Coimbra

Coimbra is definitely one of the best cities to study in. It should be on lists of places to visit and to study. Sadly, it isn’t but I think that works in its favor, the few people that go there feel like it’s their little secret.

It has one of the oldest universities in the world, filled with old buildings with their own history, amazing gardens and its own river. Students place a lot of importance on traditions, it is unique, built on a hierarchic status.

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Each student has their own class and when you reach a certain year, you get to use our traditional indumentary. Even Erasmus students have their own class and privileges. And yes, outsiders do call us “wizards”. We never correct them.

Despite the hierarchy, it feels like a huge family where you always feel welcome, even if you don’t know anyone. It is most likely that your teachers studied there too so they know your struggles and will help you. If not, the older students will, they’re always ready to share their papers and studies from other years.

Each faculty has one or more “tunas” which are something like our choirs. They sing typical students songs and they incorporate our academic spirit. Some have beautiful songs, others have funny songs, but they’re usually about the beauty of the city or about love.

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Everybody can join them, as long as they can sing or play an instrument. And if you really want to join them but you can’t play anything they will teach you!

Also, if you happen to date one of them or simply feel like needing some inspiration, you can ask them to serenade you. I’m talking about an actual serenade, with you inside your house at the window watching them singing you a beautiful balad.

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The turistic part… Well, the Botanic Garden is definitely a must see, as well as the “Quinta das Lágrimas” a site of a tragic story about a king and his lover, the Green Park near the river, the Sofia Library inside the university full of ancient books, and the chapel inside the university is where old students often marry.

Can you guess where the university is in the picture? It’s really not that hard. If you said it is that building on top of the hill, you guessed correctly! As strange as it seems, from time to time those squares turn into huge parties. I’m talking about live music out in the open with cheap beer, food trucks and a lot of students. These kinds of parties are organized by the representative committee from each course. Having over 50 courses I believe you can imagine the amount of parties.

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Since I have started the night life topic I should just cover it all. The academic nights are Tuesday and Thursday and Coimbra is a small city so there are only a few places you can go. There are clubs (please do note that I’m talking about actual clubs, not Cien or B4) you can go to, like Twiit or NB. But that is to finish the night. To start it, we have dinner. And by dinner I mean drinking. I would honestly not be surprised if someone was randomly checked at some night and being discovered with more alcohol than blood. Since there are dinners organized by each course with all you can drink instead of all you can eat (I’m really not kidding) for 10 euros we start the night… well.

After dinner we usually go to the main square, which is very similar to Krakow’s main square. Only smaller. And with more drunk people.

Oh! I almost forgot the most amazing party! I’m talking about THE party. A week-long festival, a day for each faculty, in which there are no classes whatsoever and artists from all over the world come to play for us. The “Queima das Fitas”. It happens in the second week of May and that’s when the magic happens.

It starts with a serenade that everybody watches, or tries to watch.

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 But my favorite day is Thursday. That is the parade day. Every senior year from each course designs one or more cars to drive around the streets and they share free drinks and food. Can you imagine what it feels like to have beer, vodka, whisky and whatnot literally handed to you by someone in a random car, everybody singing and having the time of their lives?

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I’m sorry but if you think you have experienced everything and you’ve never been here, you’re absolutely wrong. I could tell you so much more about this festival but that would take all the space in this blog and some more!

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I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

About the cost of living, Coimbra is really inexpensive. Being in Portugal, it is cheaper than most EU countries, including Spain, Greece or England. It doesn’t beat Poland but we’re close. Also, the famous Biedronka originated in Portugal, so most of the products you find there are common between the countries! Except in Portugal is called “Pingo Doce” but it’s the same concept.

Now: weather and cuisine. Being the gateway to the Mediterranean sea, you can expect good weather in Portugal, especially during the summer. On sunny days it feels good to just go to a café and sit on the balcony with your friends, chatting over some cold beers, or walking along the river in Green Park. If you don’t want to and you feel like taking a dip in the ocean you can take a train and go to the nearest beach, about an hour away, and enjoy the white sand and crystal clear water. And the cuisine is simply the best Mediterranean dishes you can possibly find! You can find good fish at cheap prices and good quality meat easily. Please give yourself some time to try the “francesinha”, I promise you won’t regret it.

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What more can I say? We are a friendly country, open to visitors, we speak English well and we’re always happy to help!

Also, yes we do love football and yes, we know Cristiano Ronaldo is from our country and we like him but if you’re there and you only talk about him then you’re doing something wrong.

Feeling excited already? I know I made it look like a party university but we also study a lot and are recognized for it. If you ask the students there, many of them will tell you they first chose the university and then the course. Me included. The city has its own magnetism and you’ll feel like you never want to leave. That much I can guarantee.

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