Student Exchange Programs in Portugal: how to do it and what are the costs

26 de September, 2022

Student Exchange Programs in Portugal: how to do it and what are the costs

Thinking of having an experience outside Brazil and are considering an exchange program in Portugal? Learn here how to live this experience.
Reading: 10 min

Are you thinking about studying abroad and considering an student exchange program in Portugal? We can guarantee that this will be a great moment in your life.

In this article, we will explain how to live this experience, what are the costs involved, the best cities, whether there are scholarships, and tell you about the experience of Brazilian women who have done different types of exchange programs in the country.

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How to make an exchange in Portugal?

It depends on what moment in life you are at, as there are different opportunities to do an exchange in Portugal.

The first is to check if your university has a cooperation agreement with a Portuguese university. So, if you are an undergraduate, look for the international affairs sector of your university.

The second option is for those who are already in graduate studies. Brazilians can keep an eye on the CAPES and CNPQ public notices to do a sandwich master’s or doctoral degree abroad and choose a Portuguese university.

The third option to do an exchange course in Portugal is to search for scholarships. In Brazil, Santander Becas, for example, always has open edicts for this.

And the fourth and last option is to look for exchange agencies. Usually when we look for an exchange agency, it is focused on language courses. But it is still an option to be considered.

What is the experience of doing a college exchange in Portugal like?

To find out what it’s like to do a college exchange in Portugal, we talked to Viviane Machado, who moved to Portugal to do her master’s degree.

“It was the first time I left Brazil to do an exchange program. At first, there was a cultural shock, I missed my family, but in a short time I adapted,” says Viviane.

Young woman admires the city in Porto, Portugal
Viviane Machado in the postcard of Porto during her exchange in Portugal. Personal file photo.

She also stressed that it was very important to leave her comfort zone to study in another country:

“It was an incredible experience that I will keep forever in my heart. Besides, it was something transformative for me, I came back to Brazil with another perspective,” said Viviane.

We also talked to Vanessa Mesquita, who did the exchange through a sandwich doctorate.

“Part of my study I had already done in Brazil, at the Federal University of Lavras, and I contacted a professor in Portugal who was already a researcher in my area. I asked him if there was a possibility of an exchange and if the research costs could stay with the university where he works, which is ISEP – Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto. He agreed and I submitted the project to Capes, which accepted and funded my sandwich doctorate with a monthly scholarship.”

People pose for a photo
Vanessa Mesquita, second from left to right, with her colleagues from the lab during the exchange in Portugal. Personal file photo.

She also talks about how fruitful it was to study in Portugal:

“I spent a year studying there and doing my research in the area of microbiology. During this time alone we published four articles. The university gave me all the structure for this” said Vanessa.

Our editors Mariele Veloso and Carolina Sanches also went on an exchange to Portugal to study for a semester. At the time, both were studying journalism at the Federal University of São João del Rei (UFSJ) and at PUC, respectively, and thanks to an agreement between their universities and the University of Porto they were also able to live this experience.

How much does an exchange program in Portugal cost?

For exchanges in Portugal offered with a college focus, costs can vary.

In the student mobility programs, offered by agreements between Brazilian and Portuguese universities, there are usually no tuition fees.

On the other hand, you need to pay your own living costs in Portugal, which for a student is about 750€ per month, but if you choose to do your exchange in a country town, this figure can be a bit lower.

You need to keep in mind some figures to calculate how much an exchange program in Portugal costs, such as:

CostAverage Value
Room rental180€ a 300€
Household* bills50€
Food150€ a 200€
Extras (for emergencies)150€

*Many rooms for rent in Portugal already include the household bills (water, electricity and internet) in the rental price. If this is the case, you will not have this extra expense. The price of public transport in Portugal may vary depending on the city or you may not even need to use it, but the value presented is valid considering the major cities in the country: Lisbon and Porto.

Is there a scholarship for exchange in Portugal?

Yes, there are exchange scholarships in Portugal, you just need to know where to look for them.

In the sandwich master’s and doctorate offered by Capes or CNPq, they usually offer a monthly scholarship in Portugal to ensure the maintenance of students while they conduct research. According to the Capes website, the amounts vary between €870 and €3,500 per month, depending on the academic level and type of exchange in Portugal.

As mentioned above, Santander Becas also usually offers scholarships for exchange in Portugal and even other countries. As well as specific scholarships for categories: women, leadership training, languages, development and technology, etc. The amounts and conditions of the scholarships vary according to the announcement in question, but often offer a monthly amount for the student’s maintenance.

Aveiro is one of the best cities for exchange students in Portugal
Mariele Velloso in Aveiro during her exchange in Portugal. Personal file photo.

The agreements between Portuguese and Brazilian universities can also be considered a scholarship program for exchange in Portugal. Although they do not cover the cost of living, these agreements end up offering exemption from tuition fees during the period of student mobility.

