Things you should know – Mike Williamson, Coimbra

So this morning I paid my first month’s rent and I’m moving into the new flat tomorrow. How did I find this flat, you might ask. Well there are 3 main ways to find a flat here:

1) The Students Association (Associacao Academica) produces a leaflet with loads of adverts of rooms that have some kind of certificate. I suppose it’s good to make sure you’re not getting shafted. This is available at the Union building near Praca da Republica for the princely sum of 1EU. However, I’m not sure how often it gets reprinted, many of the adverts may have expired already.

2) The Erasmus Student Network (aka ESN or Erasmus Association) realise that not many of the Erasmus students speak Portuguese, so one of the things they’ll do is help you find a flat. This typically involves one of their volunteers going through the local paper for adverts near where your faculty is, calling them up and organising a time to go and see it. Very helpful, this is how I got mine, all you have to do is go to the ESN office when it’s open.

3) Keep your eyes and ears open! Walking around you’ll see a few notices on lampposts and things. Nowhere near as many as in Malaga but a few. Most of these are looking for just girls. Something that is a bit different here is that they’ll also stick notices on the front door of the flat itself, so instead of calling someone you just knock and if someone’s there, you’re in luck. Some of these flats were living with a family which didn’t really appeal to me at all. Also listen around the other Erasmus students, you’re all in the same boat so if someone knows about a flat that wasn’t suitable for them for some minor reason, chances are they’ll tell everyone else. There are plenty of flats around, I saw 7 before settling on one.

One of the benefits of here as opposed to Malaga is that there are a lot of exchange students from Brazil. So whereas in Malaga I was stuck between living with other Erasmus students for the social benefits and living with Spaniards to learn the language better, here I can do both. I’m in a large house with 4 Spaniards, 3 Brazilians, a Portuguese person and a room that’s yet to be filled. Perfect. You should expect to pay somewhere in the region of 200EU per month (much better than Edinburgh).

So what else do you need to know… mobiles! There’s a good deal with Vodafone called Yorn Power Extravaganza (admittedly I got it just because of the name). I went to the shop and got it straight away on the recommendation of my roommate, but actually it would have been better to wait, because ESN (yes again, they really are legends) have a card which not only gets you discounts in lots of places and on their own events, but also comes with one of these SIM cards included, all for 5EU rather than the 10 in the shop. The lesson is to take your time and survey your options, there really is no hurry. What’s so great about this deal is that you can call or text anyone else who’s on the same tariff for free, as long as you top-up 5EU a month, and that’s what all the Erasmus students are on. Bargain!

There are 2 language courses here, and I got no information about them whatsoever before I arrived. One of them is called the intensive course. It’s something like 7 hours a day for 4 days a week throughout February for the second semester. Problem is, you had to hand a form in before the 29th and I arrived on the 5th not knowing that, plus the international office was closed until the 8th for the weekend so I had no chance of getting on it. It also costs 225EU, but I think it would have been worth it. The other course is known as the Erasmus course, it’s free, and it’s throughout the semester alongside your other courses. If your degree’s Spanish and Portuguese then it won’t count for Hispanic Studies because it’s not for Portuguese students, it’s specifically for mobility students, so I’m going to do it just to learn rather than anything else. To get on that you just need to put it on your learning agreement.

I think that’ll do for now.

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