SiPN Experience

While abroad, students frequently experience growth in personal responsibility, maturity, and increased intercultural competence. Studying abroad with SiPN is at the intersection of this process, offering intentional learning and novel experiences. SiPN provides academic-oriented study tours so that students discover all that Portugal offers off the tourist beaten path.

To begin, SiPN has designed its housing option so that opportunities for intercultural awareness are maximized. Whenever possible, we house our SiPN students alongside other international and/or Portuguese students studying in Lisbon. We also invite these other mobility students along on our SiPN study tours on a space-available basis, to deepen friendships and opportunities for intercultural learning.

The same is true for our classroom experience in the core curriculum classes, where other international and/or Portuguese students may enroll in our classes for academic credit. Furthermore, the SiPN Buddy Program matches our students with local Portuguese student volunteers who help our students integrate into local university social and academic life. The Visiting Family Program broadens the local network even further by matching local Portuguese families with those students who volunteer for this experience for a monthly get-together in the family’s home.

All of these experiences are designed in such a way that students may still study in English as necessary, but still have numerous opportunities for connecting deeply with Portuguese and other national cultures locally.

SiPN @ Porto
SiPN Azores

SiPN Field Trips

Lisbon is a culturally rich city with vibrant art and music scene, a historic opera house, museums, concert venues, galleries, a dynamic cinemathèque, and more. Enjoy frequent visits to sites of historic and cultural importance, including the medieval walled towns of Óbidos and Sintra.

Besides site visits and lectures in and around Lisbon, SiPN organizes at least 2 trips/semester (or 1 per summer session) outside of Lisbon, so that students gain an understanding of the country’s diversity. Previous trips have included overnight stays in Evora, a UNESCO world heritage site and lovely white-walled fortified city in the heart of the Alentejo region. There, students tour a working vineyard, learn about enotourism (wine tourism) in Portugal, and see how cork and olives are harvested, learning about the transformations in Portugal’s rural world that have come along with European integration.

On a trip to Coimbra and Porto, you might take a tour of Porto’s Casa da Musica, and tour the city with US expatriate and award-winning author Richard Zimler. While in Coimbra you will have a guided tour of one of the oldest universities in the world and its famous Joanina Library.

Check out the video “Study in Lisbon – Live, Love, Learn

SiPN regularly organizes film & music series throughout the city in very unique venues (local associations, clubs, museums etc.) to engage students with various themes while also showcasing the most interesting places in town, the majority of which are off the typical tourist path.

Travelling Outside of Portugal

Portugal has so much to see…but many students nevertheless want to take advantage of Lisbon’s location to visit other countries in Europe or Africa. For example, over a long weekend, Carnival or Easter breaks, the January winter break for those staying for the entire academic year, students can hop on a low-cost airline and visit some amazing locations in just a matter of hours.

Take a look at the following popular european low-cost airlines and explore:



Aer Lingus


Some students may prefer going “old school style” via the European InterRail. You can explore options Here, from one of Lisbon’s main train stations.

Students are obliged to inform SiPN every time they leave the country during their SiPN term (mandatory).

Visiting Family

The Visiting Family Program (VFP) gives you the unique opportunity to dive into the experiences of families in the Lisbon area or its suburbs. SiPN will match you with a family with whom you will visit at least once a month during your semester-length stay.*

This VFP opportunity allows you to learn more about Portuguese culture as well as share your own. You will be a part of a wonderful intercultural exchange, which will help you build a network of friendships and contacts in Portugal!

Here are some fun activities that we have suggested to our visiting family volunteers students:

  • Engage in activities and day trips in Lisbon and the suburbs
  • Discuss cultural differences and ask questions
  • Meet extended family and participate in celebrations and events
  • Share cultural foods by cooking a meal together
  • Take part in various family routines
  • Visit the place of work of one of the members of the family

What Can I Expect by Joining the Visiting Family Program?

