Interview: How to live and work during Erasmus (Porto)
I have already wrote a couple of articles about my experience during Erasmus+1 exchange in Porto. Some of it that was not so nice and some of it was just frickin’ awesome. Today we’re gonna discuss not only what Porto was all about, but also some more practical matters. Like how to live and work during Erasmus.
Actually, it will be a second post about how to find a balance between student-type of financial situation and your wanderlust. We got this idea from our Instagram subscriber Kayla, which asked how do we manage to travel while being students. Last time we got help from my good friend Ignas, who shared his experience about traveling to U.S. and how much he earned during his stay.
Brief description about the travelers
The first time girls came to Porto in summer 2015 for one semester of studies and fell in love with this city so much, that they’ve decided they must spend there a full-year. With this decision came a need to earn additional money to support their time in Portugal’s second largest city.
With a help from their local friends they got a job in a Porto Tonico club, which girls now call their second home.
For those who are going to Porto for Erasmus+ or already have been there, the also interesting part is that Gabrielė and Elena were residents of the famous2 Wild Out Mansion. We’re going to talk about this also!
As always, we don’t expect you to do exactly as our friends, but we hope that this will give you some ideas and inspiration what you could do in your own situation.
Love for Porto
We started our talk asking what made the the girls fall in love with this city and why have they decided to stay in Porto for full year?
Both girls agree that from almost the first moment this place felt like home. Friends and relatives often ask – why Porto and why full-year? I tell them that it’s not we who chose Porto, it’s the city that chose us, – laughs Elena.
Interestingly, many people told me that I would get home-sick and how difficult it’s going to be to get accustomed not being around your friends and family, but, honestly, there wasn’t a single day, that I would’ve thought, that I wish, I could go back to Lithuania, – adds Gabrielė.
She later explains it was a bit like an act of destiny as both girls were looking where they would get accepted together and Porto was that place.
Falling in love with the city came naturally. As our travelers point out, as they came there in summer everything was just perfect. Elena says that she could think of 100 reasons why she fell in love with this city. The climate, the variety of fruits and tastes, fashionistas, beautiful people, ocean… She could’ve gone about this all day.
During our first afternoon in Porto, we couldn’t believe that we’re going to spend here two months. I remember saying that while standing on the Ponte de Luis bridge and seeing the beautiful clay roofs from up above, – she remembers.
To addition, they agreed that the locals are also what makes the city this much homey. Gabrielė says that it seems like everyone is very laid-back. They’re quick with a chat, always ready to help and can give you a smile without any reason.
All of these reasons lead to their decision stay in Porto for full year. When we had to think of leaving, we wanted to cry and to do everything to prolong our wonderful time there. So, that’s how we stayed as much as we could – a year, – replies Elena.
Benefits of living abroad
Not everyone dares to pack their bags and leave their home to live for a semester, or a full-year abroad. Though, everyone who eventually does that, almost never regret this decision. We asked the girls about their Erasmus experience and what one year in Porto gave to them?
Both girls start to talk about gaining valuable life-experience. Being away from home, knowing that you’re the one who has to take care of yourself, sharing home with people from different countries and living with people you don’t know3. All of this makes you feel a little bit more self-responsible.
We grew a lot of patience and tolerance. We had flatmates, who loved “calm” weekday evenings with their friends, while we had lectures next morning at 8 A.M., – with a smile remembers Gabrielė. Or maybe we were already accustomed to the sound as we lived just across the street from a lot of clubs and bars, – she adds.
I can say that at first it looks like a lot to handle for young person, – says Elena. – Though I haven’t considered myself as not self-responsible person, but during that year we had to face a lot! Freedom and responsibility at the same time, household problem – everything is on your shoulders. Even visiting hospitals in foreign country was an interesting adventure and something not experienced before. As Gabrielė said we grew tolerance towards other people and we had to realize that in this world each and everyone of us has their own prichudy4.
As this is a travel blog I had to ask what about traveling around and seeing new places?
We didn’t travel a lot, as we used our tuition and wage, as we needed that money for our survival, – says Gabrielė. – Though we still saw all of the major Portuguese big and small cities.
Both girls say that they gained a lot of from traveling around Portugal. To me, one of the things that Elena said really stuck into my mind – living abroad makes you feel different in new places. They don’t seem that unfamiliar and frightening as they used to.
I no longer see any problems with living in places that used to seem ‘suspicious’, searching for cheapest options; flying and getting around in airports; asking people around, even if they don’t speak English or getting lost in big cities, – says Elena.
Gabrielė remembers their trip to Lisbon, where they lived in a creepy hostel. She says that even touching the blankets or going to the toilet seemed unsafe. Though they felt happy because they were able to save additional money. Also, she says it taught to appreciate what they had at their Porto flat.
Finally, Elena says that living abroad taught one very valuable lesson – appreciation of family. It’s not like I learned that, but I was reminded how much you have to cherish your family. Getting back home, to your family, pets, that’s something different. While being away, you remember lots of things that you have forgotten. That’s why I’m very happy that I got back home as better and improved person.
