Impressions from Romanian Students

Portugal, the most western European country is a fascinating destination not only by its impressing tourism, the amazing architecture, traditions and interesting manners and delicious food, but also by the unique people you’ll meet here.
In those few days I spent in the area, I discovered a different world. The first steps through Lisbon were kind uncertain because it was a new territory but there was something that made me step forward. “Bem-Vindo!” How odd and uncertain those words seemed in a Monday morning, spoken by a few people who were unsure about the whole situation. Accommodation? I don’t think we could call it “accommodation”, not me for sure. It felt like I was a part of those places. After a detailed presentation of the four “pioneers” of the project, we discovered the harmonious combination between the mandolin and vocal accompaniment, named “fado”, we have seen the amazing sunny Martinique beaches, we learned about the history of the Ottoman Empire. After we added some details about Romanian places, traditions and personalities, we were still far away from the climax of this expedition.
After all these things, the life experience has truly begun. With a short exchange of “box-traditions” we met our group partners and after a few misspelling of names, the first friendships started to grow. Everything went naturally, it was a perfect character and personality matching and at that point, the questions were useless.
The group activities had become more and more colourful, from role-playing games to space orientation, we all started to act natural and the stress was easily disappearing. Along with the sobriety of the activities there were memorable moments that HAD to be immortalized.
As any activity that involves the bus travel –and we all knew that the long travels soon become boring- we had to break the ice so we started singing. It didn’t matter if we could sing or not, soon we were a choir that was singing any kind of song, breaking the diversification barrier.
Without realizing, time passed so fast that the last moments brought a bit of disappointment, because we had become more than friends, we felt like we were already a family, that felt like It wasn’t temporary. It was impossible to tear us apart from people and places.
In the end I would like the say that those moments will remain sealed in everybody’s hearts with an adventure’s pledge that we shall never forget.
Cristian Ene

In my opinion this project was a huge success. I have met new and interesting people from Portugal, Turkey and France and become friends with them too. I’ve had a lot of fun and created amazing memories that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
The teachers were all amazing. They’ve organized everything in such a way that there were no problems, and they have also taken care of us and guided us during our stay in Portugal. Also, they are very fun people to be around, so boredom was absent.
Overall, transportation was, in my opinion, very good. We’ve travelled by bus, airplane, subway, on foot and even mini-train, and everything went smooth.
The hotel we stayed at was great! The beds were comfortable, the food was delicious and the staff was polite, punctual and full of integrity. Not to mention the school was 3 minutes away from the hotel, and that was something I appreciate the coordinators and teachers for thinking about. In a nutshell, I felt as if the hotel was a second home to me. A great home.
When we landed, we’ve had to wait until 8 PM to meet with the other students from the other countries, so we’ve made use of that time by visiting Lisbon.
At the beginning of the day, I must admit I felt exhausted from the trip, so I’ve wanted that hotel bed more than anything in the world. Though as we advanced, Lisbon awed me through its architecture, cosmopolitan people, and of course, the magnificent views we’ve had from the higher points, and all of that made me forget I was even tired. The city was simply amazing. At the end of the day, we’ve had dinner and made ourselves comfortable in our rooms.
The next day, after the delicious breakfast, we were given a tour of the school, after which we ate in the school canteen. Because it was a vocational school, the students were the ones who cooked our meals, since they’d learn how to cook and people would eat their delicious food. A win-win situation. I still miss that food. Another thing that seemed interesting to me about their school was the fact that most students had laptops, so the school thought of the students bringing their own laptops to school, and connect to the internet through Wi-Fi.
We then were divided into groups and went to a different kind of treasure-hunt. We were given some piece of papers with questions about Fatima and directions to follow in order to get the answers. We had to visit various places, such as the tombs of the Three Little Shepards, count the amount of stars on a painting, or check how many spears were on some station-sculptures which depicted various scenes from the Bible, such as the crucification of Jesus Christ. The point of this treasure-hunt was to get to know Fatima and its culture while getting to know each other and cooperate, and in my opinion, it worked brilliantly!
Tuesday, we started writing some theatrical pieces depicting violence in different environments such as domestic violence or school violence, then we chose our actors. I’ve wrote two sceneries and when we had to practice our lines, I’ve noticed how great everyone was performing. The English of some of our actors was a bit rusty, but in the end, they proved what great actors they actually were. Our day ended at 5 PM, and that’s when some of us, including me, went to buy souvenirs for our friends and family back home. Fatima is simply full of souvenir-shops, literally twenty shops right next to each other, so we had no problem in finding what we were looking for.
What was, I believe to be a minor problem, was the lack of general stores from which you could buy snacks or beverages (such as water), though we managed to find one and bought everything we needed. Not to mention we had three meals per day, so we did not have much need for more food.
One day we’ve visited the Sanctuary of Fatima, a holy place dedicated to Catholicism. Even the Pope visited Fatima a couple of times. We couldn’t visit the church, unfortunately, because it was closed for renovation.
Thursday, I think, we visited Mira de Aire Caves. They were magnificent. A student was our guide and he told us everything about the caves. Full of a wide range of coloured waters and fountains, I left the caves struck with awe. Brilliant. Later we’ve been to Nazare and touched the water of the Atlantic Ocean.
Friday we had our play, and everyone performed at an outstanding level. We’ve showed everyone what violence leads to and what its effects are, so its effects should be lower now that people are informed about it. At the end of the day, everyone hugged and took the last pictures.
In conclusion, my experience in Portugal was amazing, one that I’ll never forget. I got to know a lot of new people rand learned valuable lessons about violence, teamwork, and of course, friendship.
Alex Negru

