St. Luzia View Point

How does SiPN ensure that students are provided with strong academic support during their program abroad?

SiPN believes in the importance of providing extensive pre-departure services and support for students on-site to ensure academic success. SiPN recognizes that studying abroad can be challenging. To make sure these challenges are empowering and not overwhelming, SiPN provides students and their home universities a dedicated and experienced On-Site Coordinator, Ricardo Pereira, and Program Director, Prof. Michael Baum, who are available 24/7 to assist the student every step along the way.

SiPN also enjoys all the resources and support available by the US Embassy in Lisbon and the Luso-American Development Foundation, among other local partners.

Program Overview

SiPN strives to ensure that the academic rigor and pedagogical styles found in its core curriculum are comparable to those found in most North American classrooms, without compromising the integrity of the host university’s academic system and teaching methods. All of the core classes and direct-enroll options are populated by other international mobility and/or Portuguese students, so as to avoid the traps of “island” or “enclave” programs.

SiPN’s unique network design permits the student to custom-design their curriculum in one of the most internationalized European capitals, from among the most prestigious universities in the city, all within a few minutes of each other via public-transportation. Students can take a mixture of classes taught in English and a Portuguese course, or they can take all of their coursework in Portuguese. It’s a unique recipe that allows for flexibility and as much immersion as the student wants.

Admission Requirements

  • Minimum 2.75 G.P.A.
  • Good academic standing at home institution
  • Students must be currently enrolled in an accredited university/college
  • Open to sophomores, juniors and seniors (rising sophomores may apply); Graduate students may also apply for coursework relevant to their level
  • Entry requirements: valid passport with student visa (Summer program students don’t need a visa, more information provided post-acceptance)

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

The SiPN medical form (it will appear as part of the application documentation) asks students to indicate any learning disabilities or needs that would require special accommodations. The SiPN On-site Coordinator uses this information to verify with our partner institutions what type of accommodations can be provided to the student. If specific accommodations are not available, students will be provided with advance warning so as to make alternate arrangements that can better meet their needs.

Pre-departure Preparations

At SiPN, our approach personifies two well-known adages, “the best defense is a good offense” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.” SiPN provides students with extensive information prior to their departure, so they are well aware of the academic structure they will experience in Portugal. All students are required to submit a credit transfer pre-approval sheet as part of their application process. This sheet is used in conjunction with the various course descriptions/syllabi available here so that students can have all of their first and alternate course choices pre-approved by their respective department heads/study abroad advisors. We strongly suggest that students pre-approve at least 8-9 courses in case their first 4-5 require substitutions during the add/drop period.

Students should also clarify with their home departments/schools whether each course will/will not count for major or minor distributions, general education requirements, whether grades transfer as well as credits, and how study abroad classes figure into their overall GPA. Every school has its own policy and students need to be aware of this prior to travel.

Faculty advisors are especially encouraged to pay close attention to how many classroom contact hours are required in each class, since contact hours and ECTS credits do not align neatly in Europe. Even within the same university there can be classes with 60 contact hours that are worth fewer ECTS than another class with only 36 contact hours.

SiPN will also work with our semester & year-long students if any obstacles arise during your Visa application process (How to apply for a Portuguese Visa?) with the closest Portuguese consulate/embassy in the US ; Portuguese consulate/embassy in Canada.


Pre-travel Orientation

Prior to travel to Portugal, SiPN staff works closely with students to answer any doubts or problems that arise as they plan their experience. As SiPN is based in Lisbon, this is typically done through e-mail, phone, or online conferencing. Skype sessions can be scheduled with us as needed by the student and/or their academic advisor. We also encourage our students to take part in any on-campus orientations for study abroad students that may be organized through their home campus.


On-site Services

On-Site Arrival and Orientation

Students will arrive in Portugal at least one week prior to the start of the academic session (exact dates will be provided after acceptance). Upon arrival, students will be met at the airport by SiPN staff and provided transport to their lodgings. All SiPN students participate in an extensive academic, logistic and cultural orientation program. The academic components that are covered include: an overview of the SiPN network, local classroom norms, assessment methods and grading scales, academic calendars and holiday breaks.

Logistic components will cover obtaining SiPN-provided public transportation passes, supermarket and banking locations, ATMs and other methods of payment in Portugal, using the SiPN-provided cell phone and making/receiving calls from abroad, transportation times on public transportation between the host university and other members of the network, visits to the members of the network and orientation to libraries, wi-fi passwords, student id cards, etc. Students will also take part in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to their visit to the US Embassy in Lisbon.

Cultural orientation activities will include presentations by the Program Director, Prof. Michael Baum , SiPN buddies, the SiPN On-Site Coordinator, Ricardo Pereira, and other orientation activities for new students organized by the host university.

Students are encouraged to seek the assistance of the SiPN On-Site Coordinator in the event of any concern or problem, especially during his regularly posted office hours at the host university. Students are also alerted to the availability of an hour of extra language tutoring per week through SiPN at no additional cost. Students with disabilities and/or needing extra help with their coursework are encouraged to consult our policy on Accommodations for Students with Disabilities and consult with the on-site coordinator.

Course registration and the add/drop period

One of the most challenging elements of the experience abroad can be the registration and credit transfer experience. For example, a student who failed to review grammatical principles prior to taking the on-site language placement exam, but has completed all prerequisite courses on their home campus to complete a language class at the advanced level, may underperform on a language placement test here in Portugal. If this happens, SiPN recommends that students contact their home institution to determine whether credit can be awarded at a lower level, perhaps with documentation of course content. We have worked with other US universities to determine how the European language levels (A1, A2, . . . C2) transfer back to a US 101, 102, etc. format and we can provide such documentation to your department of foreign languages if need be.

Another challenging element is the fact that classroom contact hours in Europe do not neatly align with ECTS credits. Faculty advisors are encouraged to read the section above on credit transfer evaluations, “Pre-Departure Preparations”.

Students struggling in a given course may talk to the SiPN On-site Coordinator about the best ways to find extra tutoring or potentially soliciting extra assignments to try to improve their grades. If a student is struggling with a particular professor, and the add/drop period still allows for it, SiPN’s On-Site Coordinator will work with local staff to determine if the SiPN student can be moved to another section of the specific course, or alternately, switch into another course altogether. The add/drop period in our partner schools is generally the first 2 weeks of the semester.


Early Notification of Problems

SiPN believes early intervention when students first experience classroom or social difficulties can be a highly effective tool to ensure successful completion of the program. Students are alerted to the importance of class attendance during the orientation period, since many classes require high-stakes final exams from those who fail to attend at least 75% of the classes.

In certain situations, the host university may not share grade or attendance information with SiPN staff. As many students are less likely to proactively seek academic assistance even when they are struggling, SiPN believes in the importance of conducting mid-term evaluations with our students. During these evaluations, students have the opportunity to share concerns over their performance in class, any negative or positive interactions with host professors, housing issues, etc.

Similarly, students experiencing difficulties with specific professors are often too concerned about their grades or too shy to speak directly with the professor in question. In other cases, the problem the student is experiencing directly relates to a cultural difference. The SiPN On-Site Coordinator is careful to listen to the concerns of our students and provides confidential advice on a case-by-case basis. If the situation does not stem from a cultural misunderstanding, with the student’s permission, the On-Site Coordinator will seek to intervene on the student’s behalf with staff at the host-university and/or with academic advisors back in the US.

Proctored Exams

Participants who need to take one or more final exams may find those exams scheduled outside of our regular core curriculum academic calendar. For example, the exam period for Fall semester in Portugal is during the month of January, and exams from the Spring semester occur in June and July. SiPN students who have already returned to North America for the holidays or summer may nevertheless be able to schedule a proctored exam on their home campus on the same day as that exam occurs in Lisbon. SiPN staff will intervene on our students’ behalf to help schedule these exams with home school officials willing to work with you.

Maximizing Learning Opportunities

To supplement learning in the classroom and further encourage language immersion and increase cultural awareness, SiPN students are encouraged to take advantage of SiPN-organized field trips, cultural activities, and other integrated program activities. Events such as student performances, clubs and student tutoring can be highly complementary to student learning within the classroom. We have developed several options aimed integrating with local students, Portuguese culture, and to participate in experiential learning activities. For example, SiPN has developed a Portuguese Buddy Program where student volunteers from our host university meet regularly with groups of approximately 8 of our participants to serve as their buddy and link to Portuguese student life. We also provide an option where our students can volunteer to be placed with a local family for periodic visits (we suggest once/month to start) through our Visiting Family Program. These families have volunteered to welcome one of our students into their homes. You might make and share a meal together, attend a local cultural event together, go to the beach with them, exchange tutoring in English for tutoring in Portuguese with their children, whatever! If a chemistry develops, the program could morph into something more like a host family experience, but to start out we keep the stakes relatively low and let you take it from there.



