⊱✿ Location, expanded… ✿⊰ *Sorry for the few pics! Definitely a lengthy post*

When I first touched upon location on this blog, I wanted to introduce you all to my physical surroundings- the sights, the history I get to interact with on a daily basis, the colorful characters lining the streets, and all the other dimensions of the gorgeous city I currently reside in. But more important than the physical aspects of my city are the cultural elements and the social environment of Lisbon.

For starters, Europe is already a fascinating creature with the development of the EU. I already love studying the EU because it is truly a moving target. Things are rapidly changing and evolving, there is never a dull moment with all the decisions and proposals being put forth. The best part is, I’m smack dab in the middle of history being made! In 50 years or 100 from now, scholars and populations will look back on this time period and think about how exciting it must have been to be living in Europe during this time. Being here makes me want to move to Europe that much faster and start contributing to the evolution of the EU! Not to mention the fragile state of Europe at the moment. Birth rates are lowering all over Europe and immigration rates are dropping, so the problem of creating a new generation to help take care of the older populations (that now live longer due to technology) is an important issue. Another huge EU issue I am living through right now is the euro zone crisis. Because of the austerity measures being implemented, workers are striking all over the city. Recently, there was a garbage strike so the streets were quite smelly for a few days. Finally, there is a lot of strong sentiment from the people against certain European nations that are dominating over them in the European Union- such as Germany. In a way, it’s kind of awe inspiring to see how history still plays such a tremendous role in how populations think of current events. For many Portuguese citizens and other citizens of Western Europe, they still harbor skeptical feelings against Germany in that they feel that Germany is trying to control and take over Europe through their ever increasing role in the EU.These feelings are seen in so much of the culture, even the soccer! (See below)

If that were not already exciting, I am also in the middle of Portugal’s development and transition into the amazing, productive, thriving democracy it is destined to be. You see, Portugal was ruled by Salazar- a dictator- until about the early 70s. While he wasn’t that terrible as a leader (especially since he didn’t believe in extreme use of the military, was highly educated in economics and came from a simple, religious upbringing), he still oppressed the Portuguese people from sharing their thoughts and ideas and from getting an education. So when his regime ended in the mid 70s, new ideas and creativity went flying throughout the cities- bouncing off walls and turning into a social/cultural revolution! It is so intriguing to see how Portuguese people interact with their authority figures compared to how authority figures are seen in the United States. Since the people overthrew the Salazar regime, they don’t have that instilled fear of authority figures or civil servants. Plus, I think that they sometimes don’t realize the precious situation that they are presently in! Portugal only came out of its oppression less than 50 years ago, so it has so much potential to do wondrous deeds with all the increased education it has access to! In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is definitely a pivotal time for Portugal and I hope it invests its people and resources wisely.

To top it all off, I am in Europe during the Euro Cup 2012! The soccer spectator scene (cafes, bars, anywhere with a TV!) has been such a blast with all the games and fans everywhere. I have always enjoyed soccer, but here it is definitely the 2nd most popular religion if you count Catholicism/Christianity as the 1st. And considering (a) the hostility between Germany and Greece at the moment with Germany trying to remove Greece from the euro, and (b) the fact that they are playing a match on Friday, the June 22, I predict that a religious war is about to break out. There is a great article about it here ☞ http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/greece-v-germany/

Last but not least, I want to mention the exhilarating university environment here. All the universities and schools are so geared towards innovation, exchange of ideas and networking. Due to a change in the amount of time needed to complete the “Bachelor’s” (here it’s called the Licenciatura) and Master’s, students are graduating much younger or enrolling in graduate programs at a younger age. While that has its own problems since they then graduate younger and still can’t find jobs, it’s so nice to be around younger students that are about my year in school. For example, this past Saturday I attended the Switch conference at a university called ISCTE, and it was a great place to meet young professionals and interact with them.


These are a couple of my friends at the conference. The conference had speakers from all over the world that were there to talk about subjects ranging from technological innovation to African art preservation. (Check out some info here: http://www.switchconf.com/) Overall, it was a great environment for students, and I was so thrilled and honored to have attended. Especially since they have a great M.B.A. program at that school that I want to enroll in someday!

On that note, I invite all my international and American friends to look at Portugal as a possible destination for graduate school programs. There are many universities here with programs in English that are very cost effective! There are M.B.A. programs, law degrees, Master’s and Doctoral degrees and other training programs. In fact, this website ☞http://www.studyinportugal.net/ simplifies the programs available and gives you an introduction to the university network.

