Implementation of the plan

Higher education in Portugal? Easy! The story of how I studied in Lisbon

Table of Contents

I thought about pursuing higher education in Portugal when I was in 11th grade. Of course, my parents helped me a lot, thank you very much. Why Portugal? I have always liked this country. I first went there when I was 10 years old, when my parents decided to spend another vacation there. We traveled a lot, and in my life I had time to visit many countries. But it was Portugal has left an unforgettable impression with its color, the beautiful climate, the hospitality of the locals. That’s when I was 10 years old, I told my mom and dad that when I grow up, I will live here. Of course, no one took my words seriously. And we didn’t return to this conversation for many years. Until the topic of further admission to college was brought up. That’s when I hinted that it would be wonderful to go to Portugal. My parents didn’t try to discourage me, on the contrary, they supported my decision and started to look for all possible options.

Education in Portugal. All the benefits in 2021.
Higher education in Portugal? Easy! The story of how I studied in Lisbon 13

Education in Portugal. All the benefits in 2021.

I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but I really want to mention right away all the advantages of studying in this beautiful country. To be objective, I will, of course, note the most significant “minuses”. Of course, at the time, before admission, I thought about neither the “pros” or “cons. I just had a goal to study in Portugal. It was in the process of studying I made some important conclusions. I hope they will help someone.

So, one of the main advantages that Portuguese students have is the opportunity to work while studying. This opens up additional prospects. Even if you do an internship in a local company and prove yourself in the best way, you can expect to be offered a work contract in the future. I would like to emphasise that this is how I ended up in Portugal: after my apprenticeship I had a great offer, and immediately after graduation I found a job with a large company that was very attractive to me.

This is how I ended up staying in Portugal: I received a great offer and immediately after graduation I found a job with a company that was very attractive to me.

For the other advantages of a Portuguese education, I would highlight:

  • low cost (at least studying in Portugal is much cheaper than in other European Universities
  • an excellent level of knowledge
  • the possibility to study through exchange programs at any European University

There are, of course, some drawbacks, and it wouldn’t be quite fair not to mention them. But frankly, for me they are so small that they didn’t make any sense.First, the teaching is only in Portuguese. The exception is some master’s programs at certain universities. This was not a problem for me, because for a year before I came I had studied the language in depth at home and by the time I left, I was almost fluent. And the daily interaction with native speakers in the country was the best practice.

Another “minus” is that Portuguese universities are less listed than some other European ones. But that does not seem to me to be a problem at all.

Education in Portugal. Preparatory programs.
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Education in Portugal. Preparatory programs.

For those who are not quite sure about their own abilities, it is advisable to take preparatory courses before admission. Special programs are designed for future students; they provide the opportunity to gain the profile and language knowledge necessary to enter the university, and also largely provide an opportunity to adapt to the educational system, which is somewhat different from our system. To enroll in such programs, you must gather a package of documents:

  • Secondary school certificate;
  • document that proves you have at least a basic knowledge of Portuguese

By the way, it’s much easier to go to university after you complete these courses. Especially at the institution where they are offered. Many people I know have done so, and my observation is that in 90% of the cases they continued their education in Portugal.

About the higher education system in Portugal
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About the higher education system in Portugal

Traditional Portuguese education has a very long history. At this stage there are major reforms taking place, resulting in a full compliance of education with European standards. The Portuguese Diploma opens up many opportunities and perspectives to job seekers not only in this country but also worldwide.

Higher education institutions are divided into two main types:

  • general universities;
  • technical institutes.

The first option is more focused on the development of theoretical knowledge, scientific research. It especially concerns such fields as medicine, law, natural sciences. Studying here you can get three types of diplomas: Bachelor’s degree (up to 4 years), Master’s degree (1-2 years more) and Doctor’s degree (another 3 years).

In universities of technology, students receive tremendous hands-on training in each of their chosen professions.

As for the academic year, it consists of two semesters. The first lasts from September to January; the second lasts from February to June.

In terms of the academic year, it consists of two semesters.

Education in Portugal. How to enroll?
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Education in Portugal. How to enroll?”

When I enrolled, I had excellent help from the specialists of the consulting agency movetocascais. To avoid unforeseen situations and mistakes, my parents immediately decided to contact the company. They helped me to solve the question related to immigration, provided a list of documents to be collected, as well as information about the intricacies of the study system and even chose universities that suited our requirements, and I chose the one that suited me best.

