Unforgettable Erasmus experience in Funchal

November 12th to November 16th me, three other students and two teachers from Alytus Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas gymnasium participated in an Erasmus project meeting “A School for All“. We were hosted by Basic and Secondary school of Dr. Antonio da Silva in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. This was my first Erasmus+ experience. That week for me was full of valuable lessons and breathtaking sceneries.

During the trip I learned more about Portuguese society and education system. After having finished the grade 9, pupils must choose which course they are going to take: humanities, technology, science or arts. Lessons last 90 minutes and there is a one hour lunch break. At the end of 11th grade, students have national exams in the two specific subjects of their course. At the end of year 12, they take two exams – Portuguese language and the main subject of the course. The school environment has a lot of open air spaces because of warm climate. What I saw is that local people pay special attention to people with disabillities and try to integrate them in the community as much as possible. In our host school there is a class for pupils with mental disabilities where they learn practical things such as how to cook or make a bed and the other school students appreciate and accept them. After having graduated from school they are not left alone, specialists in the social inclusion center help them to transition to adulthood.

I also discovered that nowadays youth is very communicative, open-minded, inevitably affected by global trends, they  like spending their time on social media sites, shopping, eating fast food and singing worldwide hits but still manage to keep their own identities. I enjoyed this trip because I felt the unity of students despite different nationalities, religions, social backgrounds, traditions and it was so nice to see everybody greeting each other everyday with the beaming smiles on their faces.

Not only was this project meant to make friendships and understand different cultures, it also helped me to know myself better, reflect, see how I feel in foreign country surrounded by different people. Living in a new family and trying to get along with complete strangers was challenging, but it helped to see the lifestyle of local people. I recommend to try this for a short period of time before moving out abroad to study or work in order to see if it is suitable for you.

The island has everything: mountains, tropical forests, amazing sceneries, ocean, palm trees, warm weather all year long not to mention friendly and hospitable local people.While writing this article I remember the first view of the island I saw when we just landed at Cristiano Ronaldo Airport. The scenery with lights highlighting every curve of relief of the island is unforgettable. I will always remember breathtaking sunsets, the last evening with Portuguese students listening to their favourite Portuguese songs. Those simple moments made me feel blessed to live in this amazing world and have such big opportunities. Thank you Erasmus+!

Ieva Barysaitė, class IV a,
Alytus Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas gymnasium