Things have started to settle down here in Coimbra, and as such I should embark on the straightforward task of writing a regular blog. However, this is not as simple as it seems. I have to say that the Portuguese inefficiency has well and truly rubbed off on me, and here I am 5 weeks into my Erasmus exchange and only 1 blog entry to show for it. I apologise. It’s ironic given that my main compliant here has been the amount of time I have to wait to get anything done; yet here I am being just as slow and inefficient with my blog. Maybe I have embraced the Portuguese spirit more than I originally thought.
So on the theme of queuing I feel I should warn you that there is no escape. Here you have to wait for everything. Even the lectures start 15 minutes later than they should! But it is with bureaucratic issues that your patience is really tested. If you are lucky, there is a ticketed waiting system, which although takes longer, at least it’s fair. However, for an unlucky few there is just a free-for-all at the office opening hours. One of my friends was one of the unlucky ones – he, along with hundreds of other students, spent two consecutive mornings sitting on the flight of stairs in the Faculdade de Letras waiting to see his co-ordinator. His British queuing etiquette was not compatible with the countless hoards Portuguese students pushing in front of him. So if you come to Coimbra be prepared to spend hours waiting just to get one signature.
This leads me to my next point, before embarking on the long process of matriculation, make sure you are happy with your course choices. Every time you want to change a course, you have to queue up and get everything signed all over again. When you arrive in Coimbra, the International Office give you a month to send in your Learning Agreement, so rather than going straight to your co-ordinator the first Monday you are there, I would wait a week, try out your courses and see if you like them. That way you only have to queue up once. I did not do this, and sod’s law when I saw my co-ordinator, I was told that some of my modules clashed. Choosing not to go through the heinous queuing process all over again, I made a spur of the moment decision and chose a different module which I knew nothing about. Three weeks of teaching later and I am still not enthused by it, but now it is too late to change. So to avoid a similar fate to mine, I suggest you do your research and have a few ‘back up’ choices. Information on the different modules as well as summaries from previous years can be found here https://woc.uc.pt/fluc/ and as far as timetables are concerned you can look them up by following the link on the left hand side of the FLUC homepage http://www.uc.pt/fluc/ Although navigating the website may seem tedious, it is much better than waiting in person.
In other news I managed to find a flat quite easily here, much to the relief of my nagging relatives. I actually met one of my flatmates in the queue at the International Office, (you can see a theme developing here), and he told me about a really good flat. Low and behold I had a look, fell in love with it and took it. Everything here is much cheaper than Edinburgh, for 240 euros I have a beautiful flat, with bills included and a view to rival Arthur’s Seat. So I suppose sometimes waiting does pay off!