By Natasha Margerison (BA Hons Dance)
I must admit I was not the most prepared for my move to Lisbon. Although things turned out alright, preparation would have probably helped! Once your final applications and show reel are in- START PREPARING!! Yes, you may not know for sure if you’re going just yet but if you wait for a response that may only come in July you’ll leave yourself only a month to prepare for a move abroad.
You don’t need to do anything too drastic, just make sure you’re in a position where you can easily leave for Lisbon or stay in Chichester. You should research Lisbon’s lifestyle and accommodation, weighing up rent and living costs compared to your student loan/grants/savings. Browse sites like Erasmus Palace or Uni Places for rough estimates on housing prices in different areas then decide which area would work out best for you if you decided to go.
Research average living costs - travel, groceries, utilities etc to be sure you can afford a lifestyle in Lisboa for the duration of your exchange. Try to give yourself the best idea of what life may be like before you jump on a plane and leave the UK!
If possible, try and make a trip over to Lisbon before the exchange! I went for 4 days towards the end of October- (a week before I made the move). I stayed in a hostel in Alameda and spent this long weekend exploring the area I was about to move into.
My flat was in Rato- about 10mins by uber from Alameda and a 20min walk from Escola Superior de Danca. Although I was unable to view the room I had booked, I went to see whereabouts the flat was and even figured out the route I would take to uni every day.
I explored the area of Rato and worked out where I would do my weekly shopping, collect my mail, grab a coffee etc. This made me feel pretty comfortable the second time round when I officially made my move.
To my surprise I learned that applying to Erasmus exchange entitles you to an offer for student residence. The residence pretty much works like student halls but with some bonuses! Included in the cheap price you’ll receive all your bedding and towels- which means more space and weight in your suitcases, all your kitchen ware and appliances, washers and dryers and even weekly cleaning of all communal areas as well as bedrooms. The residence is open to all Erasmus students, so you’ll be surrounded by students from all over the world which is a great way to meet new and interesting people plus the locations are pretty central.
As great as all this sounds there are, unfortunately, some downsides. The sleeping arrangements are set up much like boarding schools in which you share a bedroom with one other student as well as communal toilets and showers with all the other boarders on your floor. If you’re anything like me and couldn’t function with a bed mate, the halls are probably not for you!
Although they are in pretty good locations, the residences are all some distance from Escola Superior de Danca. If you can afford the travel expenses, then the residence is definitely an option plus being an Erasmus student entitles you to a discounted pay monthly travel card, but I personally couldn’t bare the idea of a 40min journey every day and 30 euros a month for the card!
The residences also have very strict guest policies. You are allowed daytime and overnight guests as long as prior warning is given however if you have guests stay with you there is a nightly fee. Here in Lisbon, there are very few breaks from uni. You get the standard Christmas and Easter plus a couple national holidays but there are no reading weeks, no half terms etc. Due to this I knew I’d have visitors regularly especially further into my exchange as the opportunities for me to go home were so limited. Paying 15euros a night for guests regularly wasn’t the most appealing idea for me so I decided to look for a flat through Uni Places instead.
Now that I’ve settled I have met so many other exchange students, some of which are currently staying in student halls. A friend of mine who’s originally from the Czech Republic is bunking with another guy from Morocco and he’s loving it. Luckily, the two of them have similar morning schedules so neither of them disturb the other in the morning and their free time varies so they both have time to themselves in the bedroom daily! On the other hand, a Romanian guy on my course is not having the best experience with his roommate but he loves the location and price of his residence so told me it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Maybe I’m just too anti-social for a bunk mate because sharing a bedroom would be way too much for me but having the option was a great comfort in the event I couldn’t source accommodation myself.
If you are keen to live in the residential halls apply as soon as you get their application as spacing is limited and there are many students who’ll jump at the chance for a room.
I found my accommodation through Uni Places: https://www.uniplaces.com
They have 100s of locations and pretty good prices on the site. It’s also extremely straight forward, you just email the landlords advertising rooms you’re interested in then await a response. When you receive an offer the Uni Places team help you through the next steps in securing your room. They also deal with landlords on your behalf if, upon arrival, things are not as expected.
- As helpful as they are, Uni Places does take a fee for their services that is non- refundable and often the rooms are owned/ run through Erasmus Palace anyway so booking straight through them can cut the middle man.
- Erasmus Palace, from what I have heard, works pretty much the same way.
You just search your location and available rooms and landlord information is provided online.
My accommodation is managed by Erasmus Palace. I live in a flat with 8 other international students in Rato. My room is fairly big, has a balcony and nice view, the kitchen is a reasonable size as well as both bathrooms and dining room. I must admit however, for the price I’m paying I have not had the most amazing experience with Erasmus Palace. Although an efficient source of accommodation for an exchange, you must keep in mind it is a massive company managing hundreds of other student properties. This means if, and when you have a problem, depending on the kind of landlord you have, you may not be a priority.
The first Erasmus rep managing our property was not at all prioritising our well being but luckily, we had a change over and our current rep does all he can to solve any problems we may have right away!
Whatever way you source your accommodation make sure you read all the fine print and know exactly what to expect upon arrival. Make sure your room assures it’s fully furnished and equipped, that you have bills included in your monthly payments, wifi is provided – especially if your course requires research methods etc and check you have heating! That is a mistake I made, somehow forgetting Portugal has a winter too- which gets pretty chilly at night with no heating! Research, research, research!!!