Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Arrival, Orientation, and First Day

Ok I am going to try to keep this short-ish. So to get to Portugal I had to take a flight on KLM/Delta to Amsterdam and then Lisbon. It seemed the day of my flight that I was all set and ready to go, however I ended up getting so delayed at check-in that I was afraid I was going to miss my flight. The reason was that, because I was not sure whether I wanted to stay until December or June, the people at KLM advised us to book my return flight way out in June so that if I stayed, I would be fine, but if I decided to go home earlier I could just move the date back. Makes sense. HOWEVER, it did not work like this in practice. Because my visa for Portugal expires 1/13/2015 the woman at check-in would not give me my boarding passes. You *cannot* book a flight coming home after your visa has expired, apparently, so this strategy will not work. After freaking out and waiting on hold with KLM for 30 minutes off to the side of the check-in desk, we were finally able to move my flight back again (the lady at the desk said she couldn't do it and that we would have to call) and I ended up making it in time. Phew.    
The flight itself ended up being sort of horrible because I left Chicago at 4pm and the flight is around 7.5 hours. I got a window seat and it was pretty cramped, even more so because a handicapped lady was sitting on the aisle so if I wanted to get up I had to disturb both the lady in the middle and force this lady to struggle out of her seat. I arrived in Amsterdam at around 7am and what was supposed to be a 2 hour layover instead was 6!! So I picked a chair and stayed there for all 6 hours since I was so exhausted and hungry. After that I had to get on the last flight to Portugal which was around 3 hours. Again, I got a window seat Ahhhhhhh. When I did get to Lisbon we were picked up by our host families. Didn't do much the first day except I walked with my host to go get gelato. She lives near a beautiful park and basilica. More on those later when I can get pictures. The next day I had to take the metro to get to school at 10am for orientation. I have a good memory and the metro system is similar in size to Chicago's so I had no trouble getting there. There are 29 American people in our program (everyone is American) which the CIEE staff said was the largest group they had ever had. However, interestingly about 6 of the boys all went to the same college and were friends, deciding to study in Lisbon together. I am excited because soon we will meet Erasmus students (the study abroad program for college students in the EU) because apparently they are usually involved CIEE classes/ student life.
Today was our first intensive language course. How it works is that the first 2 weeks of the program regular college classes have not started yet, so us exchange students come in every day for 4 hours starting at 9 and ending at 1 to take Portuguese. After the 2 weeks we take a final exam before starting our regular classes plus the next level of intensive Portuguese. I have been studying Spanish for a while but I know very little Portuguese. The pronunciation seems especially difficult, there are TONS of "sh" sounds so it gets confusing listening to it. So far it has been fairly easy though because of the Spanish. For example, I already know the difference between ser and estar in Spanish, but we're going to relearn the same thing for Portuguese. Anyways, I hope that when we get our textbooks I will be able to work ahead and perhaps skip a level farther down the line... but we'll see. After eating lunch together in the cafeteria we were told it was time to go on a city tour. I don't have the pictures I want to put up yet so I will make a new post and talk about this tomorrow. For now, I am going to sleep in preparation for my next 4 hour class tomorrow!

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