As for the conditions of admission, they vary somewhat depending on the university, the chosen program of study and, of course, the citizenship of the international student. To study, it is necessary first of all to take care about the correct registration of the visa, as well as – residence permit. Thank you, movetocascais staff, they were a great help, advice, help. In some educational institutions the entrance involves exams, tests and interviews.

As I mentioned before, the main requirement is to speak Portuguese. The best option is intensive training programs in the country. But if this is not an option, do what I did: take a language course in your home country and learn Portuguese.

It is also mandatory to have a high school diploma of 12 years. By the way, a big “plus” if the grades in it are good, it increases the chances of admission to the desired department. The deadline for applying to the bushy – April-May.

Which student visa to choose?
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Which student visa to choose?

So, to study in Portugal for three months or more, you need a special student visa. So, future applicants can take exams in their native country, and at the same time they can prepare to take profile tests in Portugal. It is also possible to become a student at a more mature age – there are no age restrictions.

As a rule, admission involves a paid form of study. But in the process of studying the student can apply for a grant. But to do it you have to prove yourself from the good side. The student visa is issued to each foreign student, except for those who live on the territory of the countries, members of EU.

After the visa is issued, it is obligatory to obtain a residence permit. This is done for the entire period of study. By the way, if there is an internship or training program in the country which lasts up to 90 days you can get a regular tourist visa.

So, to obtain a residency visa (I remind you, if you plan to study for more than a year), you will need the following documents:

  • completed form;
  • two photos;
  • medical insurance;
  • certificate of criminal record or permission to ask;
  • documents that prove you have the financial means to pay tuition;
  • a letter from the university that certifies you are accepted.

Planning to apply for a student visa, it’s worth understanding that there are several types, the main thing is to do it right.

The first type is suitable for those who plan to stay in the country for less than three months. It is the so-called Schengen short-stay visa, which applies to everyone who is not a citizen of countries outside the EU.

If the study period is longer than 3 months, then another type of visa is required – the Portuguese student visa + residence permit for the entire period of study. At that, the residence permit shall be issued within three months after arrival on the territory of the country. It is this type of visa I made out, because the other does not fit. Initially Visa in Portugal is issued for one year, if the study is longer – it is extended for five years.

A separate category, which, incidentally, I learned about not so long ago, is the residence permit for research. In this case you can apply for an academic visa. It is issued to those who are not planning to study, and comes to the country for research activities, to get a doctorate. It is valid from 3 to 12 months. Sometimes it is even extended, but in what situations – I do not know exactly, because I never asked this question. But I think there are a lot of options for those who might be interested to learn more about it.

My journey: from applying to studying in Portugal
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My journey: from applying to studying in Portugal

In the year of admission, sometime after the New Year’s holidays, my parents and I became actively engaged in questions about applying to Portugal. First of all, we contacted the consulting agency movetocascais. Frankly, we had no information at all, and we did not even know where to start, what documents are necessary.

After meeting the employees of movetocascais, everything more or less fell into place. We were told in great detail about the application system, provided information about the available universities and the conditions of admission. Then we began a long reflection, assessing the options, studying the conditions of admission. At the same time we were collecting the necessary documents.

The first thing we were advised to do was to draw up an application for a visa and submit it to the Portuguese consulate or embassy directly in our country. Another condition we had to fulfill was to prove our language skills by taking a Portuguese international test. I said at the beginning that I had studied the language, so I had no problem with that. The test was easy, I got the appropriate document, which greatly increased my chances of admission and obtaining a visa. Of course, I was nervous, but that is the kind of person I am – I treat everything with great responsibility, so I was very nervous before the test.

It took me a little over two months to get my visa. And then finally all the documents were collected, and I was accepted to the university that I chose. It was just a matter of buying tickets and at the end of the summer to go to Portugal for further study. To say that I was happy is not to say anything. Of course I had my worries and anxieties. I can’t say that I was going into the unknown. Nevertheless, I was 16 years old, and, of course, it was hard and exciting for me to leave my parents and my home country. That was probably the most difficult thing for me. Everything else paled in comparison.

Yes, I dreamed of studying in Portugal. But I didn’t think that when the moment of separation came, it would be so difficult. You know, at some point I even thought: maybe I should just stay at home, go to university in my hometown, and live under the wing of my parents, not knowing sorrows and grief. But then I remembered how much they had done to make me go to school where I dreamed of, and I realized that there was no going back.