And if you have never heard of the famous Erasmus+, the scholarship offered by the European Union together with partner universities, you need to know about it. This is the students’ favorite exchange program. Although the value of the scholarship is not very high, it helps to keep the student in Portugal or another EU country.

Do you need a visa to go on an exchange?

It depends on how long the exchange will be, but for the most part, yes, you will need a visa for Portugal.

Any exchange that lasts longer than 90 days, a visa must be applied for and there are two categories for this. I will explain.

  • For exchanges lasting more than 90 days and less than 12 months, you must apply for a temporary stay visa;
  • For exchanges longer than 12 months, you must apply for a student residence visa for Portugal.

Besides the visa that must be requested in Brazil through VSF Global, those who exchange in Portugal also need to provide the Portugal travel insurance and the PB4 (both are recommended).

Can I study and work during my exchange?


It is possible to study and work in Portugal once you notify the SEF – Foreigners and Borders Service, proving through an employment contract and course syllabus/ course hours that one does not interfere with the other. This notification can be done via e-mail.

You need to keep in mind that when doing an exchange program in Portugal, you need to fulfill the study objective. The work is just a consequence to help you stay in the country in case you don’t have a scholarship.

What is the study experience like?

Portugal has a very well rated universities in international rankings, but you will notice during your exchange some very big differences.

It all starts with the Portuguese school year, which begins in September and not in February, as we are used to in Brazil. Besides, there is no distance between teachers and students. In Portugal, it is rare for you to become “friends” with a teacher or for him/her to want to know how your life is going and what you are doing. It’s him there and you here.

Another thing that is very different and strange to us Brazilians is the idea that university students in Portugal wear uniforms, called academic attire.

In Brazil, we wear flip-flops and shorts to college and everything is fine. In fact, when we get to college, what we don’t want to wear is that uniform that haunted us during the entire school phase and obscured our “own identity”.

In terms of teaching and tests, the teaching in Portugal may end up being more rigorous in this sense. In Brazil, teachers usually listen to our difficulties and even our arguments when faced with a question on a test. If you argue very well and show them that A+B can become C, the teacher may even consider it or give you an extra point, but with Portuguese teachers this doesn’t happen.

“The main difference that I noticed was in the relationship between the student and the teacher. There is no middle ground, Portuguese is very eight or eighty. Either a student gets a question right, or he gets it wrong. So there is no conversation, and there is no point in trying to bullshit when you don’t know”, comments Viviane.

In relation to tests and assignments, she says there isn’t much difference: “I think that in Brazil we even do more assignments. What really differs is the demand and the practicality of the teachers,” she says.

Proximity to the professor in the doctoral exchange

Now when it comes to a doctorate, which includes a lot of scientific research and the publication of articles, professors end up becoming more present in the students’ lives. But it is also worth remembering that as advisors, their names appear in this research.

Vanessa, who did her sandwich doctorate in Portugal, reports that the professor who accompanied her was very present in the research.

“In this exchange process in Portugal, I had little time to travel, it was like a real job. It was very good because the teacher I had was very present, so much so that we got four publications in one year. They were renowned scientific articles in the area of microbiology, of treatment of contaminated environments.
The professor basically accompanied me in all the processes, all the results I sent to him. He was very present, it was an excellent work, an excellent exchange” evaluates Vanessa.

Best cities for an exchange course in Portugal

The best cities for an exchange program in Portugal are the ones we know in Brazil as university cities, that is, the cities where there is a great concentration of students and where the best institutions in the country are located.

Therefore, we present the 5 best cities to do your exchange:

  1. Lisbon;
  2. Port;
  3. Coimbra;
  4. Aveiro;
  5. Braga.

Is it possible to do a high school exchange program in Portugal?

Although it is not very common to do an exchange program during high school in Portugal, it is still possible. However, in this case, it is important to look for an exchange agency, because it will be responsible for promoting this type of exchange.

What you need to keep in mind is that just like universities, the secondary school year (the equivalent of high school in Brazil) also starts in September. This means that if you start the second year of high school in February in Brazil in September, it is very likely that you will end up “repeating” subjects.

Therefore, it would be better to look for a high school exchange in another country whose language is different from ours. This way, the exchange will be focused on learning a new language and will be much more worthwhile.

Is it worth it to do an exchange program in Portugal?

No doubt about it.

It is very worthwhile to do an exchange program in Portugal and live this experience if you are in higher education. Among our interviewees, not one has any regrets, on the contrary, they all have great memories of this period.

In addition, an academic experience in Portugal can make your resume stand out from the others in a job selection, for example. And not to mention the great learning experience. No matter how few months or years you spend on an exchange, living away from your family and having to deal with homesickness can be extremely challenging.

“I think that every day you change more and when you are away from home everything is more intense. Beyond the studies, the experiences we have during the exchange are priceless. Whoever has this dream should make it come true. It’s definitely worth taking the risk, being focused, and going after it to have all the advantages of this experience,” concludes Viviane.

Article originally published on our partner site Euro Dicas.



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