Greet all readers of this story! It was recently sent to me by Oleg, a student and future Portuguese citizen who is already making great progress in learning a new culture and language. I’ll keep this story in its original form, but I’ll give some explanations for those who find some of the information new and complicated.
First thoughts about moving
Who in their teenage years hasn’t dreamed of leaving their hometown behind and moving to Moscow or, say, Peter? Probably only those who were lucky enough to be born in them. However, I can’t say that I was unhappy when I was 16 and planned to apply to law schools in Siberia. I would not have been much of a lawyer: I was born with no particular attraction to the humanities. But the profession seemed prestigious and well-paid, so I planned to spend the summer before 10th-grade reading history and social studies textbooks.
And I really would have if it hadn’t been for my dad’s friend Uncle Gianni. He lived in another city and came to visit us very rarely, but he always stayed for a couple of days in the guest room. It so happened that I had nothing to do during those days, so we spent them in purely male company. Uncle Gianni told me some stories from his and Dad’s childhood and then asked about his plans for the future.
My answer, he was surprised, well, how so? The kid likes math; he’s been drawing and messing around with all sorts of constructors since childhood – and suddenly a lawyer? After asking the question like that, I wondered about it myself and somehow got discouraged. I could not imagine myself as a lawyer or prosecutor. It wasn’t that I was stiff, but I imagined a lawyer’s work as a dispute with the prosecution in the courtroom. And this kind of working life was somehow uninspiring.
Uncle Zhenya either didn’t talk much about his work, or I usually didn’t listen. All I knew was that he was an engineer. Suddenly he decided to detail everything he had learned over the last 20 years and what he was doing at work. At first, I thought I didn’t need it, so I wanted to lie about being busy studying. But then I remembered that it was early June. There’s no way around it.
This conversation taught me that engineers aren’t just people who make blueprints for machines, as I thought they were. It turned out to be a much broader and more interesting profession. And with my love of math and physics, it would have been easier for me to master it than cramming all my law books and a bunch of historical dates. And my drawing skills, which I used to think were completely useless, would finally come in handy.
But that wasn’t all. The cherry on the cake was my uncle’s story about how engineers are needed in certain countries in Europe. He shared his impressions from his recent trip to Portugal. It turned out that there are good specialists in this field who are worth their weight in gold. His Portuguese partners complained to Uncle Gena: there are not many good young engineers, although they are very much needed. And then I wondered: what if I could try? After all, I have two years to prepare.
What the Internet Says
I asked my uncle some questions, but he didn’t know anything about going to universities in Portugal: the years were not the right time to think about where to go to study. So he sent me to Google. There I sat for almost twenty-four hours, poring over all the information from the first pages with the proposals “turnkey” to someone’s reasoning in the forums. From everything I could find, I realized:
- Participating in Portugal, you can get the status of a resident, and after some time – the country’s citizenship. At the same time it is not necessary to give up Russian.
- Courses are in Portuguese, but there are also programs in English – whichever is more convenient.
- In some universities, international students can study for free if they confirm their language knowledge. In this case, you pay only the fees for the year. Therefore, the cost of education – a flexible concept-varies from 700 to 7500 euros annually.
- To enter a prestigious public university, you must know Portuguese. Because all exams and tests are in Portuguese.
- The cost of renting accommodation in Portugal – especially for students – is lower than the European average. At the same time, the salaries are good.
- In the local supermarkets you can buy groceries at very reasonable prices. On average it costs 100 euros per month to eat.
- At the same time, the quality of higher education is decent. There are good universities with strong teaching staff. Including – where the future engineers study.
- Students in Portugal are allowed by law to work. They are even offered jobs, including – within the walls of the university.
- Portuguese climate is very favorable, the air is clean. No harm to health, only benefits.
- People around are friendly; local students help foreigners in everything.
- There are Russian-speaking diasporas, consisting of emigrants from Russia and the CIS countries; you can go to them for help.
In general, the Internet painted a perfect picture. If I had not been at his 16, still the skeptic, I probably would have immediately clung to my parents. Our family wasn’t poor, but that wasn’t a reason to throw money away. So I decided first to look for people from Russia or neighboring countries who had succeeded in moving to Portugal. Of course, not all of them wanted to spend precious time instructing a teenager. But a couple of people did respond, which was enough for me.
One girl told me how she studied at a university in Portugal and now works as an English teacher. But Pauline – that’s her name – made no secret of the fact that her parents, who were willing to pay any money for their daughter’s education, helped her. And she preferred Portugal because of the proximity of the warm sea and the beautiful language. However, the nuances of obtaining a visa are the same for everyone, and Pauline’s story helped me a lot.
