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Student Interview: meet Niki from USA


Have you ever met a crazy, novela-addicted girl from Texas who was so crazy about Portuguese novelas she decided to study Camões’ language in Lisbon?

We did and we are grateful for that. This is why we want to share everything about her with you: Meet Niki from Texas (USA).

Niki was born in Austin, Texas and raised in Houston, Texas. She was only nine years old when she fell in love with her first Mexican soap opera and a new language, Spanish. The Mexican novela, “Mi Pequeña Soledad”, was just the beginning! Brazilian soap operas, Portuguese soap operas…even South-Korean soap operas came after that! And with each novela came another world made up of new words, sounds and places!

In college, she studied English and Spanish, but decided to follow another passion and began a career in Criminal Justice. Yes, this calm and patient girl started as a court clerk and advanced in her field until becoming responsible for writing felony sentencing reports. This was a tough job, but because she is a good listener, it was also a perfect job for her. Referring to the nature of her work, “You get used to it,” she says. But sometimes we have to stop and take a deep breath. Working more than sixty hours per week at times was too much. Niki loved her job but needed time for herself as well! This is why she decided to quit her job and start a new adventure in Lisbon, the new city she discovered through the Portuguese soap opera, “A Única Mulher.” She contacted us, joined our Summer Course program and the rest...is history! Two months of classes, walking tours, activities, dinners, crazy friends from all over the world and... a lot more!

But who is Niki? When we asked her to describe herself in one word, she had some trouble choosing an adjective that could describe everything about her. Gladly, she accepted our suggestion: Mysterious! Because Niki is mysterious, you never know what is going on in her mind: “Is she enjoying herself? Is she analyzing me? Is she bored? Does she think I am crazy?” What you know for sure is that she is listening carefully trying to understand who you are and learn your story! Then, at some point, she starts laughing and no one can stop her! :) And we cannot blame that on the wine, she is always like this! She really enjoys laughing, having fun and being surrounded by people!

What does she love about Portugal? Well, what we all love: “People are always nice and kind. Landscapes and views are amazing (even if they usually come after a long climb up a hill), Food is also great.” She admitted that vinho verde is her new passion. We know she’ll manage to find some in Texas! ;)

We also asked her to make a Top 3 List of what she loved most during her stay and, after reviewing her photo album to refresh her memory (two months was a long time!), she decided on the following:

1. Igreja de São Domingos, Lisbon

2. Sesimbra

3. All viewpoints! (This is actually funny considering how much she tormented us for forcing her to climb up the hills and stairs! :P)

Favorite word? She loves the word “Saudade”, but went for a curious expression instead, “Desculpa lá.” She says that to us with a perfect European Portuguese accent. Isn’t that amazing considering when she started watching novelas in Portuguese, she did not know the difference between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese?! Desculpem lá, but she is GREAT!

Every day in Lisbon a new adventure awaited Niki! Even firing up the stove with a match was completely new to her and required tutorials from local people. :) Her future will probably be in Portugal, who knows?! She’d love to come back, that’s for sure…and we’d love this too! Let’s read her own words about this incredible 2-month experience she had the chance to live! Senhores e Senhoras, Niki Barnes!

1. Why did you study Portuguese at Portuguese Connection?

I was looking for a language school where I could participate in activities in addition to learning the language. At this time, Portuguese Connection was advertising their 2016 Summer Course and I thought it would be a perfect fit. It definitely was….best choice I could have made!

2. What do you think of Lisbon? Is Portugal very different from your home country?

I love Lisbon! It is such a beautiful place filled with beautiful and kind people, fantastic views and great food. Yes, I know I complained here and there about climbing up the hills and all of the walking, but I actually love that Lisbon is such a walkable city. Granted, I did use all forms of transportation in Lisbon, you don’t always have to use a car, bus, subway, Uber or taxi to get around the city center and I like this very much. Portugal is different from the United States, but I cannot say it is “very” different. Of course there was a new culture and new daily experiences to become accustomed to, but I think this is normal when traveling to a country different than your own.

3. Tell us about your life here. What did you do in your free time?

My life in Lisbon was fantastic! The Summer Course kept me pretty busy during the month of July with all of the fun activities planned during the week and weekend. Because of this, free time in July consisted of me catching up on sleep or spending time with my classmates outside of our scheduled group activities. After the Summer Course concluded at the end of July, I caught up on sleep during the month of August, met and had a great time with new students who entered the school and continued to explore Lisbon and surrounding areas.

4. How long did you study at Portuguese Connection? Which course did you attend?

I studied here for two months. As stated earlier, I participated in the 2016 Summer Course in July, which consisted of afternoon and weekend activities and intensive classes four hours per day Monday through Friday. In August, I continued to attend intensive classes four hours per day Monday through Friday.

5. What do you think of your classes and of the activities included in the Summer Program?

The classes and the teachers were fantastic! The activities were fantastic! Have I said yet how fantastic everything was this summer?!  I would do it again in a heartbeat!

6. Did you learn anything that you didn’t expect to learn?

I don’t think I expected to meet so many people at the school from so many different countries. I really enjoyed getting to know about their experiences and cultures in addition to learning about the Portuguese culture. I now have people I can visit all over the world!

7. Would you come back to Portuguese Connection?

Absolutely! For me this school was the best choice! The staff is friendly, classes are small and the environment is very relaxed. Most importantly, as long as you are willing to put in the work, you will learn Portuguese! I would recommend Portuguese Connection to anyone and no, I’m not a paid spokesperson for the school. Lol!!!