical activities such as hiking, boating and snorkeling. Ability to swim is not required but strongly encouraged to enjoy the program and location at its fullest.

Application Fee


Program scholarships and tuition include iNext Travel Insurance but do not cover the cost of flights. More details about tuition inclusions can be found here.


Application Due

Start Date

End Date


Summer Session I 2023 3 weeks Jan 18, 2023 Jun 18, 2023 Jul 8, 2023


Summer Session II 2023 3 weeks Jan 18, 2023 Jul 9, 2023 Jul 29, 2023


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