And I flew away. I have to say that I have never regretted my decision. The people here in Portugal are very friendly and open, and that helped me adapt very quickly. And if any problems arise, you can be sure that you are not left alone with them, they will always come to help, help, advise, give sensible advice. That made a huge difference to me.

Portuguese Loyalty and Honest Learning
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Loyalty of the Portuguese and honest learning

One thing I learned during my studies was that I was comfortable and comfortable in Portugal for the whole period. Education here is as honest as possible, there are no fees, corruption is out of the question!

I, as a student, adapted fairly quickly, in fact, so did my other compatriots I met at the university. We, the foreigners, were treated very kindly. We always studied only in the morning. After studying it was possible to get a part-time job, to have a rest, to travel. I combined all these activities without getting tired of the rhythm of my life. On the contrary, I loved what I was doing.

The main emphasis during the training is on creative work. Perfect knowledge of the subject is desirable, but not necessary. The main thing is to prove yourself  in scientific work. Which, of course, I did. It helped me to get help from the university and even – discounts on tuition.

I want to say a few words about the learning process itself. Students are graded on a 20-point system. At first it was quite unusual for me, but in a short time I understood everything. So, anything below 10 points is considered an unsatisfactory grade. If a student plans to enter a doctoral program in the future, the average score should not be less than 16. As in our country, to assess and consolidate knowledge, students take exams, tests, tests, and all sorts of laboratory research and projects.

Sessions, like ours, are also two – winter and summer. In order to receive a master’s degree, a paper of up to 80 pages must be defended. Prospective Ph.D. students write dissertations of up to 200 pages.

Adventurism takes its toll
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A little about scholarship in Portugal

Although Portuguese higher education is considered free for locals, this does not mean that Portuguese people study for free. In any case, they have to make minimum contributions for both tuition and living expenses, as well as personal needs.

Scholarships are also available for all students. And every student can apply for reimbursement of their expenses. To do so, you can apply to government agencies, independent foundations, or the university’s special services.

As I said, anyone with a residence permit can apply for a scholarship. Especially those who have an excellent academic record and excellent academic performance can qualify.

Scholarships are quite numerous. I’m not going to talk about every one of them, because, frankly, I don’t know enough information. I’ll tell you about the one I received. It was a national scholarship Bolsas de estudo. It ranged in size from 100 to, I think, 600 or 700 dollars. I got a little over $300 a month. The amount was set at the time, depending on related factors. The main one was the financial situation, as well as the amount that had been paid for tuition. This stipend was set for the entire school year, and could be renewed later. The money was paid into a bank account.

I can also tell you a little about Bolsas de Merito, the so-called scholarship that is awarded for academic achievement. A friend of mine was the recipient of this scholarship. It is awarded once a year, and both Portuguese and foreigners can be nominated, regardless of which department they study in. The scholarship that my friend received was equal to five average salaries in Portugal. The main condition for obtaining – good academic results and an average score for the session of not less than 16. By the way, this reward is very prestigious and opens up additional opportunities for students. The fact of the award is stated even in the diploma, which is further taken into account when applying for a job.

How to start a business?
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Advanced opportunities

The first year, I, like most students, was settling into a new environment and the realities of life, adapting and devoting all my time to my studies. At the end of the school year I had a choice between going home for the summer or staying in Portugal and trying to get a part-time job.

In consultation with my parents I decided to stay. I got a job as a consultant in a local clothing store. Anticipating the fact that I worked part-time until I graduated, I was a translator, worked for a travel company, and even worked as an animator in a children’s entertainment center.

To find a part-time job is not difficult, especially since it can easily be combined with your studies. Officially foreign students in Portugal can work 20 hours a week during classes, and full-time during vacations. At the same time it is obligatory to conclude an employment contract. In general, the main rule is that everything must be officially documented and it is imperative to inform the SEF about the employment.

Now about where to find part-time work. There is no problem at all with this, because a lot of offers come directly from the student centers. It’s very convenient and profitable because everything is official and you won’t find any dishonest employers and unnecessary problems. A huge plus for a foreigner is knowing Russian and English. It helped me get a job as a translator.

By the way, those who are actively engaged in research activities have a good chance of getting a job at a university laboratory. Many people I know have taken lifeguard jobs on local beaches and even worked as hotel administrators.

Decide or give up?
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Return home or stay in Portugal?