The Wild Out Mansion
Another interesting fact about the girls that we’ve mentioned before is that they lived in the famous Wild Out Mansion. Though, everyone in Erasmus goes there, the question remains – why is it famous?
Actually, I don’t even know, – chuckles Gabrielė. I know! – says Elena. – I heard that the facade is very old or something like that. That’s why almost every morning tourists were taking pictures of our home. The inside was not very nice and required repair, but the balcony during nice days redeemed for everything.
Actually, for the autumn semester girls lived in a different place. When they got to this place the first time they couldn’t imagine themselves living there. When we saw the rooms – we thought ‘no way we would ever live here’. The rooms looked like nun cells, – remembers Gabrielė. – But life is full of surprises!
Now they say they couldn’t wished for a better place to live. We loved this place so much, that together with our flatmates we called it The Kingdom, – says Gabrielė. – And we were the queens. Who was the king? A random pigeon that occasionally would fly into the room, – she laughs.
What about the parties? We didn’t party that much, but I can say that this place is created for that, – says Gabrielė. The Mansion is in the main bar street and as Porto never, NEVER sleeps, no matter what day it is – the music was playing every night until the dawn, – adds Elena. – But that didn’t bother us at all. At the end we were living in the city centre, in a Kingdom.
Here, I, P., will add something from myself: Wild Out Mansion parties were just awesome. Right there we got to meet most of our new friends. In this place, we used to party, pre-party and after-party. If you’re going to Porto, you have to find your way there. And I wish that once you get to the Mansion the hosts would be as nice as the ones that lived there during my stay!
How to live and work during Erasmus
Now as much as we loved to talk and reminisce about Porto, we had to go down to business. How did you end up working in the club and what was that you do?
We knew these guys Mike and Andre, DJ Badasses. We heard that they let Erasmus students to earn some additional money. So, we were asking them to let us work, – says Gabrielė. – Our main jobs were to distribute flyers and invite people to parties organized by Wild Out Porto.
We were pretty good at this. We believe it had a lot to do with our blue eyes and blond hair, which is unusual for Portuguese, – she giggles.
Also the girls used to work in Porto Tonico club’s cloakroom. They revealed that for distributing flyers they used to get 15 Euros per night and for job at the cloakroom – 20 Euros. The flat would used to cost them 150 Euros per month. As they were getting an Erasmus tuition, they were able to gather some additional money.
As Gabrielė says, most of the times they were able to earn enough money for the upcoming week.
Still, they believe that they got much more than money while working in Porto. Though, additional money was good, because Erasmus tuition is not enough, the best thing was becoming a part of a family, – says Elena. – Most of the people in our workplace was either Erasmus students that shared the same faith or locals. At the beginning we were just strangers and when we had to leave.. Let’s just say there were a lot of tears!
Not only the girls met new friends, but they also had to face situations they’ve never encountered before.
We had a lot of adventures while working. First of all, we couldn’t speak Portuguese. That was surprising for people who used to come to the club, – Elena remembers while laughing. Gabrielė also adds, – Secondly, the of cloakroom was awful. So, the clothes used to fall-off and a lot of problems followed afterwards. Finally, once the cloakroom got flooded. One of the neighbor’s pipes exploded and we got to watch fountains coming out of the wall. But now we see all those situations as valuable lessons that gave us a lot of good experiences.
Things to know before packing your bags
To end our pleasant conversations, I decided to ask Gabrielė and Elena, was there anything that you would’ve liked to know before leaving for Porto?
Both girls have one thing in mind – it’s a perfect way to get out of your comfort zone. And as we all know – life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Though, Gabrielė remembers some problems, like not being informed that there will be lessons in Portuguese language and others, she thinks that there’s no excuse for not going to Erasmus exchange.
The only thing that I can say is – GO FOR IT! – says Gabrielė. – It’s the best way to step out of your comfort zone. You’ll get to know new cultures, learn something new, travel, experience unforgettable adventures. You will improve as a person, as well as, a professional. All I can say that it was the best decision that I’ve ever made and best year of my life.
It’s just an awesome thing! – agrees Elena. – Getting abroad is an unbelievable experience. All of the roles we have in life like being a professional, a friend, a family member – we get better at it during our life. But when you experience so much and so far away from your home you improve much faster.
After trying this, I am much more confident in making bigger and more responsible steps in my life. Even job interviews are no longer frightening, – smiles Elena. – Self-confidence, respecting other – just one of many things that enriched me. Don’t be afraid to take this step – even if you have to go through lots of paper work5. Don’t stay in one place.
So, as I asked if there was anything that the girls would’ve liked to change or would’ve done differently, as you all could guess, they both said – NO!
I believe that all of the decisions that I’ve made had a reason and lead to where I am now, – finishes Elena.
We hope that this post had value to you and gave you an idea on how to live and work during Erasmus.
If you have any further questions we’re always ready to help and answer it on our own or with help of our friends!
Our special THANKS goes to: