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Program Description:

CIEE LogoCIEE Lisbon: Language and Culture

Without a doubt, Lisbon is a happening place to study abroad. Each year, the beautiful capital city hosts numerous international events, including the world’s biggest music festival, Rock in Rio-Lisboa. There’s always something to do while exploring and enhancing your understanding of Portuguese society and culture. You’ll enroll in a variety of courses in both English and Portuguese, stay with a local family, volunteer, and go on exciting excursions in and around multicultural Lisbon – all with CIEE.
For additional information, visit the CIEE Lisbon: Language and Culture website
The City of Lisbon

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, older than London, Paris, and Rome by hundreds of years, and has always been a major political, economic, and cultural center in Portugal. This capital city’s antique neighborhoods got a huge facelift when rundown areas were revitalized for the 1998 World Expo. The seaport has a holiday atmosphere and is blessed with a mild climate, mostly sunny days, a wealth of gorgeous architecture and monuments, and nearby beaches.

Did you know…?

The center of Lisbon is built on various hills, navigated by funicular trains, an elevator, trams, buses, and the metro. The city presents interesting contrasts, from tiny one-of-a-kind shops with fading facades to mega malls; from narrow, steep, cobble-stoned streets to wide-open vistas. Lisbon’s fascinating past can be glimpsed in the faces of its multicultural citizens, food, architecture, and welcoming attitude towards foreigners.


The program at CIEE Lisbon: Language and Culture is for College and Wharton credit only.

Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0

Language Prerequisite: Successful completion of 2 semesters of Portuguese, or 4 semesters of Spanish with a grade of B or above in all courses by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure. Portuguese or Spanish language course within the past year recommended. This language prerequisite applies to both College and Wharton students.

Language of Instruction



After enrolling in an intensive language program prior to the start of the semester, you’ll continue your language study throughout the semester. You’ll also choose from a wide selection of courses ranging in topics from media, music, and literature, to history, politics, and globalization. Penn students will take courses at Universidade Nova de Lisboa within the School of Social Sciences and Humanities (FCSH) and up to two courses at the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e Empresas (ISCTE) Business School. Because exams may run late in the academic calendar, remote proctoring of December/June exams may be possible. Please speak to your Global Programs Manager at Penn Abroad for remote proctoring needs at the time of your application to this program

Take a look at some sample syllabi by scrolling to the Lisbon option.

Additional information for Wharton students:
Up to two of three of the additional courses may be at ISCTE Business School. The majority of courses taught at ISCTE Business School are taught in English. Courses taught at the University of Lisbon may be in English or Portuguese.
     - Course list for ISCTE Business School

Additional Information for College students:
Assuming you already meet the language eligibility requirements, your courses may be a mix of English and/or Portuguese-taught. There is no limit on the number of English courses you can take beyond the required language course.

Additional information for all students:
Course list for University of Lisbon, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities  
Check out an overview of the program here: CIEE Lisbon Program.pdf

CIEE Program Website
Universidade Nova de Lisboa: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e Empresas (ISCTE) Business School

Grading Scale

As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average.  The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school. Be sure to review Penn Abroad’s academic policies.

Grades are reported to Penn on the CIEE Scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following grade equivalencies:
CIEE Grade Penn Grade
92.50-100 A
89.50-92.49 A-
86.50-89.49 B+
82.50-86.49 B
79.50-82.49 B-
76.50-79.49 C+
69.50-76.49 C
59.50-69.49 D
0-59.49 F
UNL Grade Penn Grade
17-20 A
16 A-
15 B+
14 B
13 B-
12 C+
11 C
10 D
0-9 F

Grade conversion effective Fall 2017 and forward. 

BLB Special FeaturesOrientation Activities

You'll begin your study abroad experience in Lisbon even before leaving home by participating in a CIEE online pre-departure orientation. The resident director meets with students online and shares information about the program and site, highlighting issues that alumni have said are important, and giving you time to ask questions. The online orientation allows you to connect with others in the group, reflect on what you want to get out of the program, and learn what others in the group would like to accomplish. CIEE’s aim for the pre-departure orientation is simple: to help you understand more about the program and identify your goals.

A two-day orientation session conducted in Lisbon at the beginning of the program will introduce you to the city, culture, and academic program, and provide practical information about living in Lisbon. A mid-semester and re-entry workshop held at the end of the semester are designed to assist students with cross-cultural adjustment and adaptation. Ongoing support is provided by CIEE staff on an individual and group basis throughout the program.
Language Courses

For information regarding courses, please visit here and scroll down to “Course Descriptions.”

Volunteer Opportunities

Connect with organizations throughout Lisbon that are looking for volunteers, in order to advance your knowledge of real-world practices and gain professional experience that will impact your future career.

Group Excursions

BLB Special FeaturesLisbon is a culturally rich city with a vibrant theater life, a historic opera house, museums, concert venues, galleries, a dynamic cinemathèque, and more. Enjoy frequent visits to sites of historic and cultural importance including the medieval walled towns, Óbidos and Sintra. During an excursion to Porto, the second largest city in the country, you’ll participate in activities tourists rarely get to do: attend a concert at Casa da Musica, tour the gardens of Serralves, and amble across one of the many bridges that link the city to its southern neighbor, Gaia. You’ll also visit a Romanesque cathedral and gaze on gilded Baroque altarpieces during a tour of Évora, a historical center contained within 16th-century walls. Want to make a difference in the local community? We’ll connect you with organizations throughout Lisbon that are looking for volunteers.

Buddy Program

If you’re looking for support abroad, turn to your Buddies. In Lisbon, buddies help you settle into your new life through small group activities like conversation groups, cooking classes, tours of the city, and field trips. These local university students are there to help you make friends at the FCSH, introduce you to what daily life is like in Lisbon, and make sure you successfully adapt to your new environment.

Participants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.

Drastically improve your language skills and immerse yourself in Portuguese culture by living with a local family. Not only will you experience authentic customs and family life, but you'll form relationships that endure long after the end of your study abroad program. The other option is living in a student residency with other international students (subject to availability). Students should speak with CIEE regarding their preference.

Penn Abroad Financial Policies

Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs.  Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare.  Please see the program budget sheets below for more information. Be sure to review Penn Abroad’s financial policies.

Financial Aid and Study Abroad

In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs.  Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package. Visit SFS's website for more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad.

Budget Sheets


Scholarship Opportunities

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: Competition for awards for study abroad, for US citizen students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a 2-year or 4-year college or university. 

CIEE Scholarships & Grants: Provides both merit-based and need-based scholarships and grants for undergraduate studying abroad on CIEE programs.

Please review the Penn Abroad application process, policies, and procedures. To open an application or learn more about the program, please schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager. For a student perspective on life and academics in Portugal, contact a Penn Abroad Past Participant.