Outline: A female student @ IST gives an insightful review on the way things work at Instituto Superior Técnico and also breaks some common myths. #uduni #uduniuniversityreview #uduniclassreviews #ilovemyuni!
Related: Studying at Católica-Lisbon SBE, ISEG, Técnico (IST), ISCTE-IUL and Nova SBE – real testimonials!
I am currently doing an integrated master’s degree in Biological Engineering in Instituto Superior Técnico, one of the most well-known universities in Portugal in the fields of Engineering, Mathematics and Physics. So where shall I begin? For most Portuguese people, Tecnico has a certain reputation of being somewhat a competitive university filled with nerdy, geeky, and very studious individuals who have no social skills whatsoever. While there is some truth to it, the reality happens to be slightly different.
It is to be noted however that I can only speak from my experience, I admit that what I experienced might differ from others.
The course that I am enrolled in is one of the smallest, having only around 60 people per year. This can be a possible explanation as to why there is such a good relationship between the students. What is considered as surprising to some, there is a strong helping spirit between individuals: if you’re having difficulty understanding some topic or need some old report or tests, there are always people who are ready to supply them to you or to answer your questions. Even without asking, people share their notes or works in order to aid others. While not everyone is like this of course, the vast majority is. I suppose it works very much like the motto: one hand washes the other and both wash the face.
The way of thinking “I must strive to be better than the others no matter what” which usually generates a lot of competition, is not that common. The importance given to being an A student is however strong, but that is really independent of other people’s grades.
To Teach or not to Teach
What can we say about the professors? Well, there are some excellent, and I really mean excellent, professors who are able to explain and transpose what could be considered difficult topics in a way that makes them seem easier and sometimes far more beautiful and interesting than what they actually are (may be misleading you but hey, at least you learned!). These are the professors that make you feel like you can’t skip not even one of their classes.
On the other spectrum we have those who really don’t teach so as much as read the PowerPoints, point, by, point. Not saying that they don’t know what they are talking about, just they don’t really know how to fill in their roles of professors. Sufficient to say that in those cases there is really no use of attending classes: why waste time when you can also read PowerPoints with the advantage of doing it at a much faster speed? Ok, there is the negative of not establishing a relationship with that specific professor, I mean, if he doesn’t see you, then do you really exist? But really, one has to choose what they feel is more efficient to them.
Related: Erasmus experiences in South Korea, Italy, France and the USA!
There was a particular bad case of a professor we had who, if not already above the retiring age, was really close to that. The problem wasn’t the age in itself per se, but the fact that at that age there was already a lapse in memory. As a result, it was common for the professor to only appear in the classroom half an hour late, or not at all; a lot of the teaching time was more of a storytelling time; and the practical lessons, where one is supposed to actually solve problems, were turned in a dictation lesson where the professor would call some random soul to the board and dictate tim tim por tim tim the resolution of the problem. Not much learning there. The professor is a very reputed one, who studied and taught in the USA, and to this day keeps doing research, but clearly, his time for teaching retirement has come.
In general, though, the professors are great, almost always available for helping with difficulties and questions you might have, in and outside of class, look and are extremely approachable (I mean, what looks more approachable that a professor wearing shorts and sandals with stockings? May also be seen as bad fashion sense), and sometimes, very interesting and well experienced individuals. We had one professor, and this was before Breaking bad became a huge hit, that gave us a very brief explanation on how to cook tina, not that we couldn’t just have searched online, but still, it was an interesting class (Attention: the professor was not advocating or promoting drug use or production! And neither am I!).
Just stick to the theory
The teaching method. In most classes there is a focus in the theoretical part of the study material, and while it is essential and ends up equipping us with the bases for a certain field, there is a lack in its practical applications: How and where can we apply this knowledge? Also, there should be more classes with a laboratory component, so as to teach the students, for example, on how to use the equipment that most will encounter in their future job. Even so, I still think that a student who comes out of this university is capable of easily adapting to most environments and assimilate working how to’s very quickly.
Class Ends and then what?
There is always something to do around campus, or out of it (besides studying of course), in order to complement your curriculum, to enrich your knowledge, gain experience or just have fun.
–AEIST, BEST, NAPE: You can either be part of these associations or just participate in their activities, like workshops, field trips to industries or enterprises and internships, in and outside of Portugal, and so many others. The AEIST is also responsible for the many team and individual sports played in campus, and offers language courses at discount prices ?! And if that’s your thing: Parties and barbecues!
–Course Nucleus: Each existent course has its own nucleus responsible for organizing events, fieldtrips, seminars, exposure, internships more closely related to the field in question. And once again: Barbecues!
-Alongside the activities of those associations there are other scientific (soldering, working with a given software; 3D printing and so many others) and career workshops (a lot of them focusing on teaching how to network, build your curriculum, act in an interview), a lot of them for free or at a very accessible price;
-Many other clubs with other activities related to a certain area;
-Extensive list of agreements and programs between International Universities: not only Erasmus and similar programs, but also courses in the middle of the semester, summer, with a stay as little as one week. You have a lot to choose from.
All in all, I find Tecnico to be an excellent university and wonderful place to study and to build professional and personal relationships, so you should not be scared of it. Bring on the challenge!
Would you like to share your testimonial as well? If yes, please send it to [email protected], either in Portuguese or English!
The author of this article asked to remain anonymous.