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When I first signed up for my Erasmus exchange program to Portugal, I never knew what I was really signing up for. The concept of going on an exchange is still a fresh one in Lebanon, especially since these Erasmus programs mainly take place between European countries.

One of the most critical parts in such an experience is to find courses that suit your study plan, especially if you are about to graduate. Three months after applying, I received my acceptance to study at “Universidade do Porto”, which I initially placed on top of my list.

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After finishing the visa work in Cyprus, I headed to Porto on the 21st of September. Unlike most students, I didn’t do any research about Porto except for watching some videos on the internet. The videos alone will show you how vibrant and alive this city is.

One thing you will mostly notice when you are there is that the Portuguese people are much similar to the Lebanese people; they are kind, welcoming, and friendly. No wonder why Portugal claimed the title of being the world's friendliest country towards foreign residents in 2018.

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Upon arrival, the university's international office will guide you to what you should do, step by step. Even though I arrived 3 weeks late, the welcoming festivities for international students were still going on.

If you are in Porto, you will realize that these festivities never end. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN Porto) will always keep you busy with their never-ending activities, trips and events. So, if you are going on an exchange program, no matter which country or city you choose, always check for the closest ESN section in charge; they will be of great assistance in helping you to know around.

As for the classes, they were mostly in Portuguese. However, in order to make it up for international students, the professors will always make sure to provide you with the suitable references in English. Most of the courses are also evaluated based on a single assessment at the end of the semester, which can be done again as recourse exams.

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Wrapping things up, I would like to thank BAU's international office, headed by Ms. Amani Bsat for providing us with this opportunity, as well as Dr. Semaan Amine and Mrs. Sireen Hariri for being of great assistance throughout this whole exchange program.

Being an Erasmus student is something you will always take pride of; it will always give you an opportunity to grow and thrive. "They say that Erasmus is not a year in your life - but your life in one year."

Mohamad Alayli