  • Communication is key! SiPN requires that all visiting family students are able to commit to making plans to see their visiting families at least once a month. Once SiPN has made the match and facilitated the contact, it is up to both parties to share the responsibility of meeting;
  • Some families ask to be matched with two students – so the Visiting Family Program could also present a chance to get to know another SiPN student;
  • Many visits with your visiting family can include meals, as this is a strong tradition in the Portuguese culture, as you will discover. It can be difficult to accommodate students who have dietary restrictions, so you should not expect to be matched according to this. However, we encourage you to use this as an opportunity to reveal a part of who you are with the family, by offering to help cook and share recipes!

Who are SiPN Visiting Families?

Our Visiting families are diverse. They may or may not have children, they might be single parents,  retirees, or have a large tight-knit extended family. All of them typically speak English fluently, but if your goal is to practice your Portuguese, you should make this clear during the placement process and SiPn will do its best to relay this information to our host families.

We try our best to match you with a visiting family that will share similar interests and want to engage in plans as often as both parties desire.

Who Can Sign Up for the Visiting Family Program?

All semester-long students are encouraged to sign up! You will be given an opportunity to sign up during the application phase. If SiPN is unable to find a visiting family for you, you will be placed on a waitlist.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer during your time in Portugal and engage in a meaningful service experience. Give back to the community while making Portuguese connections and it could just be one of the best decisions you make while studying abroad!

Volunteer Spontaneously Throughout the Semester with one of SiPN’s partners, such as the Lisbon Municipality Volunteer program.

Perks of the volunteer service:

  • It’s a great way to make personal connections in Lisbon, as you work alongside other Portuguese and international students;
  • You might earn access to special discounts, such as vouchers and free entrance to events and concerts.

How Do I Participate?

Just let us know before you depart, or during the first two weeks after you have arrived in Lisbon and the SiPN On-site Coordinator will put you in contact with our partners

SiPN Buddy Program

If you have ever wondered how the life of a young person in Europe differs from yours and would like to experience it first-hand, then the buddy network is ideal for you.

Who Are SiPN Buddies and How Does the Program Work?

The buddies are volunteers ages 18-27 living in the greater Lisbon area. Some of them plan to study abroad in the U.S. and would like to learn about the college system there while establishing a social network before leaving. Others just want to meet new people and gain some cross-cultural skills.

The SiPN Buddy Program is a framework that provides you with the opportunity to interact with Portuguese students, but any successful friendships you may develop depend on your level of personal engagement. For this reason, SiPN highly encourages you to participate in organizing events, help suggest ideas for events, and to generally make an effort to make your particular network the best one possible.

No need to sign up!

All students will benefit from this initiative. SiPN, along with the Portuguese partner universities finds and mantains a database of young Portuguese college students who like this idea of serving as ambassadors to SiPN students!

Creative Social Responsability

SiPN partners regularly with local creative organizations to support students in creative projects that are developed during their stay in Lisbon. SiPN actively promotes the idea that students should leave a positive mark on the city in which they are living, interacting with sites and people while developing their critical artistic and reflective faculties.

Check out SiPN’s Spring 16 “Leave a Mark in the City” album with photos taken with Lomo cameras.

Speak Up

SiPN Speak Up initiative provides students with extra opportunities to practice and to master their Portuguese language skills (non-credit bearing). From complete begginer level to advanced-level students, all are welcome!

Through its contacts, SiPN works with language schools and faculty (usually from our partner universities) to create informal sessions, held outside the university setting, to provide students with the opportunity to clarify their doubts, practice their verbal and listening skills.

These meetings also have a strong cultural angle to it as they are usually held in public areas that are emblematic for Lisboneers and they have a theme to center the conversation and to pass along a real Portuguese message. Expect some tasks to involve a direct conversation with Portuguese locals (including “SiPN buddies”).

Students interested in having access to these kinds of programming should establish contact with SiPN once in Lisbon so we can generate a cohort. Joining SiPN’s speak-up program takes a semester-long commitment with weekly meetings happening all throughout the semester.

Multicultural Learning

Students in the 21st century are expected to graduate with a variety of skills that go beyond disciplinary knowledge. Adaptability, cultural empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, strong intercultural communication skills, a collaborative work ethic, and intellectual curiosity are all valued in the complex landscape of international relations and global business

We, at SiPN, make sure all of our students experience a multicultural environment, not only you will be taking classes with other international and Portuguese students but you will also be sharing housing.

