My ERASMUS+ Adventure in Porto

My name is Mujo Adžemović, and I am a student of International Relations at the International University of Sarajevo. This summer, I got an amazing opportunity to spend three months in Porto, Portugal, at University Fernando Pessoa through Erasmus + program and finish research in my field of interest, which is humanitarian action. First thing that came to my mind was how lucky I was to be given such an amazing opportunity. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I will live in Portugal, or somewhere in that part of the world. To make things even better, the whole program was scheduled in summer, giving me and other students the unbelievable opportunity to experience Porto in its greatest time of the year.

The first month, July, we spent listening to a great number of lecturers from all over the world. These people were great at what they do, and this enabled us to achieve the main goal of the program - learn more about humanitarian action. We did not have whole days to experience Porto’s lifestyle and history, to enjoy such charming environment, but, we had weekends.

August was our break time. Porto, located in the North of Portugal, in the valley of river Douro, is the second largest city in Portugal. During the first days of our stay there, whenever I asked about its population and overall size, people would always answer in same way:”Well, it’s not that big, maybe two or three hundred thousand people.” I took metro to “Ribeira”, the most famous part of the city, where you can climb to see Ponte de Luiz: 80 meters high bridge and Porto’s most amazing piece of architecture. I felt like I clicked the pause button on my previous, pretty standard and common life, and jumped into another dimension, where I was standing on the bridge, trying to embrace all the life that was happening around me, before and behind me and under me, in Ribeira.

Porto has more than two million people in overall, only that the urban area, the city core, has three hundred thousand. All the houses seemed to be telling some story, romantic though, since they were all perfectly lined up, connected and painted exclusively blue, red, or yellow. All the architecture there is pretty fascinating, and to a high extent well preserved, since all the public buildings survived a long period of time even throughout dictatorship.

The people of Porto, although considered reserved in comparison with the people in the South, were willing to chat, give recommendations and discuss things. Since all of them are passionate football fans and “sailors”, you cannot beat them in debates about fishing, wine, olives, and in never ending Ronaldo – Messi debate. Meeting them every day in shops, coffee shops, even in the streets, felt like home. For those who prefer swimming, spending time on the beach, or surfing, there are dozens of beaches on the coast of Atlantic Ocean. Although the water is quite cold both in winter and in the summer, you will not find an empty beach, even early in the morning. Porto is the second cheapest city in the European Union, and that was maybe the most fascinating fact. You can drink coffee in the city center, enjoy a beautiful view on the river, watch sunset, and you will pay only 60-70 cents. The weather is stable and it was less than 25 degrees during July and August.

In the last weeks of my exchange, I wrote my paper and finalized my research, on the topic connecting humanitarian action and Central Bosnia. All professors, together with classmates, and the IR office we were in touch with, were really helpful. It was quite surprising how much they actually knew about Bosnian issues. Dr. Claudia Ramos was my mentor and helped a lot to improve my paper. I was happy to see that we, IUS students, are competitive in the rest of Europe when it comes to academic education.

I would like to tell something also about people whom I had a chance to meet. Apart from the classmates from the University Fernando Pessoa and my IUS friends, there were students from all over the world. One thing they have in common and that really struck me was the liberal approach to life, in particular, their openness in terms of travel, education and thinking. For example, there was one young man who quit his job in a consulate in Italy, and came to Porto only because he had been looking for a city with a beach good for surfing and a university nearby. Now, he is studying dentistry. 

That changed in my perspective, and that is what I brought back to Bosnia. I would like to try out some other things now, maybe another exchange program, and see how people live in some place elsewhere, and how I would fit in there.  I would recommend everyone to seize every opportunity that they come across. You might not get that opportunity again.