Tucked away in the south western corner of Europe, Portugal is an underrated, under-the-radar study abroad destination. While less-talked-about than some of its other European neighbors, this country has so much to offer. World-class education smack in the middle of some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes? Sim, por favor! Surf all day and then party in medieval streets at night. Spend your time exploring picturesque villages before feasting on salt cod and port wine. Get to know warm-hearted Portuguese people and learn the history of an empire. Find out why this country is so beloved by visitors by choosing to study abroad in Portugal.
From the top all the way down the spectacular coast to the bottom, Portugal is packed with sensory overload. Golden beaches and sheer cliffs border glittering turquoise waters, while medieval castles and cobblestone villages dot the countryside. The cities still bear an elegance and grandeur leftover from the days when Portugal was a maritime empire. There are an endless amount of places to explore, great food to gorge on, and of course, Port to sip on.
Lisbon is one of the most popular places to study abroad in Portugal, and you only need to spend mere minutes there to see why. The city is bursting with character, and its exuberant personality shines through narrow cobbled streets crisscrossed with lines of drying washing, rickety trams chunking up and down the hills, and a nightlife that is too much to be contained by the bars in Bairro Alto, so it spills out into the streets in a messy celebration of what it is to be alive.
Porto is Lisbon’s slightly more chic cousin, rising above the river with stately bridges and elegant architecture. The beauty of the city is in the details: the azulejos decorating everything from street signs to the insides of churches, the mighty barrels of Port tucked into caves along the riverside, and the medieval air of the merchants houses and cafes in the Ribeira district.
Much of Portugal’s charm comes from the smaller towns around the country. Sintra is one town you should check out while studying abroad in Portugal if you like palaces, castles, and Romantic architecture. If you want to get in as much beach time as possible, Faro makes a great base on the spectacular Algarve coast.
Studying Abroad in Portugal
Portugal has a number of well-known, respected universities and other educational institutions. You can study at the majestic University of Coimbra, which is nearly 800 years old, or the University of Porto, which has an outstanding reputation for scientific research. Wherever you choose to study abroad in Portugal, you can enjoy a thriving student life and excellent standard of education.
With a history that goes back to ancient hunters and gatherers, and spans Romans, kings, and world explorers, Portugal is perfect for history students. With an incredible depth of culture, it is also a great place to study European studies, music (fado is the popular local music), and the arts. Other popular courses of study in Portugal include business, science, and politics, but international students can find courses to suit almost every major and area of interest somewhere in Portugal. And you can always consider throwing in a few Portuguese language classes no matter what your major.
You can study abroad in Portugal during the summer, for one semester, or even for the entire year. Courses can be taught in English with other American or international students, unless you choose to directly enroll in a Portuguese university. In that case, courses will be taught in Portuguese and you will be with other local students.
Scholarships & Costs
If you thought it didn’t get much better than gorgeous beaches and lashings of culture, just wait until you find out how affordable it is to study abroad in Portugal. Everything from course fees to the cost of living comes at a budget-friendly price in Portugal.
Students enrolled in a full time bachelor’s degree program will pay between $1000 and $2000 for a full year, or half that for just one semester. Portugal is widely considered one of the cheapest countries in Europe when it comes to living costs. Lisbon has the highest living costs, while smaller towns will be cheaper. International students can usually get by on around $800 a month, including all accommodation, food, and transport expenses.
However, these costs can still be expensive for a lot of students hoping to study abroad in Portugal, so it is always a good idea to check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory to find out if you are eligible for any financial aid.
Accommodation & Visas
While studying in Portugal, you’ll have a few options for housing; you can either live with a host family, in a dorm with other international students, or opt for an apartment. Student halls of residence are usually the cheapest option, and they provide a great social experience. However, if you’re looking for cultural immersion and to practice your language skills, it’s best to live with a host family. Since you’ll be constantly speaking and hearing Portuguese, you will be quickly pushed to the next level in your language proficiency. Oftentimes, when rooming with other international students who speak English, you are not challenged to speak in Portuguese.
Students from non-European Union countries are required to obtain a visa to study abroad in Portugal. If you plan to study in Portugal for 90 days or less, you will be able to get a Schengen Visa, which also allows you to travel freely throughout the Schengen Zone. For longer study abroad programs in Portugal, you will need to apply for a student visa. To complete the application process you will need proof that you are enrolled at an approved institution, evidence of financial resources, and a valid health insurance policy. To find out more about the visa application process, contact a Portuguese consulate or embassy in your home country.
Benefits & Challenges
With a mild Mediterranean climate, a coastline that was made for road-tripping down, and some of the most beautiful cities in Europe, there aren’t a lot of drawbacks to studying abroad in Portugal. If you’re not a soccer fan you might find it hard to connect with locals, but other than that, your biggest problem will be trying to see everything before you leave.
Those who decide to study abroad in Portugal will benefit from unique gastronomy. Food and wine are serious business in Portugal, and there is no shortage of seafood and sangria. With affordable restaurant prices, you can enjoy eating out frequently to maximise your Portuguese culinary experience.
Studying abroad in Portugal is also a fantastic opportunity to learn one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It might seem confusing at first, but dive right in and you will pick up Portuguese in no time—and locals will appreciate your efforts to communicate with them in their own language (not Spanish!).
Portugal is an amazing country and a great place to study abroad. Get off the beaten path—go to the place that was once thought to be the end of the world, Cape Sagres, or be surrounded by the cosmopolitan action and study abroad in Lisbon. You’ll have a study abroad experience like no other if you study abroad in Portugal.