If you are the kind of student who wants to make a difference in the local community, SiPN can also connect you with organizations throughout Lisbon that are looking for volunteers.

In order to make the search for these many options easier, we have organized your choices
Find your Program

Life changing lecture

My brother had always encouraged me to study abroad and the start of my junior year seemed like the perfect time to start that adventure. I drew my inspiration for choosing Lisbon, Portugal from my anthropology professor and the many stories he told about living in Portugal and falling in love with the language, food, the people, and the culture. 

Natalie Castilleja
University of Missouri Kansas City


Natalie Castilleja
University of Missouri Kansas City

My brother had always encouraged me to study abroad and the start of my junior year seemed like the perfect 

Finding Her in Heritage

Growing up with immigrant parents I guess you could say that I had a different upbringing compared to most of my peers. Of course, there were times when cultures would clash leaving me stuck between my Portuguese and American identities, but over time I learned to embrace the best of two worlds. I had always wanted to visit mainland Portugal, but I never thought that I would get to experience living here which has provided me with an even better experience than I could have imagined. Studying abroad wasn’t originally part of my academic plans, but here I am in my senior year and this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Diane Fontes University of Massachusetts Dartmouth


Diane Fontes University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Growing up with immigrant parents I guess you could say that I had a different upbringing compared to most of 

From Grandparents to Me

Having grandparents from the Azores growing up, I thought I had a good understanding of Portuguese culture. I figured my trips to the Azores as a teenager, eating bacalhau and seeing my traditionally dressed grandmother cook octopus on Christmas made me an expert on the Portuguese experience. However when I arrived, I realized The Portuguese people are young, and Lisbon is culturally diverse and thriving city. 

Derek Robidoux
University of Massachusetts Amherst


Derek Robidoux
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Having grandparents from the Azores growing up, I thought I had a good understanding of Portuguese culture. I figured my 

Across Four Continents

Long story short, I received a scholarship for my study abroad but with the condition that I study in Bahia, Brazil. That year changed my life and lead me to study abroad another semester in Florianópolis Brazil and earn a minor in Portuguese. As an advanced speaker of Portuguese being in Lisbon is a dream come true to be living my day to day life in the Portuguese language. Even the walk to the grocery store is never dull when you are surrounded by history and smiling Portuguese faces. 

Samuel Orlowski
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee


Samuel Orlowski
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Long story short, I received a scholarship for my study abroad but with the condition that I study in Bahia, 

Another piece to the melting pot

Studying abroad seemed like the perfect opportunity to do this. I must admit, before coming to Portugal, if someone asked me where Lisbon was I would have had no clue. This however actually gives great insight as to why I chose Portugal as my study abroad destination. The chance to come to a place I had no knowledge of seemed like another great time to expose myself to beautiful new places, people, and things.

Liz Bovell
University of Connecticut


Liz Bovell
University of Connecticut

Studying abroad seemed like the perfect opportunity to do this. I must admit, before coming to Portugal, if someone asked 

Happy coincidence

I started learning Portuguese by accident. I spent the majority of my life learning Spanish as a second language. Although my dad is from Peru, I never spoke Spanish with him growing up. I think this is how my love of languages arose. Frustrated that I never learned the language of my dad’s family, in school I dedicated myself to learning Spanish and to sounding as “Peruvian” as possible. Now, two and a half years later, I am a Spanish and Portuguese major studying abroad in Lisbon, Portugal. I never imagined that I would learn to speak Portuguese as quickly as I have, or that I would come to love the Portuguese-speaking world as much as I loved learning Spanish.

Claudia Bellido
Emory University


Claudia Bellido
Emory University

I started learning Portuguese by accident. I spent the majority of my life learning Spanish as a second language. Although 

Positive Impact

Studying in Portugal was one of the best experiences of my life! I’ll always remember the friendships I made and the wonderful memories from traveling all over the country. I learned about Portuguese culture which has influenced me in profound ways that I treasure very much.

Mila Barzdukas
Emory University


Mila Barzdukas
Emory University

Studying in Portugal was one of the best experiences of my life! I’ll always remember the friendships I made and