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Off of the plane and into the home

    How it all began, let me take you back in time, way back in time... To when I officially started my CIEE journey. On March 5th, I arrived at the Lisbon airport in Portugal, in search of a not so familiar face. A few days before my arrival I was informed by the CIEE main office coordinator that someone would be at the airport awaiting my arrival that afternoon. This was not very comforting to say the least, I didn't know if they would have a sign, know what I look like or anything. I was just told someone would be there( I hoped). 

    As quickly as the anxiety grew when I exited the Lisbon airport I was quickly relieved as Luisa from the Lisbon office approached me with a smile and said,  "You must be Jamila". She explained that everyone else had arrived earlier and that she would be dropping me off at the hotel to freshen up before heading to a brief orientation. After a short ride from the airport over conversation on Portuguese politics and why I chose Portugal, we arrived at the hotel. I took a quick shower and met the other volunteers hailing from Canada, Virginia, Nebraska, Connecticut and Michigan. We were all taken to a phone store to pick up phones and SIM cards if needed and then we went to the CIEE Portugal office for orientation on the program and safety. This was all already covered in a webinar provided prior to departure. We had a lovely dinner and then we went back to our hotel room for rest before another session of orientation the following day with the British Council on the initiative of the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) programs in schools across Portugal. The room was filled with unfamiliar faces who were asked to give brief presentations on their school and their program, I later realized it was a mix of host families, teachers, supervisors and head masters from the schools we were assigned to.

    After the presentations we had a nice Portuguese lunch of bacalhau with cream, potatoes, spinach and gelatina to finish. With time to kill before the three hour train ride to Porto my head master and supervisor took me to the Tower of Belém. It was a beautiful sight and I still couldn’t believe I was in Portugal!

    The train ride was filled with trepidation and excitement. We arrived in Porto in the darkness of the night and then we took a 45 minute train ride to the small town where my host family lives in Northern Portugal. When we arrived I was greeted by three strange faces- my host mom, her daughter and niece. They provided me a tour of the home and showed me to my room. This was not the family I was expecting as the only information about my host family I received prior to departure was that it would be a mother, father and with two children. I later found out why I was a different family than originally assigned in the weeks to come.

    From the airport into the home I felt welcomed and curious for what the days ahead would be like. The following day was my first day at the school where I would be volunteering at and I was hoping I had the same welcoming into the classroom.


March 6, 2017, Tower of Belem




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