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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Tanti

Erasmus 2023 | IPBeja Portugal

This year’s Erasmus experience was held by the “Instituto Politécnico de Beja” (IPBEJA) in Beja, a city in the municipality of Alentejo region in Portugal. Beja is located in the southern part of the country, 177Km far from the capital city Lisbon. Presently, Lisbon has seen a sudden increase in property prices due to a large influx of tourism, forcing many of the locals, most especially the elderly, to move out due to the high rental prices. Beja, being the second largest and closest city to Lisbon, has been the most popular option, but this also increased the ageing population. “Instituto Politécnico de Beja” is made of 4 main schools mainly: the school of Agriculture, the school of Education, the school of Technology and Management and the school of Health. My experience concentrated with the school of Education because it comprised of pedagogy in education; early years training; and elderly/disability care training. It was a fascinating experience to observe how the community is encouraged to attend to daily activities at the school rather than students being sent out to the community. This provides constant accessibility, community care and professional commitment to the locals who can get to the school for the various activities. These included sports exercises, dancing, and other movements; therapeutic activities including creative arts sessions, mental health therapy sessions etc. The first part of the experience demonstrated how students are expected to prepare and hold such activities within the school, under the constant supervision of their lecturers, without the need to miss out on their school commitments. Other placements and apprenticeships are usually organised when the academic school ends, even though during the summer months the school still provides these activities for the local community, hence students may attend placements elsewhere, or as it was shared to us, eagerly continuing their activities in the school voluntarily.

The experience then relocated to the less able section of the community. We were invited to attend an elderly residential home for the elderly and people with disability. We were informed that the residential home is purposely built next to the local primary school. Due to their limited mobility, during lunch time, the school children join them for lunch at the residence’s canteen, using this daily opportunity for generational groups to meet, mingle and lunch together. It was very heart-warming to experience this purposeful and powerful situation that provides a positive energetic boost the residents and a safe exposure to caring skills to the children. Other activities that children are brought in for at the same residential home is catechism, mass and other social events making the residential home a central place for the community to constantly integrate rather than just a one-stop visiting place.

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