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Learners Make Lifelong Friends in Portugal

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On Thursday, April 18, sixteen Mineola High School students, accompanied by Mr. Paul Pereira and Mr. Ed Escobar, departed for a 10-day exchange trip to Portugal. This is the 6th time, the first one being in 1997, that a delegation from Mineola High School has visited a school in Portugal and the first time an exchange was organized with the Secondary School in Murtosa. Murtosa is a municipality in the Aveiro district that has a long and rich tradition tying it to the ocean and immigration as it is surrounded by water, namely the Atlantic Ocean and the Aveiro Lagoon. The population is approximately 11,000 residents and covers an area of 28 square miles. Numerous Murtosa residents have immigrated to the United States, settling mainly in Newark, New Jersey, Naugatuck, Connecticut and other areas in the New York metropolitan area, including Mineola.

The eager travelers left Mineola High School after school on April 18 for an evening flight to Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal. Arriving early the next day, Mr. Pereira, Mr. Escobar, and the 16 students boarded a train to their destination in Murtosa, where they would spend the next seven days. The students were housed with Portuguese students who will visit Mineola in Spring 2025. Over the next seven days, students, Portuguese and American, participated in a variety of activities and excursions. The group visited the nearby beaches of Torreira and Sao Jacinto, as well as the “Ria” (Aveiro Lagoon). The group traversed the lagoon on a traditional “moliceiro” (kelp) boat on their way to visit the airbase of San Jacinto. Although much of the winter had been a rainy one in Portugal there was nothing but sunshine and 70 degree temperatures to greet the students. On their second full day in town the students spent the day with their host families and were treated to a day of visiting nearby sites that were not part of the exchange itinerary such as: the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Arouca, the Castle at Santa Maria da Feira, and Costa Nova. The students also visited Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal” and Oporto. Students were impressed by the contrast of Portugal’s centuries old architecture and ultra-modern sprawling shopping malls. In Aveiro, the highlight was a visit to one of the few operating salt flats remaining. On the visit to Oporto, the group visited many of the iconic sites of Portugal's “Second City”, such as Palacio da Bolsa, Torre dos Clerigos and Sé do Porto. On April 25, the group of Mineola and Murtosa students took a leisurely bicycle ride along the “Ria”, culminating with an amazing picnic lunch provided by the host parents.

After a tearful and emotional “goodbye” at the school, the 16 “Americans” were back on a train to Lisbon. The next two nights would be spent at the Hotel Ikonik in Lisbon. On the 2 hour train ride aboard the “Alfa Pendular” train the students reflected on how warm and welcoming their hosts had been in Murtosa. They spoke of friends that they made and lifelong memories that they created.

Arriving in Lisbon Friday afternoon the group checked in to their accommodations. The next three days would be spent touring Lisbon and its surroundings. The group visited Belém, Chiado, Baixa and Parque das Nações, among other Lisbon neighborhoods. The students were also treated to a special “invitation only” event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1974 Carnation Revolution where they got to meet the current president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebels de Sousa, and the first post revolution president, Antonio Ramalho Eanes.

Other highlights in Lisbon included a “mandatory” visit to Pasteis de Belem, a bakery that dates to 1837, where students enjoyed the tasty national pastry known as Pasteis de Nata. The students were also treated to a delicious complimentary lunch at the Museu da Cerveja thanks to the group “O Valor do Tempo.”

The students and chaperones arrived back safely in the United States on the evening of April 28 a bit tired but with incredible memories of friendships made and culture experienced. The students are eagerly awaiting the return visit of their friends from Murtosa in Spring 2025.

Text courtesy of Mr. Paul Pereira.

Date Added: 5/3/2024