University life, as I mentioned above, is so unique in Portugal. The students are all young and ambitious, and I am excited to see what they will do for the next generation of this country. One of my favorite things about the students here is what they dress during the year. They wear black capes (as capas negras) over dress shirts and pants whenever they attend academic festivities. The “academic costume” or “traje académico” serves as one of the most important symbols of the institution of the university network. Not all universities adopt this practice. As an example, one of my friends in the picture above (Miguel, far right) attends a university (ESCS) where the “uniform” is worn on Thursdays. It’s not mandatory or a rule, but it encourages school spirit and unites the students with a centuries old tradition. Another tradition for students is wearing a colored ribbon around the wrist, to symbolize your commitment to your university/college until the end of your degree program. He wears a green one for his college, along with another friend in the picture above who attends the same university.

Today, I happened to discover a few groups of them in Lisbon sitting along the plaza streets and singing for money. (I ended up doling out 7 euros in donations to them, well spent in my opinion.) One of the boys in my study abroad program, Chris, loves to play guitar and so he spent some time playing with them and I ended up singing “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” for them before I left.


Great day, great city and AMAZING environment. Goodness gracious, I am loving every moment here.

Beijo, meus amigos. ✌ kissy Posts about the fun places I’ve visited to come. Promise 🙂


Chow time :]


Originally, I wanted this section to be part of the “Dolce Far Niente” post I recently added. But Lisbon is too much of an incredible city. It has been an experience so far made up of colored architecture, winding alleys, clear and crisp days, delicate aromas, compassionate people, flavorful history and inner peace. And the food here is a line that connects Lisbon to its people, which leads me to relive those colors, sounds and flavors.

I want to touch upon the food in Portugal. I cannot begin to describe how much of a paradise Portugal has been to me. I already had a wonderful relationship with food and cooking, but I made the ultimate commitment when the plane touched down in Lisbon and I had my first meal in Portugal after years of American food. Meals are very simple in how they are prepared and how they taste. There are no fancy sauces, spices, dressings or ingredients. In the end, you get a dish that is simple, straightforward, enticing, and still delicious- much like the people here.

Of course the diet here is very Mediterranean… lots of olive oil, breads, meat, olives, cheeses, alcohol and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. People start out their meals with bread topped with cheese and/or presunto (prosciutto). Sometimes they even use a type of tuna spread.


I love the pre-lunch/dinner snacking, but I also really enjoy how the meal is designed. Portuguese lunches and dinners make sure to represent all the food groups. For example, you’ll have bread and cheese and maybe a slice or two of prosciutto. Then lunch or dinner will start with a light soup, followed by arroz cozido e carne (stewed beef and rice) with a vegetable dish on the side, and end with fruit and a sweet.

People eat at different times here than back home. Lunch usually occurs between 1-2 PM (13:00-14:00) and then dinner doesn’t take place until 8 PM (20:00), if not later. For this reason, Portuguese people like to “lanchar” or “snack” in between lunch and dinner. This typically involves tea or coffee, with a pastry or slice of homemade cake or toast with cheese and jam. The cheese eaten at this time looks like the one pictured below:


It is fresh cheese from sheep’s milk, and my aunt likes to serve it with pumpkin jam, for example. To lanchar, my aunt sometimes makes a “cheesecake” (which is really more like a pound cake) out of a cheese she makes at home similar to the one in the picture above. Or, she makes a light cinnamon cake which she serves with apples. All in all, I love that time of day because, by that time, it is starting to get cooler so you can sit with your snack and have a cup of tea outside in the glorious sunlight.

I love the availability of fresh, wholesome food here. At home, in the U.S., food is radically different. It is an obvious fact, but it holds tremendous impact. Here, I feel so much healthier eating fruits and vegetables because they are grown locally- by my family or other local farmers- and they don’t have a lot of the chemicals or hormones in produce back home. The beef is much better here too; in fact, American beef is banned by the European Union because of the large quantity of hormones it possesses. I know that many people my age may not think of these things, but it’s amazing how much healthier I feel here- this is one of the motivators for me wanting to live here someday. You can find fresh, savory produce and foods here for much cheaper! For instance, there are so many street vendors with fruit carts full of fresh cherries and mangoes, etc. I couldn’t be happier.

To conclude, I ended up making my first meal in Portugal yesterday for a friend and I. I made chicken fajitas with sweet potato fries and a fruit punch to drink. Dessert was amazing, I am so in love with the desserts here.


