A Brief History of Purtugal
Fortunately for everyone involved, this is not a history lesson. What's worth noting for the sake of context, however, is that for millennia Portugal has been home to a number of different peoples, and has been an officially recognized nation since the 12th century. A couple of centuries later, as Europe embarked on its great empirical age of exploration and discovery - e.g. Columbus and the New World, etc. - Portugal was a major player, pitted against Spain (and others) in a race of conquering foreign lands. Vasco de Gama, a Portuguese naval commander, led the first fleet of ships to sail to India from Europe. Students interested in gaining credits while exploring a unique and culturally rich land should consider study abroad in Portugal.
Today, when you look at South America, you see a host of countries that officially speak Spanish, while one country on the coast, Brazil, officially speaks Portuguese. (Isn't that odd, in a way? It's like you had a next-door neighbor who was way bigger and louder than you and with whom you absolutely did not get along, and you both end up getting your real estate licenses at around the same time. And then you go out and represent this one glorious home in a beautiful faraway neighborhood...only to discover your surly neighbor was representing every other house on that block.)
So it's easy to think of Portugal as something of an underdog. And, really, you could do worse than that - it's not a bad starting point, as it's a country most often overlooked in American conversations about the glories of Europe.
Why Study Abroad in Portugal
If you're a student looking for an exciting and fascinating locale to spend a term or two studying abroad, you're likely in search of a place that is both cosmopolitan and friendly, both entirely foreign and entirely nonthreatening. To get a sense for where Portugal falls on that sliding scale, let's start with its most renowned city: Lisbon. Lisbon is a likely choice for students looking to study abroad in Portugal.
LISBON - City of the SEVEN HILLS
There's a great deal to be gained and a great time to be had simply by visiting Portugal. However, studying abroad there is a fundamentally different proposition. Lisbon, the nation's largest city as well as its capital, is known as the city of seven hills for its truly unique, stunningly beautiful location, nestled in a series of hills by the sea. Lisbon has an ancient and interesting history, which is reflected in its architecture, varied and fascinating neighborhoods and monuments. Along with its storied past, Lisbon is a lively and modern city, with restaurants, cafes and a teeming nightlife at every turn. It's the kind of place that's really hard not to enjoy. To boot, it's a city that's inexpensive to live in. As a student studying there, entertainment activities and excursions - such as trips to museums, restaurants, bars, shows, exhibitions and clubs - will be continually within your reach.
However, let's be honest; were you to have a conversation with someone who's spent time in Lisbon, the first thing they say may not be about the beauty but something along the lines of 'OMG the pastries...the food is so good.' And it's true. The food truly is so good. It's almost unfair.
So, should you decide to study abroad in Portugal, this is what you're faced with: the prospect of living in a land of warm sunshine, surrounded by equally warm Portuguese people, a long and fascinating cultural history to absorb, and vibrant cities (and the rest of nearby Europe) to explore. Oh, yeah, and really good food. Learning has never tasted so good.