Last September my Erasmus experience began; so I have been living this new stage of my life for more than two months now.
The small town where I am studying my Erasmus year is called Castelo Branco and is located in the center of Portugal. For me, this town is like a big village; it reminds me of the Asturian towns, which I love.
Castelo Branco is not a tourist town but a stop-over place. At first glance, it seems that it has nothing interesting to see; but it has several museums (the museum that I liked the most was the one focused on embroidery), wonderful gardens and even the ruins of an old castle.
We can also do many leisure activities. There is an association here, ESNCB (Erasmus Student Network Association of Castelo Branco), which is also found in many other European cities and can help you during your school year. Thus, students can have someone who helps them become comfortable in the new place at their arrival and also deal with any setback during their whole stay; it also organizes different events, activities and even group trips so that you can get in touch with other Erasmus students. For me, that is one of the best aspects of this experience to meet people and their culture.
So far, I have had the opportunity to travel to other cities such as Guarda, Porto and Aveiro. The typical cultural environment of Portugal can be highlighted in all of them: characteristic colourful houses, tiles or wood, many churches, stone mosaics on the sidewalks, typical Portuguese food and, especially, nice people everywhere.
Regarding the weather, the first time I arrived in this town I thought that I would never survive that heat; however, the weather is very similar to that of Burgos now in December but a couple of degrees warmer.
The Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco reminds me a lot of our School, except that there are other areas of study such as Audiovisual Communication or Interior Design. Regarding Fashion Design, the methodology of work is very similar although they have many more practical than theoretical lessons. The library reminds me of ours, small but with a wide range of interesting books and magazines (many of them are in English).
There are also many activities and excursions related to the different disciplines taught in the school.
If you want to come to Castelo Branco, there are some points that, in my opinion, must be taken into consideration: the language at the beginning is difficult, but little by little you will understand it better (when I read or listen to Portuguese, I can understand almost everything; however, speaking is more complicated for me); Portugal is a country with a lower purchasing level than Spain, especially in a non-tourist small town in the center of the country like Castelo Branco (Porto or Lisbon are more expensive); the schedule of the buses and their routes are not very good and the town is full of ups and downs so I recommend you to use a car if you have one.
I encourage you all to consider living an experience like this, either here in Castelo Branco or in another European town or city, for many reasons. First, you will learn many new things in academic terms. Second, you will have the opportunity of getting to know other cultures and ideologies as well as meeting people from all over Europe and making many good friends.