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A New Yorker Heads to Portugal

    My name is Jamila, I'm from New York City and I was raised in the Bronx, where I lived most of life there but I also lived in Brooklyn, NY. I'm a ride or die New Yorker. Now, I see the puzzled faces already. Why would I leave the city that never sleeps to volunteer as an assistant teacher in Portugal? I joined the CIEE teach abroad program to emerge myself in the life and culture of others. I have always been passionate about travel and the connections you make with others while traveling. In addition to my interest of living abroad and connecting with others as I have years of experience working with children and families as a social worker in the foster care system as well as spending some time teaching in NYC. I'm passionate about people and providing service along with developing connections that leads to the enhancement of their lives as well as my own. CIEE Volunteer Teach Portugal aligned with my passions, experience and skills. Portugal being known for its beauty and friendly people, I was ready to take the plunge!

    CIEE has an online account system that aids you in organizing the process before and after acceptance. After I decided I wanted to go and applied, I created my online account. The first step is to pay your application fee and all of the fine print about acceptance and program fee. I was notified a few weeks after applying that I had been accepted. Let me rewind back a bit. In my deepest of hearts I wanted to go to Portugal but all my friends and family said “go some where you can use the language in the states when you return” so I applied to Spain, only to quickly find out it was full. It was coming true, I could go where I really wanted to go so I wrote the essay I really wanted to about Portugal but was quickly notified that, Portugal was now full too. I didn't sulk, because I told myself that this year I would get the things I wanted. So I asked the coordinator at CIEE to notify me if there were openings, like if someone dropped out or if there were other departures. Sure enough I was notified about two weeks later that a space was available. At this point I was far behind the acceptance timeline so I had to accept, pay, buy a plane ticket and submit documents on my online profile pretty quickly. Once I had done everything I was patiently waiting to hear from CIEE on my placement a school and my host family. I only had the name of a school and because I didn't know too much about Portugal geographically it wasn't too helpful. I continued on with my pre departure preparations I packed for three months away. I had never done this before. I searched online checking out what bloggers recommended. I subtracted and added to their list to make my own.

I packed what I needed but I still think I might have over done it.

Here's my list

10 shirts- 3 tank tops, 1 sweater, 4 t shirts (mixed between causal and semi dressy)

2 pairs of jeans

2 causal of pants

1 pair of colored pants

2 light weight skirts

3 pairs of shorts

3 lightweight dresses(1 dressy)

2 dressy blouses

1 pair of sandals

1 pair of sneaker

1 pair of causal boots(that can be used for the rain)

1 pair of heel sandals

1 poncho

1 umbrella

1 back pack

1 reusable bag

12 pairs of underwear

5 bras

6 pairs of socks

1 pair of Flip flops

1 denim jacket

1 hooded jacket with heat tech technology I would advise you pack something warmer for a March departure date, Portugal gets cold especially if you are up north like I am. 

Other essentials


Body Lotion

Bars of Soap

Bug spray



3 months worth of sanitary napkins

Disinfectant spray

5 disposable razors

A zip lock bag full of cotton swabs and q tips

Snacks (nuts and breakfast crackers were my choice)





Reading books



CIEE advises you to bring educational materials (i.e books, stickers etc) I packed a decent amount on different areas like flash cards on US presidents along with easy to read fairy tales and plenty of stickers. I would say it would be helpful to know what the school/class is working on so the books etc.apply to their lessons or grade level.

I packed all of this neatly into one rolling carry on, a medium size full size suitcase and book bag.


Then off I went for three months of adventure!

I didn't know what to expect when I would arrive in Portugal on the afternoon of March 5th... Let's find out!


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