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2 posts from April 2013


The Façade of Being Abroad

    (This post is by Bri, Mills College)

As a member of the generation indoctrinated by the likes of Lizzie McGuire and the Olsen twins, I had many expectations for my time abroad such as riding on the back of some carelessly handsome man’s moped, or eating a baguette in a strapless dress, etc. The biggest obstacle I foresaw was the inevitable and heart wrenching decision I was going to be faced with: stay with my Portuguese boyfriend and commit to an indefinite future of Skype dates and long-distance, or tragically part ways with him at the Lisbon airport (still searching for said-Portuguese boyfriend.)

This perception (and expectation) I had of myself; the American girl who travels to the European continent for her self-actualization while also begrudgingly falling in love with a local- wasn’t totally inaccurate. I have actualized many personal feats (commuting on public transit effortlessly, being one) and I did fall in love.  However, some Portuguese man was spared the misfortune of having me as a significant other, and instead, I fell in love with something else entirely: I came to love my family all over again.

I was reacquainted with a concept almost as foreign to me as the new country I lived in- family.  Prior to my transatlantic voyage, I had believed myself to be a callous, independent woman, whose dry economics degree reflected her interpersonal skills (still holds true.)  Stateside, I communicated with my family via text periodically, because I thought that love and gratitude could not be measured in correspondence, but were instead genetic givens, or so I believed.   

Every glossy brochure and alum promised me my time abroad would “change my life!” And while I don’t doubt this experience’s capacity to do that, I don’t think I foresaw the change that would occur. 

When our program toured the largest vineyard in Portugal, I bought a bottle of Syrah, recollecting the time my parents and I shared a bottle in a dimly lit, Portland restaurant.  When I took the tram to Belem, I passed the Golden Gate Bridge’s replica, and thought of my sister, who’s dorm window overlooks the other Golden Gate Bridge some 6,000 miles away.  The Portuguese port, people, and pastries are just as incredible as they were built up to be.  But no matter where I go, I find that I carry my family with me. 

My renewed love and appreciation for my family isn’t an endearing but temporary side effect of homesickness.  It is a part of my individual growth that I never foresaw when jamming sundresses and floppy hats into my suitcase so many months ago.  I’ll attribute it to my American individualism, but I never thought that part of my self-discovery would be growing closer to others.  While I’m embracing each day I have in Portugal, I realized that no cuisine, geographic location, or European man could bring me the same happiness and fulfillment as my family does.  It just took 6,000 miles to bring me that much closer to home.

Direct enrollment

    (This post is by Frank, Georgetown)

One of the most essential things to any study abroad experience is, of course, found in the first part of that phrase: the classes. This semester, I have been afforded the opportunity to take a unique combination of classes that could only ever have fallen into place here in Lisbon. I am taking three direct enrollment courses (classes not taught in English) in addition to two CIEE classes, which include History of the Portuguese Language, Galician Language and Literature, and Tétum; I'll explain my experience with each class in this order.

As a Linguistics and Portuguese double major, the class on History of the Portuguese Language helps complement both of these academic interests. As a class on historical linguistics, I have been able to acquire an understanding of how this part of the field of Linguistics works – in addition to fueling my interest in and passion for the Portuguese language. It's also helped me gain insight into exactly how Linguistics is approached, seen, thought of, and understood here.

My class on Galician Language and Literature is taught entirely in Galego – the language from the northern part of Spain which is very close to Portuguese (think, "Portuguese with a Spanish accent"). We students can speak in Spanish and/or Portuguese to express ourselves, and, if you know Portuguese, you'll be able to understand around 75% of literary Galego (actual production of the language, though, is more difficult). As the semester goes on, the idea is for us to be able to adapt to Galego bit by bit so that, by the end of the semester, we can take a class field trip to Galicia and communicate with the locals up there…what an experience!

  Tetum book

Finally, my class on Tétum (offered through ILNOVA, our university's language institute) has been quite unique. Tétum is an Austronesian language, which means it is related to Indonesian, and is spoken on the island of Timor in the country of Timor-Leste ("East Timor"). East Timor used to be a Portuguese colony, and just recently gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. Although not as many people speak Portuguese on the island as there once were, one of the island nation's official languages is Portuguese. In fact, the Portuguese influence is still felt in Tétum (predominantly through vocabulary, not grammar), which piqued my interest in learning more about it. In my opinion, Timor is an under-studied area of Lusofonia (the Portuguese-speaking world), so I jumped at the opportunity to learn Tétum because it is rare to find a speaker outside of Timor itself and would be a natural step in making my Portuguese major even more all-encompassing. I have ended up being the only student in the class, so the language learning environment is optimal. As it turns out, my teacher has in-laws near Washington, DC, so this might not be the only time where I get to use my Tétum…

Bandeira timor
All in all, my academic experience here with direct enrollment classes has been a positive, enriching one and whose lessons I plan to use back home. This kind of experience, this particular mix of classes could only ever happen in Lisboa.