What can I say, in my opinion, this project was a success. I have learnt a lot of useful things and I met a lot of amazing people. Lisbon is the most beautiful city I have ever seen and it is full of history. There are a lot of old buildings and I was fascinated by those small cars named “tok tok”. Another important target for us was the St George castle because is in the top of a big hill and we could see the entire city.
In Fatima it was great, I was very impressed by the religious traditions, but the best point was the sanctuary because of the architecture. Every day we had some competitions, but the most attractive was the foot orienting trip, we walked around 10 kilometers, but it wasn’t boring because we made jokes every time. I met a lot of clever and funny people from different nations and I still keep in touch with them. We visited Mira de Aire cave in another town and it was great because that cave was the biggest I had ever seen. Another advantage was that I improved my English and I’m proud of that.
In the last day we played some attractive games and we had fun together all day.
I like very much the idea of the project and I want this experience to be repeated!
Stefan Craciun

I loved Portugal very much. I lived wonderful experiences there, I met wonderful people and I had the experience of finding out wonderful things about them and about Portugal. I had the opportunity to visit the capital of Portugal, Lisbon and other great places like Fatima and Nazare.
I could live the experience of playing in the theatre had the opportunity to find out how it feels a real actor on a scene. I felt great emotion and pleasure. I liked the fact that we worked on the script together with teachers, Portuguese and Turkish colleagues. We were not experts but we did it. We had time for fun. We played games from that Portuguese area. It was fun. I will try to play those games with my friends. So far this has been the most important and most beautiful experience ever.
It was a pleasure to meet new people and find out wonderful things about Portugal. It’s a wonderful country, a special country that I will never forget.
I hope to return as soon as possible and to explore what more is to be discovered.
Ovidiu Dobroiu

In Portugal I had the opportunity to meet new people, exchange information about other cultures and the most important of all, make new friends. I had free time too and it was more than enough to visit Fatima’s Sanctuary, buy souvenirs and wander around the city. I have experienced something I never expected I could get. During the last week there were many unforgettable experiences, although there was difficult at first, I eventually enjoyed spending time in Fatima and I am also sad that I had to leave so soon.
My whole experience has been absolutely amazing! I could not have been more fortunate. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I was so far away from home, and I have to remind myself that I was really there. This exchange was nothing like what I imagined it would be like, but it’s the funniest I’ve ever had. There have been a couple of hard days, when I felt so far away from my friends and family and everything I know. But the good times by far overcame the bad times!
I’ve also come back home wiser, with a brand new frame of mind, and with broadened horizons! Stepping out of my little square in Pitesti was a great decision!
Andrei Ghinea

