October 11, 2013 by mariannat92
Don’t get me wrong, I really love living in Portugal. I love the people, the uni, the sun, the food, the coffee. I love how everywhere you go you meet the most amazing people and how every now and again you have to pinch yourself because it’s just that good.
So what’s the one thing that’s been getting me down since being here?
For anyone who’s done Erasmus before or is in any way familiar with the programme, I’m sure you will have heard all this before. It seems everyone has their own stories about negotiating the complicated web of European bureaucracy that is the European university exchange, and not many are positive. But, of course, we can always do with another, so here goes. (apologies to my Coimbra friends, who I’m sure are sick to the teeth of hearing this for the umpteenth time)
Overall I have found the Portuguese side of Erasmus quite easy. I turned up at Coimbra’s international office when I first arrived, paid my 10€ registration fee, handed in a couple of forms and a photocopy of my passport, and Voila! I was officially registered. From this date Coimbra give you a month in which to complete your course choices, register as a resident and a couple of other tasks that mostly involve chatting to your university at home. Easy peasy I thought, trotting off down to city hall.
And at the beginning it was easy. I found a house in a couple of days, registered as a resident, got a portuguese phone number & bank account and went for my first meeting with my Erasmus coordinator. Then classes started and I spent about a week trying out different combinations until I decided what to study. I emailed my tutor back in Manchester with the courses I was intending to study and she agreed. So far so good.
The next week I went back to my coordinator with all my forms filled in and ready to be signed. Other than a ridiculous 2 1/2 hour wait to see her (there were only 4 or so other people ahead of me, God knows what she was doing…) it was pretty painless. I got my signatures and sent my forms off to Manchester for their approval that evening.
This is the real beginning of my problems with paperwork. Up to this point Coimbra had been helpful, albeit with typical Portuguese timekeeping, and had managed to get everything done to help me out. I was sure Manchester would be the same, or even better. After all, they’re British, right? The British are efficiency personified, I’d have the forms back in no time, ready for the deadline a week later.
No such luck. After a week’s wait and many persistent emails, I had heard next to nothing back and was about to miss my deadline. Finally, after several more emails headed ‘URGENT!!!’ to my department and school offices, I got the form I needed. Unfortunately, along with the signature approving my choices came a note (written onto the paper, so there was no way I could just remove it to submit) saying that I had taken too many courses for one semester. Which was because it was for both semesters. Because I am here for two semesters. Because Manchester sent me here for two semesters. Exacerbating to say the least.
Anyway, that night I sent all of my necessary paperwork off to Manchester and Coimbra for them to confirm my information with the Erasmus Gods, and got on with being a student.
Over the next few weeks I received several very confusing and worrying emails from Manchester claiming that I had not returned any documents and that soon I would lose my funding. I tried to speak to them over email and then rang them at great expense, only for them to confirm that actually they did already have my documents and shouldn’t really have sent the email. And then I got another today. Fabulous. It’s rectified now but all that I can say is that if you are planning on doing a year abroad from Manchester prepare to be quite stressed for the first month at least.
Today I also received an email from Coimbra to say my student card was ready to collect! Without a student card you can’t really do much here (ok, basically you can’t buy tickets for a big festival that is happening next week… But still, it’s pretty major) so I excitedly rushed to the International Office, gave them my name, received my card and……..
It had somebody else’s photo on it.
Ahahahahahaha aha ha ha.
So yes, paperwork! Always fun!