I ended up buying a huge bag of cherries from the street vendor. The ice cream is a really popular brand here called Carte D’Or (manufactured in the UK). The cookie on top is my favorite cookie brand/type here in Portugal. They are called Belgas and they are basically round discs of waffle cone with one side coated in chocolate. I am in heaven ♥

Well, I’m off to cook some dinner to watch the soccer game (Portugal v. Netherlands) in 40 minutes! God Bless.

Beijo, meus amigos. ✌ kissy

☼ Dolce Far Niente ☁

One of my top favorite movies of all time is Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts; I love the messages in the movie, what she learns about herself and of life as she voyages to three regions of the world. In one of the regions, Italy, she learns the expression “dolce far niente” … the “sweetness of doing nothing.” To be quite honest, I had never truly experienced that before until about two days ago. In the United States, it is so easy for people to forget how to just be. We have so many distractions around us that are not present here in Portugal. In Portugal, people take 1 ½ hour lunches in order to fully enjoy everything on their plate and engage in friendly conversation. What a wonderful and healthy cultural philosophy!

So, two days ago, I went on a beach trip with my study abroad group to a beach near Lisbon in the city of SetúbalIt was such a gorgeous day, and a great break from studying and homework. Before arriving at the beach, we stopped at a few lookout points on a mountain called the Serra da Arrábida. “Serra” means mountain range, so “Serra de/da (insert place)” means “mountain range of (insert place).” The view was so magnificent, with the sparkling blue water and golden shore beneath me and white clouds above me.


It’s crazy how you can feel so tall and powerful looking down from a view like this yet, at the same time, be reminded of how small you are in comparison to the world around you. I digress.

The beach was so pristine.. it’s actually one of the best known in the region of Lisbon. Personally, for anyone planning to visit, I preferred the beaches in Cascais and Estoril because the water is a bit warmer and the sand is softer and white. Setúbal is a true fishing town- like Porto (a city to the North of Lisbon)- so the sand is a little rougher and the ocean is frothy, messy and rambunctious from all the fishing activity. Nevertheless, I found a perfect spot to set up camp and I took a nap on the sand. FYI- I am not a nap taking kind of person, it felt genuinely strange to be so relaxed!


The best part of the beach is the natural clay found on the cliffs that line the shore. Many people take a dip in the ocean water and then take the soft, crumbly clay off the side of the cliff and rub it on them before letting it dry on their skin as they sunbathe.


The journey to procure my bag of clay was quite interesting. We were sitting on one side of the beach that was a long bit away from the clay cliffs, so I went off with a huge bucket ready to collect some. Along the way, the sand started burning my feet and the bucket became super heavy, so I left it behind and just took the plastic bag inside. A sign told me I was now entering the other side of the beach, which I didn’t think was a big deal. I then asked a random beach goer instructions to the cliff with the clay and, after following his instructions, I noticed that all the people down in front of me were staring at me. I didn’t think much of it and continued to dig for the clay. It was then I noticed that I was on the nude stretch of the beach!

Even though I knew nude beaches existed in Europe, it was still so strange to find myself upon one. I guess that it just serves as a warning for all my American friends and friends from other countries that even though you may think you are prepared for all a country has to offer, you are never fully prepared. Hmm, I should have titled this post “Portuguese Culture: The Phenomenal and the Abominable.”

To review, Portuguese culture is very much carefree and I love how it emphasizes enjoying one’s life by taking pleasures in all moments- overlooking an ocean, eating a homemade meal, sitting with a friend and chatting for a while… etc. Yet, at the same time, it’s not carefree in that it is lazy or unproductive but that it respects the things in life enough to give them their proper time or appreciation. Hence their relaxed attitude and admiration towards the human body, leading to my culture shock of the day. I will post about the tourist beaches I visited a couple of weeks ago and about the conference I attended yesterday very soon.

Até jà, which means “see you soon.” Beijo, meus amigos. ✌ kissy

It’s all about location! ツ

Just like with any story, the best way to introduce it is by setting the scene. Right now, I am studying in the city of Lisbon- the cosmopolitan, historically rich, and culturally delicious heart and soul of Portugal. This city is dripping with folklore, history, gracious people and appetizing food at every corner. The University of Massachusetts- Dartmouth summer program in Lisbon rents rooms at the Lisbonaire Hostel for students, and I have to say that I absolutely love it there!