My first airplane flight took place on April 19, 05:00 am from Bucharest to Lisbon. I was part of the team that went abroad with our English teachers, as a stage of the project “Stop Violence at School by Arts, Handicrafts and Sports”. I was very excited that I was among the 16 people who had the chance to visit Portugal.
There we had the chance to see new places and explore a different world, to experience another culture, to discover a different culinary tradition and spend a few days with the Portuguese hosts. People say that first impression counts and I cannot contradict this expression. From the beginning I was fascinated by the buildings that still keep the vintage atmosphere of the city, the roofs that have all the same color, the narrow paved streets, the views offered by the viewpoints of the city. I was also very impressed by the transport systems very well organized and by the fact that most residents speak English and are willing to help you at anytime. The first impression was very important for me from the beginning and nothing changed it by the end of the trip.
In Lisbon we visited Castelo de Sao Jorge, which is one of the major sights and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. A large part of the castle was destroyed over the years, but we still can see a lot of guard walls and 18 towers. Those who visit can climb the towers and guard walls and admire the best views of Lisbon, as we did. The castle is also a perfect place to relax; its gardens have many peacocks which we could get very close to and we took them manu photos. They were creating a very calm atmosphere.
The next landmark we visited was Padrão Dos Descobrimentos / The Monument of the Discoveries, which is located on the river Tagus. On each side of the monument there are sixteen personalities from the history of Portugal who show a movement “forward” for discoveries.
In the evening, we went to Fatima religious town, which is at 123 km distance from Lisbon. There was the hotel where we stayed for a week. We were really welcomed, we settled in and waited anxiously for the next day to meet the Portuguese students.
The first day of school was as we expected. We met the students and teachers who were very careful with us and made us feel good in their school. We divided into several groups, and we worked like this all week. We walked through a small forest, we saw The Basilica / Sanctuary of Fatima and we had to answer a few questions related to these place. At five o`clock in the afternoon we finished the activities and went to visit the city. The weather was good and warm; it gave us the possibility to enjoy the surroundings. We arrived at the hotel, we had dinner at 19:30 and in the evening we went out with the Portuguese and Turkish students to walk, recount and to know each other better. From the first day I gathered enough memories to take home and share with my family and also a very good impression about the inhabitants of Portugal, which are excellent and welcoming hosts.
The next day we went to school as anxious as we were the day before. We found our groups and got ready for the next activity: to write and rehearse plays against violence. Each idea was written on a sheet of paper and even if there were some problems, everything turned out perfectly. From the second day on, we were already accustomed to their program, which began at 9:00 am and ended at 17:00 pm. After 17:00 pm we were walking around the city, buying souvenirs and admiring the delightful landscapes of Fatima.
The third day was our favourite before it started. In front of the school, a bus was waiting for us. It took us to Mira D’Aire Caves and to Nazare. The cave we visited impressed us very much, both by its history and the places we have seen. From the cave we went to Nazare, where we ate and then we visited the lovely beach bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The road to the beach was as impressive as all we had visited until then; the landscape gave us moments of relaxation and delight. When we arrived at the beach, we touched the water only with our feet because the weather did not allow us more. We gathered some shells and then we went to buy souvenirs and other things to remind us of visiting the beach in Nazare. The bus came to take us back at the agreed time and we went back to school in Fatima.
On the fourth day, we performed the plays against violence. One by one, each group went on stage and presented what they had prepared. All students knew their roles and their places. We were careful and learned that violence should not exist in any place, not only at school.
The last day at the school of Fatima was a little sad, but the activities cheered us up. Firstly, each group had a set of questions about the four countries. The students and teachers answered the questions about their countries. After this small knowledge test, we went to visit the Museum “The Miracle of Fatima” where we learned the history of this small town and of the Basilica of Fatima and also why this place is so important. We went back to school and here the Portuguese students showed us several games they play in the sport classes. After this activity, we all had some moments that were traditional and represented our countries. The day ended and everyone was sad. We said goodbye to our hosts and went to the hotel.
The next day, we left Fatima and went to Lisbon to take the plane back to Romania. We left the hotel and we said goodbye to the students and teachers who came there for us. We spent all day in Lisbon’s mall and then we went to the airport and flew back to Romania.
It was a unique and unforgettable experience. Portugal is a wonderful country that can offer the best to the tourists.
Ioana Protopopescu

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