Post-Program Support & Credit Transfer

All students will be required to submit a course pre-approval sheet as part of their application process. At the end of the semester, the SiPN On-Site Coordinator will receive transcripts from the local university(ies) where you took classes. SiPN will then develop a packet for each student that includes:

  • a cover letter from SiPN
  • a copy of the student’s signed and dated credit transfer pre-approval sheet from their home university
  • the original stamped transcripts (in English) from the Portuguese university partners
    • For example, if you take 2 courses from our core curriculum at University X, but then a Portuguese language class from University Y, and 2 other classes from University Z (all quite doable given the close physical proximity of our member schools to one another);
    • then at the end of the semester, such a student would have 3 stamped original university transcripts with grades in the 0 – 20 Portuguese scale, in English.
  • a copy of the SiPN grade conversion table that serves as a useful guide for your home university officials for interpreting your performance on the Portuguese grade scale.

These materials will then be sent back to the student’s provided address, usually registrar/study abroad advisor at their home university for credit transfer processing.

Types of Classes

There are two types of courses, the core curriculum and the other direct-enroll options offered from our partner institutions. Besides these, SiPN may also offer independent study options and a large number of internships for credit during the Summer months. 

Core Curriculum Options

A student should ideally choose at least two courses from the core curriculum and it is highly recommended (although not obligatory) that he/she take one level of Portuguese Language for Foreigners. Placement tests for language classes occur during the add-drop period each semester.

The core curriculum is composed of 4 course options each semester (typically 6 ECTS credits each and at least 42 classroom contact hours). These will cover different fields of study in the social sciences and humanities, with themes that focus on Portugal, the larger Portuguese-speaking world, the European Union or Lisbon itself. These classes are hand-picked by our academic council to provide a clear identity to the program and also to guarantee a core group of faculty whom we have chosen to teach these courses. The core faculty are all PhD specialists in their fields and though they are typically recruited from among our local partner schools, they share significant teaching experience in the North-American system and so are familiar with the pedagogical norms to which our students are accustomed.

Direct Enroll Options in English

Through our partnerships with local universities, SiPN also provides a tremendous range of other direct-enroll courses taught in English, particularly in the areas of business and economics, but also in many other fields. 

Direct-Enroll Options in Portuguese

If a student is proficient in Portuguese, he/she may take any class in any of the 4 schools, so long as any required prerequisites are satisfied and space is available in the course. Students wishing to examine all of the thousands of course options in Portuguese should consult the websites of our partners schools found here:

Catholic University of Portugal


NOVA University of Lisbon

University of Lisbon



Students seeking an internship experience for academic credit are encouraged to look at our options underBuild your Summer”.

We offer internships for a large variety of different majors in English or Portuguese, in full-time or part-time formats, during the summer months.

See list of internship opportunities available here.


Independent Study Options

We are presently developing independent study options that could be pre-approved on your home campus for transfer credits.

Check out our interactive “Build your Semester” or “Build your Summer” and start to plan your study abroad experience!

Application Deadlines

Note: SiPN/FLAD scholarships applications deadline is March 15 (Summer and Fall editions), or October 10 (for Spring applicants)

Note2: All application materials need to be submitted to the SiPN office, no later than 10 weekdays after the general application deadline.

Calendar for academic transcript mailings from SiPN

For all member schools, transcripts are generally sent within 60 days after the last final exams (2ª fase). Fall semester grades therefore typically go out around late March; Spring semester grades are only sent in early-mid October and Summer session grades also in October.

Note: final exam calendars vary slightly from school to school.

Academic Calendar

Including the SiPN orientation sessions:

  • Summer 19 (there are two 4-week self-contained sessions)

    • June (Lisbon AND Azores sessions with same dates)

      Arrival date: June 1;

      Departure date: June 29

      • Note: Students doing the Azores program in June, who then travel to Lisbon for the July session, should fly out of the Azores towards Lisbon on June 30. Housing included)
    • July (Lisbon only):

      Arrival date:  June 30

      Departure date:  July 30 or July 31

    • Summer Internships require an 8-week commitment (they combine June and July sessions)

      Interns arrive on June 1 and depart on July 30/31

  • Spring 19 (Arrival day in Lisbon in Feb 1st. Program ends on May 31)

  • Fall 19 (Arrival day in Lisbon is Sept 1 – Dec 21)

SiPN recommends its students to buy flight fares that allow to change departure dates at a lower cost.

Calendar for academic transcript mailings from SiPN

For all member schools, transcripts sent no later than 60 days after last final exams.

Note: final exam calendars vary slightly from school to school.