When I first pulled up to the street the hostel was on, I honestly became very confused. The photos of the hostel on the website led me to expect that the outside of the building would be as ornate and glamourous as the inside, so when I saw the light gray, simple building stationed on a street full of graffiti covered apartments being renovated, I got a little worried. Upon walking inside, though, I was blown away! The building is only two years old, and it’s the perfect location for any students wanting to visit Lisbon.

Each apartment corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and has its own designer. The suites are all completely different, except for the fact that they are extremely COLORFUL! If there is one thing I love, it’s lots and lots of color… so these rooms are such an amazing place to come home to after a long day of classes. Plus, our apartment theme is based on blues and grays… so relaxing! Some students from the program I am in have a loft-type suite, with a living room and bedroom downstairs. Another group of students have their own large and spacious kitchen with a different bed / living room layout. Moreover, the rooms come with fully furnished kitchens, towels and clean up services in the rooms, a television set with cable, and unlimited wireless internet. In the mornings, the sun rises in the perfect angle to bask me in sunlight from the window, and then I like to make myself a cup of tea and look out at my magnificent view of the city while I blast film score soundtracks from my laptop. (*NOTE: If I haven’t already sent you the link, my favorite study playlist ever is found here ☞ http://8tracks.com/thegirlnamedjedrzejko/my-ultimate-study-playlist. You are welcome, in advance.*)

Better than my apartment is the area I am surrounded by. I am never bored for a moment here in the bairro alto (Translation: high neighborhood- since it is located on a hill. Bairro Alto has a famous reputation for its night life and countless bars that line the streets, but it also is home to some pretty significant sites). There is so much to explore and discover! Today, walking home from class I bumped into the cutest, elderly German couple I have ever met and even took their picture outside of the trolley cart near my street. There is an amazing Indian restaurant next door, a restaurant near my university with food from Goa (once a colony of Portugal in India- so it is Indian food with a tropical twist to it), a Japanese pavilion at the top of the “elevador” at the end of my street, and many other ethnic groups / shops / restaurants in my area. By elevador I mean that at the end of my street you reach a road where you can only go left or right that is inclined at least 45 or more degrees. On this street travels an old fashioned yellow electric trolley, and it gives you a lift to the top of one of the Bairro Alto’s many hills. I have promised myself to refrain from using the trolley, just to get some more walking time in. In fact, that is another thing I love about being in a busy city- all the walking time and how things are in walking distance. In America, especially in Florida, the land is really flat and everything is so far away- therefore car travel is a must, unfortunately.

Across the street from my hostel is the famous Hard Rock Cafe, and to the right of that on the opposite side of the street is the Hotel Avenida Palace.


During WWII, this hotel used to be full of spies that were stationed in Portugal. The hotel still has some of the old tunnels and passageways that the spies used to use! Right next door to the hotel is a delicious place to get amazing gelato, and on the sidewalk outside of the hotel there is a street vendor who always has mountains of fresh cherries, yummy! Further down from the hotel is a plaza with elegant fountains, the Praça de Dom Pedro IV (Plaza of Pedro IV). The details on the statues in the fountain are so well designed, and not only are the plazas and buildings beautiful by day but they are all lit up at night!


Across the plaza is a super fancy bakery, the Pasteleria Suíça.


About 40 years ago, my father served in the Portuguese army and he used to spend a lot of time there. When he found out I would be in the area of Bairro Alto, the first place he told me to visit was the Swiss bakery because of all the scrumptious goodies it holds! As a cultural note, many cafes/bakeries in Portugal sell more than just coffee- they typically serve grilled ham and cheese sandwiches (tosta mista), teas, sodas, pastries, soup, and other goodies. The Pasteleria Suíça has a good variety of Portuguese treats like rissóis de camarão (shrimp cakes), healthy salads, and others. The best part about the place is the sweet shop!

There are so many adorable candies at the sweet shop area of the bakery. There were many chocolate covered almonds with different flavors like fruit cremes in the middle and they all had clever designs on them. Some were designed like the eggs of a robin while others were various colors or covered in gold and silver (edible) paints.

The last area I really like near my home for the summer is a street that starts at the Praça de Dom Pedro IV and stretches down to an area that goes near the river and ties with the Avenida Marginal. The Avenida Marginal is a picturesque road that passes all the best beach towns in the Lisbon area such as Cascais and Estoril. I will post the pictures from that trip soon. When walking down this street, there are so many cute shops all around and always something exciting happening. For instance, the other day there was a woman who spent hours standing in the middle of the street as a living statue.

