“”So how was Portugal?” That was the question posed by friends, family, and colleagues when I returned to Colorado State University after spending 3 months at the University of Evora teaching a M.S. class in Information Systems. As I try to answer, I realize the question has different answers – the professional, the cultural, and the day-to-day living answers.
Professionally, I experienced a different university system and learned more about the use of technology in Portugal. Being a “geek”, I was excited to see the wide variety of uses for Multibanco machines. Portugal makes far more use of their ATM machines than the U.S. does. My students were very interested in the differences in the U.S. and the Portuguese university systems and were happy to teach me about the Multibanco machines! (They helped with my Portuguese, too.) One student works for Delta Coffee, so I also learned quite a bit about a Portuguese company and the uses they make of technology.
Culturally, I found Portugal to be different from the U.S. and this was apparent even at the university. Some of the differences I found were quiet buildings at 9 A.M. and busy buildings at 7 PM on Friday evening; long, large lunches, late dinners and small breakfasts; strong coffee; cell phones everywhere (At one point, we were convinced that everyone who is old enough to talk has one); and sidewalks and streets paved with cobblestones (I’m still trying to learn how women can walk on them in high heels!).
My husband and I visited a different place every weekend, giving us the opportunity to see quite a bit of Portugal. We saw walled cities, storks, antas and menirs, cathedrals, monasteries, beaches, fishing villages, and Lisbon. We fell in love with Pasteis de Belem, port wine, and vinho tinto. We even became soccer fans during the World Cup. Who can forget that U.S.- Portugal game??
Then there was the day-to-day living aspect of the Fulbright. Spending 90 days in one country gives everyone a different perspective than any tourist has. I loved going to grocery stores to find new foods and look at the fish. The stacks of dried cod amazed me and while I ate several cod dishes, I never did figure out how to fix them! I sampled cheeses, wines, fish, and pork fixed eight different ways. I learned that we could park almost anywhere, it is impossible to turn left in Lisbon, and the Portuguese are very friendly to their visitors.
Finally, I always answer that having a Fulbright was a great experience and in Portugal the Fulbright Commission helped make it even better. I attended the anniversary dinner and met some interesting Fulbrighters – past and present. Rita and the staff helped in many ways – even helping us record the voice mail greetings on our cell phones! The three months were a great experience!”
Fulbright Scholar at Universidade de Évora, AY 2001/2002