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Objective / Goal of the activity

The project Christmas with Portuguese Families aims to encourage Portuguese Families to host International Students in their homes for the Christmas Holidays, but also to inform the International Students that were staying in Portugal for the Holidays, that they could experience them in a very special way, by taking part in the Christmas Night and Day of a Portuguese Family.

This project started because there were a lot of international students staying in Portugal for these holidays because they were not able to travel to their home countries, and it could mean they would end up spending this special time of the year alone. With this initiative, we can tackle this issue and provide them with a unique experience during their time abroad!

Christmas with Portuguese Families, while being managed by ESN Portugal allows local sections without the capacity to develop this activity locally to join the project and give more opportunities to their international students, by providing the local sections with all the emails, communication package and materials needed to implement the project. This national project also had the objective to reach international students who study in a city or Higher Education Institution without a local ESN section.


Christmas with Portuguese Families gives the opportunity to international students, who weren't able to go home for the holidays, to experience a true and traditional Portuguese experience with Portuguese families in their homes. People even with different religious believes get together for this cultural exchange. It is enriching in every level.

By experiencing the Christmas season in Portuguese homes, international students get the chance to get in touch with Portuguese traditions, from gastronomy to songs, from beliefs to decorations. 

At the same time, Portuguese Families get to know the Holiday traditions of countries from all over the world through the exchange happening with international students. By comparing traditions, both parties are able to learn and experience new things and become a more understanding and global citizen.

The project is managed by ESN Portugal, working together with the local sections in the promotion of the project near the international students and their Higher Education Institutions. Higher Education Institutions without local ESN sections were also contacted in order to give the opportunity to international students all over the country. These type of initiatives were already developed by a few local sections in the last years, however, by centralizing the project it became possible to have a bigger reach, cooperation between sections and impact.

The project was vastly promoted on the media.

At the end of the project, feedback forms were sent to the participants, in order to improve the project in the future.

Result of the activity

There were around 400 participants, around 200 international students and 200 families.

Through this project, Portuguese families have a chance to experience the multicultural environment that is lived in each of our host cities due to the international students. Additionally, international students get to experience directly and outside the “Erasmus bubble” the Portuguese traditions, with Portuguese people from all ages and extremely different backgrounds.

There was a big impact for smaller sections since it would not be possible, due to their dimensions, to support such activity locally.

Furthermore, the Portuguese culture was shared with international students, spreading our traditions around the globe. The local families have now the chance to import some traditions from other countries and at the same time, the families are now more conscious about different cultures and in the end, are now more global citizens.

One of the biggest impacts to ESN Portugal and its sections was the visibility provided by the big media coverage of this project in around 11 publications.

With the feedback form collected after the project, it was also possible to receive subjective feedback on the impact of the activity. Here are some of the testimonies:

Maria (Portuguese host): “It was a different Christmas, with an exchange of intercultural traditions and a lot of fun. The communication was a challenge, but we got a friend for life. Blaze was an excellent guest, he was completely integrated into our family. It was a very rich experience that I recommend. We remain in contact.”

Abdulbaki (International Student): “First of all I want to say thank you! You and your ESN family did amazing. I've never celebrated Christmas before. It was my first time and we spent priceless time with a family you found for me. They were so good and cute family. Now I have family in Portugal! Not just Christmas Dinner, they hosted me at their home in Mortagua and Figueira da Foz for six days. First time in my life I saw the ocean :) Together we visited the natural beauties and villages nearby. I tasted amazingly delicious food! It was wonderful for me to be involved in this project. Thank you for everything. Happy new year for you and all ESN Portugal team!”

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