Posted by: claire.mangine | April 9, 2013

Post Nine: Interview with Mairead

Okay I’m a little bit confused. My last blog (about apologizing for my week of absence and a preview to what’s being posted this week… did you forget already???) got the most likes EVER. In fact, people are still liking it as I write this blog…

Is this because you missed me orrrrrrrr should I take a week off more often? Too bad, because I can’t. This IS for a grade, you know. So thanks, everyone (I think). 🙂

As promised, today I would like you to meet Mairead who studied abroad in Lisbon for her second semester of her junior year. 

Home University: Siena College
Abroad University: The New University of Lisbon
Rate your program out of 10: 15!!!!
City you stayed in: Lisbon


As mentioned, Mairead is here to compare/contrast what it’s like to live in a larger foreign city as opposed to a smaller one. Here’s what she had to say:

Claire: Before you got to your host city, what did you expect it to be like?
Mairead: I truly had no idea. I searched through hundreds of pictures on the internet, but I couldn’t get a grasp of what daily life would be like. All I found were monuments and castles, so I had no way of knowing what the streets were like, how the city operated or what it really looked like. I suppose in some ways I expected to see a metropolis like New York City because that’s where I grew up.             

                     Wow. Where was I for that common sense little tid-bit to GOOGLE IMAGE the city Iwas set to live in for almost 4 months? That NEVER came to mind for me. I just looked at the little post cards that our Program Director gave us from Perugia. I didn’t research it or anything. What was I thinking?? Then again..not thinking?

Don’t follow my lead, prospective students, research your city before getting there, then you won’t be 100% clueless upon arrival. Back to Mairead.

C: When you got there, was it what you expected? What was different/the same as what you imagined/were told?
M: It was nothing like I had expected. Lisbon is one of the hilliest cities in the world and the streets and pavements are made of cobblestone. If I had known that, I definitely would have left behind my bag of high heels (lol). I was told it was beautiful. And that’s what I expected to see. When I first got there I remember feeling so culture-shocked that I couldn’t see the beauty in anything. I looked at the old tavernas, mosaic-tiled walls, narrow cobblestone streets and thought, “I’m living in the slums of Portugal.” But I was just so homesick nothing could be pretty. I was almost hostile to the whole environment for the first few days. But once I calmed down and got acclimated, I fell head-over-heels in love with it. Everyday was an adventure and I lived the dream. 
But to answer your question, no I could never expect to live in a modern city that has such an ancient character. People live and die, technology changes, but Lisbon remains. That’s what the city feels like.


C: Would you consider your host city to be rural/small/medium-ish/large/booming..? What were the signs that showed off it’s size?
M: I felt that Lisbon was so small. The heart of the city was called Baixa-Chiado (Bay-shu Chi-ah-do) and it was about 4 metro stops from my dorm. I could get anywhere I wanted in a matter of minutes. And if I chose to walk, that was okay too. After four months I knew that city off the back of my hand. I can’t say the same about Manhattan.

C: What did you see as the pros/cons of the size of your host city?
M: I loved the relaxed atmosphere, the aesthetic beauty and the history to be the most appealing aspect of the city. I suppose the cons would bet that their police did not seem to admonish beggars the way we do in America. If you were not smart, you could easily be accosted by a beggar. So sometimes that was scary. And pick-pocketing was rampant. So I would say their lax attitude about petty crime was the most negative thing I could say, but being that I grew up in the Bronx I handled my own and no one stole a thing from me.

C: When you traveled to a smaller/larger city, did you find yourself appreciating your city more, or disliking it?
M: I traveled throughout Portugal and truly loved every city I encountered. But when I went to Barcelona and Alicante, I just felt like my city was better. Barcelona is so enormous and flooded with tourists, while Alicante just seemed so discombobulated to me. So yes, I definitely grew biased towards the city I lived in.

ImageC: If you could go back again, would you pick the same size city, or a larger/smaller one?

M: If I could go back again I would live there for a year. Heck, maybe I’d even spend all four years of college there!

C: Do you think it’s important to travel while you’re young? Why?
I suppose I have a rather existential view when it comes to traveling. I just feel that life is so short and you are only young and free of responsibility for a few short years in your youth. The best thing a person could do is travel and see the world. Even if it’s somewhere in your own state, or not too far away. There are many ways of life and different kind of people that you can encounter that can change your outlook. When I studied abroad I felt like I found my voice. I was doing something amazing and living my dream. To this day, I’ve never felt so alive, so carefree and so happy as I was when I lived in Lisbon. You can be whoever you want. Go wherever you want and spend time somewhere celebrating your life– No one elses.

C: Anything else you care to share about Lisbon?!
M: I met one of my best friends in Lisbon that I would never otherwise have met. That’s one of the best things to come from my trip. Friendships and memories.

ImageWow! What a great prospective!! A big thank you to Mairead to agreeing to this interview and for providing all above pictures. If you want to read more about Mairead’s first encounter with her host mom, Anna, follow this link to her blog. Fair warning: it’s hilarious.


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