This question is often enough for those who study in the high schools of Portugal. It was also faced by me. On the one hand, I really wanted to return to my native country, closer to my relatives, my mom and dad. On the other hand, here in Portugal, there were much more prospects. Moreover, by law, graduates of Portuguese universities are free to look for work in the country, though for this you have to get an additional permit. But as practice shows applications are approved in almost 100% of situations.

If you plan to stay in Portugal after your studies, you need to take care of this in advance. Make an appointment at your local SEF office and present yourself with a prepared application package at the appointed time. Two photos, a passport, a valid visa, and proof of financial means are mandatory. It is also necessary to confirm the place of residence in the country. It is desirable to have an employment contract, as well as a number of permits – to check the criminal record, registration at the tax authority, etc.

The received residence permit is valid for two years, then it will have to be renewed every three years.

Education in Portugal. What prospects await?
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Education in Portugal. What prospects await?”

Portuguese graduates have really good prospects, not only within the country, but also in Europe, America and their native country. Portuguese universities offer great opportunities for specialists in information technologies, law, construction, and medicine. The situation is more complicated for the humanities.

Portuguese diploma is also valid in all EU countries. But it is desirable to have, except the certificate and the diploma, the recommendation of the academic advisor and a correct resume which would reflect all the skills of the applicant. Participation in all kinds of scientific projects and publications are a big plus.

Portuguese education is highly valued in America, especially Latin America. With such a diploma you have really bright prospects in countries such as Chile, Brazil. And, of course, do not forget that with a Portuguese diploma you will be welcomed into any company in your native country. Moreover, today there is a growing demand for professionals who have a perfect command of the Portuguese language. Believe me, I know what I’m saying, because many of my compatriots have returned home after their studies. We keep in touch with them, and I know that they are well settled, occupy leading positions and receive very good salaries. Having received an education in Portugal, everyone can qualify for a fast career in various fields.

Final Word
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Best schools

Of course, Portugal has its own ranking of universities. Some are considered more prestigious, some less so. Whichever university you choose, you can count on loyal and honest treatment, and on a prestigious job after you graduate.

One of the best is considered the University of Porto. What’s more, the rating is confirmed by many specialized publications in the world. The institution was founded at the beginning of the 20th century and today it is the largest in the country. Approximately 10 percent of the students there are foreigners. In the structure of the university there are 14 faculties. There is also a business school. There are more than 15 libraries, many laboratories and research departments.

The University of Lisbon is no less prestigious and rated. It was, in fact, where I studied. From personal experience I can say that no one will regret enrolling here. Here all conditions for study and accommodation are created. Very loyal to foreigners and in no way infringe their rights, on the contrary, trying to support in every possible way. It I confirm it personally. I am very grateful to the teaching staff for everything they did for me personally. The luminaries of science who impart their knowledge and wisdom to the students really work here. There are five faculties, three institutes and as many laboratories in the structure of the university. There are sports facilities, a huge library, a conference hall, where interesting meetings constantly take place. Each student can choose one of the many areas of study and study it. The quality of education is of the highest level, and graduates are in high demand all over the world.

I would not be objective when talking about the top three universities if I did not mention the University of Coimbra. This is one of the oldest institutions in the country, let alone in the world. The university was founded back in 1290. It is here that the largest number of foreign students study; the teaching staff is simply amazing. There are three campuses in the area. Education is conducted at eight faculties. There are research centers, over 15 libraries, two museums and a beautiful botanical garden. I was able to visit it, I can honestly say that the experience is simply incredible. By the way, if you compare the cost of education, this university is the most loyal and the lowest.

In my opinion, it is the best university in the world.


I have never once regretted my decision to study in Portugal. My love for this country was born in me as a child for a reason. I graduated very well, not with distinction, of course, but with a very high average grade point average.

Today I have a well-paid job in my profession. I live in Lisbon and I think it is the best city in the world to live in. I do not know what I will do with my life, maybe I will want to go back to my homeland. But I am sure that I will not disappear anywhere, and my education will help me to find a decent job in any place, wherever I was. Planning to study in Portugal, do not doubt for a minute. The most important thing is to arrange everything correctly. Well, if you are not sure that you can control every detail, it is better to contact professionals, as my parents did in their time.

You should not hesitate.


*Материал отражает историю героя статьи в интерпретации автора; относительно описанных методов и процессов при получении ВНЖ – они могут не совпадать с реальным мнением редакции MoveToCascais по этому поводу. 

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