But it was Pasha who gave me confidence. We still keep in touch with him, because he studied at my university a few years ago, and in general he turned out to be a good guy. Pasha went to college, being just a persistent and determined teenager. Of course, his parents supported him, but they could not help him with his admission. At that moment, I realized: everything is possible. And began my intensive preparation for admission and moved to Europe.
How to go to university in Portugal
It’s worth stating: getting into a university in Portugal is not easy. Many people tune in to a quick application and admission because it seems that a school certificate with good grades is enough. It is also gratifying that all universities do not require a certificate of language skills. The results of an oral interview accept some students. Does that sound reassuring? But only 10 percent of students who qualify for a place at a university actually get it.
The reason is the rush and outdated information on many websites. If you gather all the necessary documents on your own, it’s easy to get confused and not meet deadlines. So turnkey options are pretty good in this regard. You can entrust a specialist with procedures such as certificate equivalency, for example. Behind the scary name hides the usual process of recognition, based on which the commission decides whether the document can be equated to a local school certificate.
There is no baccalaureate program in Portugal. The first level of education after school and special training courses (these are attended mostly by foreigners and those who have not learned the school program well enough) is the Licentiate. To enter it, you need to prepare the documents:
- Application form (filled out in electronic form);
- Copy of passport
- Higher education certificate, in most cases – having passed the procedure of equivalence.
The motivation letter. This is something like an essay on “why I want to study here.
- Recommendation letter. It’s written by the class teacher, principal, and ideally – a person related to the area in which I plan to work. Uncle Zhenya wrote it to me because he’s a practicing engineer in a prestigious company.
The application package for each university is best clarified on its website. The conditions of admission may vary, although it is better to overdo it a little than to forget about some important scan or letter. Send all these documents directly to the graduate school. You can apply online. If they are accepted, you have to fly in and take the oral admissions test in person.
I did quite well in English. But most universities require knowledge of Portuguese, so I needed two years of preparation. I took special courses with other applicants and older people. Some of them also wanted to go to university in Portugal, and some of them needed the language to work in Europe.
To apply, you don’t have to fly anywhere. But there is one catch. At the oral interview, you need to be present in person. And most universities do it. Therefore we have arranged a visa (standard, tourist) to be present at the right time. Some universities also offer an interview, although this is more common for creative specialties. Sometimes before admission and arrange additional tests for applicants. To prepare well for them, it is best to study a university’s website or several in advance.
In applying to several universities, where there were suitable areas, I was confident in the correctness of each sheet. But all the same, I was worried: the competition is serious. And the chance that I would be chosen out of hundreds of applicants was not so great. But I was lucky. I received an email with information about my admission to one of the universities: the University of Porto.
Moving to Portugal
I’ll tell you briefly about the accommodation search: my parents and I found an apartment in Porto on a special website where locals offer accommodation for rent. I stayed in an apartment with a guy from Ukraine, who was also a freshman. We had one room each and a kitchen-living room, and a quite modern bathroom. All this is 5 minutes by public transport to the university.
Of course, the University of Porto offers dormitory rooms to foreigners, but I did not particularly like this option. As a kid, I heard a lot of gossip from my dad and Uncle Jenya about the dorm life, and I was drawn to something more peaceful and private. This pleasure cost us 250 euros per person. But I firmly decided that after classes, I would find a part-time job and cover these costs.
We took a plane to Portugal from Russia, and after the airport, we quickly got our bearings. It wasn’t my first trip, of course, because I had to somehow get a student visa for Portugal. My parents helped me get my things into my room. Since I checked in a week before school started, and my dad and mom took a little vacation, the next few days, we just went on excursions and got to know Portugal better. They need to figure out which country the kid is going to settle in.
And then my college life began. To say it was an unforgettable experience is to say nothing. I was very skeptical of the stories about the sensitive teachers and friendly community of students. But it turned out that there really are many students, and they are all from different countries. Someone even spoke English with difficulty, and someone has lived all his life in Portugal. In terms of cultural exchange, we were all enriched spiritually back in the first year. All in all, by the way, I had three years to study.
A couple of months later, I even regretted that I didn’t get into the dorms. The photos of the guys from my class were great: there were always some events, hanging out with friends, and everything was pretty decent. Of course, student life is not a matinee in kindergarten, but in all the years of study, I managed not once to get into a situation that threatened my health or the health of others. Anyway, the stories for my grandchildren won’t have to be embellished, because I remember everything in great detail.
I don’t have to embellish.
As far as work goes: when I promised myself I would start bringing money into the family right away, I was a bit of a liar. It took me the first couple of months to get used to the new places, the different languages, and the people around whom I was going to live. And to get used to the learning process. But by December my flatmate and I got a part-time job in a cafe. It was great: both language practice and experience with people in one package.