I was lucky to get this picture of her, because she spent five minutes keeping me from taking a nice picture by moving her red scarf in front of her face. But it was all in good fun, and she even took a picture with me when I put two euros into her little jar. I spent the other 3 euros I had left over to buy an overpriced chocolate crêpe and chamomile tea at the cafe near her.

That’s my favorite part of Lisbon. Because it is basically the door to Europe since Portugal is the first country one meets when visiting the continent, there have been so many people who have passed through and lived in Lisbon. There is so much Arab influence on the architecture since the Moors were in Portugal and Spain for so long. Actually, there is a grandiose and beautiful mosque that I passed by on a Lisbon Sightseeing Bus Tour (pictures/blog later) that I hope to return to and visit at some point. Another big influence in Portugal is French culture. From the 15th to 18th century, Portugal was a fountain of gold and culture and sophistication. Anybody who was anybody spoke French or Latin, and there are still many French restaurants and foods that linger in Lisbon. A lot of the clothes have expressions in French, French words are intertwined into the language, and it is a large part of the architecture, culture, and so forth. The influence from the Roman Empire is also quite large. In fact, Roman caverns underneath Lisbon were discovered a short while ago that can be visited during the month of September. The caverns are open for only 3 days because they are flooded underground year round. Legend has it that the water that trickles down there when the cavern is not flooded is magical and can produce miracles. I will link the video for that here  ☞ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivs6km260Kk


Time for sleep. Beijos, kissy


❝The world belongs to those who take it.❞

Hello! For those of you reading this post, you must be loved ones, close friends or even new friends and I hope you enjoy this blog as a way to share in my adventures in Portugal this summer. For those of you who do not know me, here is a short background: My name is Marielena Dias and I am a 3rd year student at the University of Florida studying political science with an emphasis on European Union studies and international relations. My interests are international law, teaching or working in politics, and international relationships among nations especially considering influences such as culture and religion. I am part of a research group in the U.S.- the McNair Scholars Program (miss you all!) and I recently received a research fellowship as well. I am of Portuguese descent and I hope to one day return to Portugal to work on a Master’s or Doctorate.

Starting this blog was a bit difficult because there are just so many aspects to studying and traveling abroad that have a right to be told and should be included when telling stories. I  have only been in Lisbon with my study abroad program for the last 3 days but already there are so many adventures and moments I wish I could share. Even if I were to share them in stories, I will never be able to fully transfer the images in my mind of how blue the sky gets here or how crisp and clear the air feels when I walk about the city in the mornings. Furthermore, I am slowly but surely falling in love with this city and, because of this (as often happens to people in love), my mind is constantly memorizing every single detail of the city and I find my surroundings to grow more beautiful each morning I wake up to greet them.

In my lifetime, I have only visited Portugal a handful of times. Last summer, I visited my family in the town I spent the happiest moments of my childhood in- Carregal do Sal. It was the first time I had visited in 5 years, and I realized how much I missed the environment when I returned to the U.S. for college in the fall. I made myself a promise that I would return again the following summer some way or another. Over the year, I spent hours looking at educational opportunities in Portugal for graduate studies and I found a few that I really liked. However, spending a short vacation in a country with family is radically different from actually studying and working there, so that was the primary motivator for my visit this summer- to see how I might like being part of the university community in Portugal.

One of the things I love most about being a student is the opportunity to experience life in a way that adults my age may never get to. As a university student, I can pack my bags and spend six months or one year in a completely different country and continue learning fascinating subjects. I can experiment different cultures and meet new people to see what region of the world I someday want to call home. Who says that you can’t go anywhere, do anything, or be anyone. We are all capable of making the most of this life, and it is our right to do so. No adult working in a typical job can ask for half a year to go visit a new part of the world for an internship or study abroad program, but students can do this and find themselves in ways never imagined possible.

Stories and photos to come, starting with my current location and the city surrounding me, the institute I will be studying in and adventures I have already had in Portugal. Since I arrived in late May, I have had to chance to explore the lovely country I call home. I know that en even when I am old and gray in the future, I will never forget the sights of the beaches I visited (Cascais, Estoril, and Carcavelos) or the Mardi-Gras-like spectacle of the Marchas Populares and how comfortable I felt celebrating the Portuguese holiday Dia de Santo Antonio even though I was with complete strangers. I can’t wait to see what else this city, this country and this life has to offer over the next couple of months.

Beijo, meus amigos, até logo. ✌ kissy

☝P.S. That means “A kiss, my friends, until we meet again.”