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9 posts from March 2013


Top 10 destinations

European Best has just elected Lisbon as the second of the old continent's Top 10 destinations. Check out Here's a view of not-so-typical-but-no-less-vibrant Lisbon.



Democracy at work (part 2), the teacher's point of view

This post is by Dr. Paulo Barcelos, CIEE Faculty in charge of the PoliSci course

We spend our classes discussing about supranational democracy, post-national identity, federations and confederations, and other, equally celestial concepts. It seemed appropriate,  therefore, to get down to earth and visit the good old siege of Portuguese democracy.

No one bounced off the chandelier, no one tried to finish the unfinished foot of António Vieira (17th-century missionary) in the painting by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro (19th-century painter) that hangs in the Hall of Lost Steps, but we did have a (failed) attempt to occupy the seat of the President of the Parliament  and some criticism of the colonial iconography of the panels on the Main Hall. Finally, as Julianne has written, there was the general thrill of missing a PoliSci class. Can't complain!



John Harvey

John (Bates) came to our program for a fall semester. He liked it so much he decided to stay on for the spring. He liked it so much he decided to apply to an MA program on the History of the Portuguese Expansion. He got accepted and spent four amazing years in Lisbon.

As John met group after group of CIEE students that arrived, every season, to his city of adoption, his name became synonymous with our program. For Luisa (Resident Coordinator) and I, he became no longer a student but a friend, no longer a friend but a family member. His family visited several times and they too became family to us.

Today, Luisa and I are proud to announce that John completed his MA with flying colors.

  John's diploma

Parabéns, John. You make us proud. We miss you.

Nuno and Luisa

Superstar alumni (2)

Lindsie (Arizona State) was accepted into New York University's Masters program of Global Affairs with a concentration in Transnational Security. I'm sure her internship at the US embassy in Lisbon helped with her application. Congratulations, Lindsie!


Democracy at work

(This post is by Julianne, UMass, Amherst, with photos by Frank, Georgetown)

Last week, our History and Political Science teachers set up a field trip to the Portuguese Parliament. It was nice because we were able to walk from the Rato metro stop, which is where I happen to live. I didn’t even realize how close some of us live to Parliament, it was only a 10 minute walk!


These are the steps leading up to the entrance.


Parliament is housed in Lisbon’s São Bento Palace, which dates back to 1598. Before becoming home to the Parliament, the palace first served as a monastery, then a prison, a hospice, a refuge from the plague, and a military academy! We were lucky enough to have a guided tour and we even had the opportunity to go into the senate chamber where members of Parliament attend their meetings. We learned that the seats in the room are separated and assigned to each political party. The chamber is used for committee meetings, parliamentary group work, formal sessions, seminars and also international meetings.


The floors were lined with beautiful red carpet and the marble floors are still in their original state from 400 years ago. Toward the end of the tour we went outside to take a look at the Prime Minister’s house. It’s funny because he doesn’t actually live there, but he could if he wanted to. I offered to live there…


When we were walking up the stairs, we stopped to see the biggest chandelier I’ve personally ever seen. Our tour guide told us that it weighs around 1,191 kg and holds around 144 light bulbs. For all of us that aren’t on the metric system, that’s a little over 2,600 pounds. I dared my friend to jump on top, I don’t know why she refused.


    The Grand Staircase. This is where the chandelier hangs


There it is!

Overall it was a really great field trip. Not only did we get to see and learn about Portuguese history and the workings of today’s government, but we also got to miss class – can’t complain.


Superstar alumni

Katrina (Denison University) spent fall 2011 in Lisbon. In her personal statement she told us about her interest in music so we placed her with Antonio, a musician that works with our housing program. She started by playing with him for fun and eventually worked with him on a soundtrack he was creating. Look at the poster announcing her senior recital! She’s a superstar CIEE alumna and we’re proud of her.


Access issues

For reasons that remain somewhat unclear to me, our students seem to have a lot of issues with keys (those that open doors) here in Portugal. Here’s Marlee’s (University of Colorado at Boulder) testimony on her own experience.


“I am happy to say that I am not the only person in the program who has been awkwardly stuck outside of their apartment fumbling with their abnormally large keys. For some reason, while they only require a half turn to the right before a simple click and push of the door, if you turn the key the other way it will turn and turn until you don't know which way to turn it to remedy your mistake. My first time getting in alone, not only could I not figure this out, the doorknob fell out due to my misuse of the whole contraption. It was a solid 30 minutes of trying and laying on the floor in frustration before I finally figured it out. Thankfully, I haven't had any problems since.”


Obidos and the chocolate factory


Recently a group of us, Americans and some Portuguese friends, visited the nearby town of Óbidos for their international chocolate festival. The town itself is beautiful, with a gorgeous medieval castle and encircling crenellated wall. Take a stroll around the town with a romantic view that makes it clear why Óbidos was given as a wedding present to Queen Isabel in 1282.


And as for the chocolate... just follow the signs to the sometimes funny, slightly creepy cupcake mascots!


We all tried the ginjinha, a cherry liqueur that is served in little chocolate cups. If you ask me it tastes like cough syrup, but we all agree that it’s something to try!



Next stop: the cake displays, chocolate sculptures, and candy demonstrations. The theme was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as you can see. How many characters can you find on this cake?


What day trip would be complete without a little silliness?


And at last we rounded out the day with a walk along the wall. When you’re walking around the town you’re 45 ft up and while there’s protection on the outer side, the inner side has no rail or ledge whatsoever!


Snow in the tropics

Sometimes, very rarely, it snows in Portugal too.