By PPedro Girão, ESN Coimbra, Communication manager
Here is a list of things you must do when you decide to come to Coimbra for a semester of studies:
1 – Do your homework – your Erasmus starts even before your arrival. So if you want the integration to be easier search and get in the groups and follow the most important pages for Erasmus students in Coimbra. Well… if you are reading this you are probably already doing your homework, but we can help with it:
- Get to know ESN Coimbra, Like the page of ESN Coimbra on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ESNCOIMBRA) to get to know a bit more about Coimbra, the events and Portugal. And if you don’t find the information you need you can always send a private message and this group of volunteers will do the best to help you.
- Join the Facebook Private group of ESN Coimbra for Erasmus and Exchange students, where you can find other erasmus people and ask all the doubts you have - http://on.fb.me/1kiE1yq.
- Like the facebook page of Babel Radio Show (https://www.facebook.com/babelruc), a radio show made by Erasmus students which gives you important information about Coimbra and Portugal. You can even join Babel, caus they are looking for new members. Check the info at: http://www.uc.pt/en/driic/babellisten at: http://www.mixcloud.com/Babel_RUC/
- Get a buddy: in University of Coimbra there is the Buddy System, where lots of Portuguese students volunteer to help you in your arrival to the city. You must receive an email from International Relations asking you if you want a buddy, but if you don’t receive the email the best thing to do is to write to them asking for one.
2 – Relax! – it is VERY IMPORTANT that you don’t get panic if you don’t have an apartment before your arrival. Do not transfer money to any landlord or rental company of rooms / apartments without prior visiting the place and checking out the condition sof the room / apartment and the area. If you cannot visit, ask a friend to do it for you. Although, sometimes, many photos are available, there is nothing better than see for yourself or who you trust! The best thing to do is to stay in a hostel for 1 or 2 nights and to look for a room after your arrival. If you want a good hostel you can always choose the new ESN’s partner, Serenata Hostel (http://www.serenatahostel.com/en/), where you can get discounts if you are an Erasmus or Exchange student.
3 – Prepare yourself and your luggage for the best time of your life – well… just two small but important tips: Coimbra is not as hot as most of people think so make sure you bring hot clothes; and prepare your stuff before your goodbye party! (this is an advice of someone who have been in Erasmus twice)
4 – Getting to Coimbra – usually, to come to Coimbra, Erasmus students use one of this three different ways:
- Airplane to Lisbon and train or bus from Lisbon to Coimbra – if you want to come by train you can go by Metro from the airport to “Oriente” or taking a taxi to “Gare do Oriente”. To come by bus you can also use the metro to get to “Sete Rios” and get the bus there. To check the schedules of the trains go to http://www.cp.pt; of the bus to http://www.rede-expressos.pt/default.aspx.
- Airplane to Porto and train or bus from Porto to Coimbra – to come to Coimbra by train you must go by Metro to “Campanhã” and get the train to Coimbra from there. To come by Bus go to “S. Bento” and look for the bus station, at Rua Alexandre Herculano, in Praça da Batalha. To check the schedules of the trains go to http://www.cp.pt; of the bus to http://www.rede-expressos.pt/default.aspx.
- Sharing a car with other Erasmus people – it is a more and more commonly used way to get to Coimbra, especially by Spanish people. To do it, our best advice is to create a profile in Blablacar (link) and look for a ride or to create your own. If you want, later on you can share the link of your travel in the Erasmus Group of ESN Coimbra to be easier to find someone to share the expenses with you.
5 – Arriving to Coimbra – if you have followed our advice you must look for the hostel and get ready to look for a place to stay during your Erasmus. There are a few ways of doing it:
- First of all you can go to the ESN Office (check the schedule in the Facebook Page or write asking the best moment to go there – because the schedule will depend of the moment of your arrival) in Casa da Lusofonia.There will be sour volunteers welcoming you. They also give you a free Portuguese phone card and share with you a list of rooms where last years’ Erasmus were living. Here you can also get an ESN Card that will give you discounts in many partners across the city and also in ESN Parties and organized trips.
- If you want to do it without help, you can search ads in local newspapers, near the faculties and in the streets. In the windows of the houses, when it is placed a white paper, means that it is available for rent, just ring the bell! It must seem to be weird, but Coimbra is a University City and there is a high short-term house rent market here because even Portuguese students are not born in Coimbra... so they change their apartments almost every year/semester.
- There are also a few Portuguese sites where you can look for rooms or apartments. Some of them:
6 – Bureaucracies – After finding a place to stay you must go to your University to get everything in order for your studies here. Most of the Erasmus and Exchange students come to University of Coimbra and to go to the International Relations Office. Erasmus – however – have to go to Casa da Lusofonia (the same place of ESN office). Either you are a UC or other university student, check the attending schedule in you university website before going there. You must bring some photos and…all the documents you they gave you at University and, of course, photos of you, the Learning Agreement, the Acceptance Letter and the Passport or ID card! Also 20 euros for insurance, since University likes to keep you safe and sound in case of any accidents or medical problems.
In summary: bring everything you have that can be useful! Because you will need to be patient: lots of foreign students come every semester so you will probably need to wait a long time to get all the bureaucracies in order. And, believe me, you won’t want to know that you will need to get there once again because there is one paper missing! But don’t think you are done: you will probably need to go to the Loja do Cidadão and to the International Relations Division of your Faculty. So, when you go to DRI (International Relations Office) don’t forget to ask which are the next things you need to do!
7 – Join the events, write in the ESN Facebook group and enjoy your time in Coimbra! Get surprised by the Harry Potter capes, by the wonderful Fado singers, by all the tradition… get in love in and with the city and never forget one thing: portuguese people are, generally, very helpful but also not so confident about their English speaking skills. So if you need any help ask them: most of the people will do all they can to help you! But you must take the action: you must ask them for help, otherwise they will be too shy of their English skills to help – even if they want to do it.
8 – To be in Erasmus is also to get integrated in a different culture. There are lots of volunteer associations that you can join and you will still have time to go to parties, to travel and to study. Get involved. And if you have any doubts remember you can always write a private message to https://www.facebook.com/ESNCOIMBRA. Remember that you are in Erasmus. Therefore, this must be the time of your life (so on)!