It has only been a week but I know for a fact that coming to study in Lisbon has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. From what I have seen, Lisbon is a city that just breathes love and soul. It is filled with such rich culture, where you can find passion on every corner through the countless talented musicians, dancers and artists ready to express their creativity to everyone that walks by. Every day as I walk through the cobbled stone streets, I am overcome with an array of new sights, scents, and feelings that are not able to be experienced in Sydney. There is something so romantic and beautiful about Europe that I cannot even begin to describe, it is something that needs to be experienced first hand in order to completely understand.
As this is my first time travelling on my own, I began the trip feeling slightly anxious yet eager. Waiting for my flight in the Emirates lounge had to have been the most nerve wracking few minutes of my life. I was about to leave my family and everything that I know for 5 weeks, to live and learn with twenty complete strangers on the other side of the world, not knowing whether I would absolutely adore the experience, or if I would want to go home as soon as I arrived.
Once I touched down in Lisbon, I was met at the airport by someone who would take me to my hostel, where I was met by my classmates, and we were visited by our course coordinators for our introductory talk. That evening, a small group of us decided that we wanted to explore the city and go out for dinner. We got all rugged up in our coats and scarves, made our way down town, and visited a lookout in Al Fama where we watched the beautiful glow of the amber sky reflect off the red tiled roofs as the sun set over this beautiful city. That night, we went to a stunning Portuguese restaurant and were serenaded by a local singer as we ate and drank wine.
This week has been filled with beautiful cultural visits, and amazing research trips, and the best company I could have hoped for. Our first research visit was to the Portuguese Platform for Women's Rights. It was such an amazing experience to be with people that directly consult the United Nations with programs and statistics for proposing change for global equality. One thing that I have noticed since being here, is that everyone involved in promoting the issue of gender equality speaks about it with such passion, I can tell that each and every one of them loves what they do, and genuinely wants to make a change in this world.
My favourite lecture so far was presented by Pedro Vasconcelos, and the topic was “Conceptual Framework for Gender Analysis”. Pedro is honestly by far the most amazing lecturer I have ever had the pleasure of being taught by. His class was so engaging, and so thought provoking. Each and everyone one of us in the class was absolutely blown away by the way he presented his lecture. There was one thing that he said towards the end, that I thought was perfect, and it has stuck with me since this class: "The question is not why are there people with outward genitalia, and people with inward genitalia? The question is not, why are there people with blonde hair, and people with black hair? The questions is not, why are there people with very light skin, and people with very dark skin? The question is, why is that important?" – Pedro Vanconcelos. I cant speak on behalf of my whole class, but I find these few words to be so raw and relevant, absolutely inspiring, and I think we should all strive to genuinely think with a mindset like this.
This has been the highlight of my week of study, but the best part of this week was our cultural visit on Saturday the 21st of January. We visited the beautiful town of Sintra, where we walked the same halls as Portuguese royalty once had, the beautiful architecture and lush gardens were such a beautiful experience. Once we were finished at Sintra, we then took a bus to Cabo da Roca, which is the most western point of mainland Europe. Here we watched the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, and it was honestly the most breathtaking moment of my life. Since I live on the East coast of Australia, I had never seen the sun set over the ocean before, so i will forever cherish this experience.
Already a whole week into my study abroad experience, I know that I am going to miss this city so much when I leave. Although I still have two weeks left in Lisbon, I cannot help feeling a bit sad that I will have to go, and also happy that I have been given this opportunity, a feeling that can only be described in Portuguese at “Saudade”.