Earned money was enough for simple entertainment like going to the movies, bars, and cafes with friends. We sometimes went to clubs, but I was never a big fan of loud places. Portugal is a country that does a lot for tourists. But if you know good inexpensive places, it is quite possible to eat good food for a few euros and have a cultural rest. As for products, on the average 100 euros a month for food, but then it depends on preferences and demands. Numerous student canteens help a lot to save money.
A separate advantage for my neighbor and me was that the Portuguese student visa gives the right to travel not only within Portugal but also throughout the European Union. On short vacations, when there was no point in flying home, and on holidays, we visited nearby countries. Getting to know the European culture was not without a trace: you start to see many things from a different angle when used to the local way of life.
Academic process and scholarship
The most important thing of all: academics. The professors have really proven to be quite attentive. Of course, there are exceptions everywhere, but in my university, I could easily come up after lunch, ask for a presentation, or explain something I do not understand. As a foreigner, no one did a favor to me, but I did not ask. Having tightened up my major subjects in two years, I quickly fell into the learning process. And I even enjoyed it.
The classes are more practice-oriented. At first, this embarrassed me because I remembered that my cousin was always cramming theory from textbooks while at university. But even future engineers here are confronted from the first months of training with the reality that awaits on the real job. And that’s great because right out of college, you can really make a difference for the company.
Scientific activity is so boiling. I value very highly those students who want to explore and discover. If you are one of those students, the professors will help you and offer to participate in various projects, including international ones. This is always a plus because recommendations are often more important than grades. Roughly speaking, an “A” student is less likely to get into a graduate program than someone who spends more time on extracurricular scholarly activities.
For EU international students, there are scholarships paid to them by private foundations. I wasn’t so lucky: it didn’t apply to visitors from the CIS. But I could qualify for a scholarship for academic merit, which is about $3,000 in dollars. To get it, you had to get straight A’s. And in my first year, many people aspired to be straight A’s. I, alas, could not. It is the first semester that counts, and I spent that time getting used to it.
By the way, about grades. The system here is quite interesting – 20 points, but very few people get 20 points at least once. From 14 and above – “A.” In general, local universities are quite independent, although they are considered public. They can set up any intermediate grading system that seems acceptable. This also applies to many other aspects. It’s hard for an applicant to know whether he or she is making a mistake because different universities have different requirements for admission.
In the course of the internship, it’s difficult for a student to know whether he or she is making a mistake because different universities have different requirements.
In an internship, a student can not only find a temporary job in their specialty but also make connections that will then help them build a career. This is how I found a construction company that I wanted to work for as an engineer. They can’t hire me without my diploma, but they promise to hire me after I graduate. This is a big plus for any young professional because finding a job in Europe is not easy. There are also exchange programs with other countries.
How does a student get a residence permit and citizenship in Portugal
What excited me initially was the opportunity to become a Portuguese citizen. First, however, you have to get a residence permit and residency status. In general, students can also live in Portugal with a type D visa. It differs from the tourist visa validity period. But if you want to work there during your studies and after graduation, or even to have citizenship, it is better to obtain a residence permit and periodically renew it.
To apply for a residency permit, it is necessary to submit the same application package for obtaining a long-term visa type D and legal entry into the country.
- Filled out application form;
- Passport valid until the end of study;
- Proof of ability to pay;
- Confirmation of enrollment in the university;
- Insurance covering the entire period of residence in Portugal;
- Document confirming the payment of the consular fee;
- Tenancy agreement or other proof of accommodation.
For the residence permit with the right to work, you also need a certificate from the university confirming the schedule of classes and availability of free time. If necessary, the consulate may request other documents, so it is best to apply as early as possible. All these documents must be collected and presented at the demand during the first 4 months after entry into the country.
Submitting all the necessary documents, a student can obtain a residence permit in Portugal with the right to work. The residence permit is valid for 1 year; then, it must be renewed. Before getting a job in Portugal, the student must ensure that the employer has requested a permit from the Alien Registration Service. Otherwise, there may be problems with the law.
The rest is quite simple: the student periodically renews his residence permit by submitting documents. When 5 years pass from the first residence permit, he can apply for a permanent residence permit. After 6 years – to the status of a citizen of Portugal. It is important not to miss the moment and after graduation to confirm that the workplace remains with you. Otherwise, the residence permit may not be renewed.
I haven’t finished my studies yet and periodically submit documents confirming my status as a student. But all this is nothing compared to the fact that in a few years, I will be able to become a citizen of a European country that is constantly evolving. A diploma from a Portuguese university will allow me to find a prestigious job in my specialty, and being a citizen will open up a lot of new opportunities: from traveling to opening my own business in Europe.
Know why moving to PORTUGAL is a great solution for 2021.
*The material reflects the story of the hero of the article as interpreted by the author; concerning the described methods and processes of obtaining a residence permit – they may not coincide with the actual opinion of the editors of move to cascais in this regard.