From Slovenia, a few students arrived to Porto this year, speaking of a more vibrant social life but also of an academic reality that leaves much to be desired.

This reportage is part of a special international edition promoted by JPN with the help of three FEJS Journalism students who visited Porto in the first week of May.

Versão portuguesa

Slovenska verzija

Porto has been distinguished as the best Erasmus destination in 2024. Indeed, the city hosts a very diverse and active community of international students. In the last academic year, the University of Porto alone recorded the presence of 2,283 young people from 62 different countries.

JPN met two students who came from Slovenia: Maja Plateis (20) and Igor Arsov (20). The young people are part of the Erasmus+ program and chose Porto as the city to live and study in for a semester. Despite the differences between Slovenia and Portugal they have encountered, both fell in love with the city and describe a much more relaxed academic — and life—reality.

“A much more relaxed atmosphere”

Maja Plateis is from Maribor, the second largest city in Slovenia, located in the Stajerska region, northeast. She is a Psychobiology student at the University of Primorskem in Koper. Now, she is continuing her studies for a semester at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at the University of Porto (FPCEUP).

The language was the biggest barrier in her adaptation. To better fit into the new academic life she found, Maja enrolled in the buddy program that the faculty has. However, the academic part ended up taking a back seat, and she chose to get to know the city and its way of life better. During her stay, which is now coming to an end, she was dazzled by “the city’s landscapes, green spaces, safety, and tranquility.”

Did the faculty help her integrate better? “The faculty offered me the possibility to learn Portuguese. However, most of the Psychology professors at FPCEUP are fluent in English, which facilitates learning. Besides, the bibliography is mostly in English,” says Maja.

Regarding the relationship between professors and students, Maja confesses that higher education “is much more relaxed” in Portugal. Nevertheless, she says that teachers do not usually accompany Erasmus students and “do not care much about those who come from abroad.”

“Something that also surprised me was the evaluation system. In Portugal, you can choose to take only the final exam. At my college in Slovenia, I don’t think that’s possible. We always have a mandatory continuous assessment system and then a final exam. Here we can choose the path we prefer,” she explains.

However, taking advantage of university life is also a challenge for international students. “There is always a lot happening, both within and outside the faculty. However, the events are all in portuguese and directed at portuguese students. I feel that we don’t have the same opportunities,” describes the Slovenian student.

Even among students, Maja admits that her portuguese colleagues do not usually include mobility students. According to the young woman, portuguese colleagues seem “more shy and reserved, especially when they realize they have to speak in English.” Regarding traditions and academic parties, despite her interest, Maja feels that she is not part of that reality.

The young Slovenian told JPN that she easily found an apartment in Porto, thanks to tools provided by the Erasmus program. However, the expense of housing is one of her biggest problems: “My biggest difficulty, economically speaking, is paying for the apartment. In Portugal, there are no public residences for Erasmus students, and the only option is to stay in private establishments. I end up spending most of my money to pay the rent.”

“Slow” academic life, “lively” nightlife

Igor Arsov also exchanged the University of Primorskem in Koper for the University of Porto for a semester. He is a Management student. He is from Skopje, in Macedonia, but preferred to study in Slovenia. Now, in Portugal, he attends classes at the Faculty of Economics (FEP). Besides the city’s prestige, he chose Porto for its proximity to the sea, something he values greatly.

In terms of accommodation, Igor was “luckier.” The Erasmus+ program tools made the task easier, and he quickly found a place to stay. On Rua Armando Cardoso, in Asprela, Igor found a house for foreign students where many generations from different parts of the world have stayed.

However, he admits that it was “a stroke of luck” given the housing crisis that Portugal is experiencing in the big cities and also because he is aware of many scams on the internet: “You never know if you can trust the offers because the owners may want to deceive you.” In fact, the student believes there is a higher probability of being scammed in Portugal than in Koper.

Like Maja, Igor also had difficulties with the Portuguese language. “The languages are very different. At first, I couldn’t express myself correctly, especially in stores,” he remarks. At the university, he didn’t expect this to be a problem but realized that it is not common to translate classes and study materials. “Sometimes students have to translate what the professor says,” he adds.

Integration into the academic community was also difficult. “Portuguese students seem more reserved,” he describes. Igor admits that he ends up socializing only with other international students and, therefore, does not participate: “There are many traditions. The part of the academic attire, the initiation rituals, the different stages during the academic journey… Even though they have explained it to me, I don’t feel part of these traditions. It’s something very interesting to see, but I feel like I don’t have any contribution,” Igor explains.

Like the psychobiology student, Igor also defines the Portuguese way of life as “slower,” peaceful, and relaxed compared to Slovenia. The student did not expect the education system to be “so carefree,” as he is used to greater “rigidity” from his Slovenian teachers. “Moreover, everyone is late, from students to professors. And nothing happens. In Slovenia, we are much less flexible,” he adds.

One of the aspects he likes most is the city’s social and nightlife. “Porto has really great nightlife, diverse and lively. You meet a lot of different people, there are many foreigners who speak English, and the drinks are cheap. In my opinion, it’s the best part of studying here,” he told JPN. Adega Leonor and the Galerias de Paris area are his favorite spots, mainly due to the abundance of foreigners and because they are spaces with programs aimed at Erasmus students.

While the nightlife is appealing to a mobility student, Igor thinks that food is something that falls short and makes him miss home: “In Slovenia, we have access to student vouchers that allow us to have a meal more affordably in most restaurants.” He admits that he sometimes frequents university canteens, but the quality leaves much to be desired.

Overall, Igor is “loving” his stay in Porto, which ends at the end of June. His advice for international students is as follows: “You are in a different place, and you will miss home and many people. But the best thing you can do is keep an open mind despite the cultural shock.” He emphasizes that students should take advantage of this “rare opportunity” and meet as many people as possible, despite it being difficult at first: “When you arrive, you don’t see other people as strangers. You see yourself as the stranger. Eventually, it ends up being good, and then you won’t want to leave.”

Edited by Filipa Silva