“On the first day of school I felt somewhat lost.” That’s how Sara Pinto, now starting her second year in mechanical engineering, describes her arrival at Técnico. Her mother, Helena Ramos, was also a student here and Sara was familiar with the building since she took part in Técnico’s summer activities, but that didn’t stop her from feeling that she “didn’t quite know where [she] was”.
Her mother felt the same when, in 1978, she entered a school that was “a little dark, somewhat degraded, huge, heavy”. Nevertheless, she recalls, “it was with a great deal of emotion, excitement and anxiety” that she came to Técnico to study electrical and computer engineering. “The memories I have of my life at Técnico are very nice”, says the university lecturer, who taught at IST before switching to the Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa.
This feeling of complete unfamiliarity regarding the new environment is common among new students arriving at Técnico – especially the younger ones with no college experience. Saranvel Palanivelu had a different impression: he came to Técnico in September 2014 to start his first year in the KIC program, after getting his degree in India, his country of origin. “What I noticed right away was the fact that the [Alameda] campus is located in the city centre, and I immediately liked the environment”, he says. Nevertheless, he remembers that things weren’t easy on the first day: “In India we don’t change rooms for the different classes, and because of that on the first day I ended up in some classes taught in Portuguese from other programs, without realizing what was happening”.
Vipul Merianda, who’s also an Indian national participating in the KIC program, mentions the very same aspects when asked about the major differences as compared to the university he had previously attended. And he adds “the infrastructure”: “I was very impressed with some of the workshops we have here. There’s nothing like this in the other places that I know”.
“Several teachers had a huge impact on my training”
For Liliana Oliveira, who joined the computer science and engineering department at the Taguspark campus last year, the most important difference compared to secondary education is the people and “the pace of work”. “The relationship between colleagues is strong and the competitiveness I was expecting is not there.
The course advances at a completely different pace and we need to climb aboard very quickly, otherwise there will be a snowball effect and it will become more difficult to follow the program. “
Sara confirms the high standards, which she had been warned about: “Teachers and subjects are highly demanding right from the start, just like I had been told”, she says. As for her colleagues, she says that they create a “good” environment, despite the fact that there are so many of them. Which is exactly the way Helena Ramos recalls her experience 30 years ago. “There were so were many, many, many colleagues…”, and she adds: “Teachers were unreachable, wise, unapproachable beings…”
Today she has a different opinion. “Several teachers had a huge impact on my training. Some of them changed my vision about some areas in a completely decisive way. She remembers some of them especially: Campos Ferreira, Fonseca Moura or Abreu Faro, for example.
Vipul and Saranvel don’t mention any particular teachers, but both say that the professors “are friendly”, “patient” and “always ready to help”. “All my teachers have been essential in my preparation for the exams, solving problems and helping with everything I need”, says Vipul, confirming that this is unlike his experience in India. “Here there are far fewer students for each teacher, and because of this they can pay attention to each student and guide them in their training as engineers”.
Técnico means “prestige”
Sara and Liliana don’t hesitate to explain why they chose Técnico. “My family and friends told me of its prestige, which is an important factor for employers”, said this future computer engineer. Sara also mentions “prestige and good reputation” as crucial factors for her choice.
The fact that it is considered an “all-boys” school (currently 27% of the student population is female) did not affect these young women’s decision. Liliana actually says she was surprised to find “so many girls in the field of engineering”, and Sara states that she didn’t want to limit her “future” because of that. “I always knew that most of my colleagues would be boys.”
For Helena, her daughter’s decision to choose Técnico was met with “a lot of enthusiasm”. “I must admit that I was very enthusiastic about researching all the information, as if I was returning myself. (…) I couldn’t help but be excited about what she was going to learn, and I think that in the beginning I knew the programs and subjects she was going to take better than she did herself.”
Advice for newcomers?
“They must be really smart and explore all that the school has to offer” – that’s Vipul’s advice for the new students arriving in September. “None of my colleagues know of the several projects that exist within Técnico and they all go back home without having participated in any of them.” For Saranvel, the most important thing is “studying hard”. But he states that “studying books” is not enough: “Here we learn a lot from other sources, it’s not only the stuff in the books that we’re interested in.”
Liliana says the key is “to enjoy all that Técnico can offer.” “We don’t have to stop living to get our degrees, and even with good grades”, she claims. And she adds: “If there was one thing I could change, I wouldn’t stress out so much about the exams and I would try to have more fun because in the end those are the memories that remain.”
As for Helena, she says that she gave her daughter one single piece of advice: “I must be honest. I pushed her a lot to study real hard.” And it seems to have worked, since Sara would say the same to newcomers. “Don’t neglect any subject. High school is over and now we’ve entered a different stage, one which is more complicated, but also much more rewarding. Work, study, and you’ll be able to do everything.”