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Meet the winner of the 2024 Schools Writing Competition

Victoria Train

12-year-old Victoria Train from the British School of Lisbon is the winner of our 2024 Schools Writing Competition!

We can't say the selection process was easy: we received many original submissions from different schools across the country, many of them quite extraordinary. But Victoria's vivid style, authenticity, and clear sense of structure made her a standout among her peers. As one jury member put it: "And also you can’t resist the fact that "they" have somehow managed to fit 25 de Abril and 15 Michelin stars in two consecutive paragraphs and it somehow works!"

This exceptional prize is not also is a commendable achievement for her but also serves as an inspiring testament to the power of young voices in literature.

Read here her text:

What makes Portugal special?

To me, Portugal is a place of joy, happiness, a place of kindness, and a place of saúde (which means welcoming, healing, and a long life in Portuguese). From its rich history and natural beauty to the people and welcoming culture, Portugal is truly a special place.

My name is Victoria. I am 12 years old, and I attend the British School of Lisbon. Portugal has a special place in my heart. I first moved here in 2020 from the UK, in the middle of the pandemic, and I felt an immediate connection with the beautiful country; the warmth and goodwill of the people changed the way I think about the planet and always made me remember that there is kindness always in our spectacular world. When you read this, I hope you feel like I do about our united country.

Portugal is home to some of the great explorers of the modern world; as the esteemed explorer Fernando de Magallanes said, “The sea is dangerous and its storms terrible, but these have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore.” To me, this is the motto of the Portuguese people. This small but mighty nation has given the world some of its greatest explorers, including Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route to India, and Ferdinand Magellan, who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe. These explorers embodied the spirit of adventure and determination that defines Portugal. They ventured into the unknown, driven by curiosity and a desire to expand human knowledge and experience.

Our nation has endured its highs and lows, such as 25 de Abril, 1974 (25th of April) when the people of Portugal brought the 48-year-old dictatorship to an end; the military and modern-day people stood up for what was right. As a young person, the Portuguese people are role models to me and the world to stand for what is right. This peaceful uprising is a prime example on the courage of Portuguese people and a testament to there unwavering commitment to justice and freedom.

That is not the only reason Portugal is special to me; Portugal has a spectacular food scene, from the melt-in-your-mouth bacalhau to the crispy pastéis de nata and frango. The culinary culture will undoubtedly blow your mind. There are over 37 thousand restaurants in Portugal and around 15 Michelin stars in Lisbon, barely capturing the amazing food scene. My first experience of Portuguese gastronomy was in 2018 when my family and I came for a visit to Portugal. My parents thought it would be nice to try traditional Portuguese cuisine. We sat down, ordered, and there we heard fado playing in the background. That started my father’s love for fado, and it was just wonderful. My family and I all thought that it would be like Spanish food, but it wasn’t. This makes Portugal a hidden gem in all fields. Tucked into the Iberian Peninsula and as one of the most southern countries in Europe, not many people know about it. But when you come here to live, visit, or stay, you will not want to forget it. I surely wound not, neither would you.

Portugal is a community that can never be broken up. From the children to the grandparents, we are all united in some way. I see the grandmas look through the ornate windows of the brightly homes, offering a kind smile and a wave to a stranger . This remarkable connection is something truly unique about Portugal. In a world where many communities feel lost , Portugal stands out as a place where everyone, from infant to the elderly , feel connected and valued.

Beyond its rich history and vibrant culture, Portugal shows the people  an array of natural landscapes that take your breath away. From the sharp cliffs of in Quinta Da Lago in the Algarve to the lush vineyards of the beautiful Douro Valley, Portugal  offers diverse scenery that locks us in a trance . The golden beaches, purple  hills, and  countryside are perfect for outdoor adventures and peaceful retreats too.

One of my favourite places to visit is Sintra, a town that looks like it was taken straight out of a fairy tale. With its mystical forests, extravagant palaces, Sintra feels magical.

The Azores and Madeira,  island regions, are also definitely worth mentioning. These islands are special by their dramatic landscapes, take your breath away greenery, and special flora and fauna.

Portugal is a country that knows how to party. Throughout the year, various festivals and traditions bring communities together . One of the most famous is Carnival , where the city turns into a massive festival with fireworks, music, and dancing. Another is the Feira de São Mateus in Viseo, one of the oldest fairs in the country, in which you play games go on.

These celebrations are more than just fun; they are a vital part of Portugal’s cultural heritage. They represent the spirit of the people joyful, welcoming, and deeply connected to their heritage . Participating in these festivals has given me a deeper appreciation for the Portuguese way of life, where community and tradition are cherished.

Ultimately, Portugal is more than just a country to me , it’s my home, it is a place of joy, kindness, and forever  friendship . From its rich history and cultural traditions to its natural beauty , Portugal is a land of cheeriness and harmony. The warmth of its people and the spirit of resilience that defines them and have had a great impact on me and my family.

Living in Portugal has taught me the importance of community, the value of perseverance, and the beauty of diversity. It has shown me that no matter where we come from, we can find  and build a brighter future together. I feel incredibly fortunate to call this remarkable country my home, and I look forward to continuing to explore and cherish all that Portugal has to offer.


1 Comment

Unknown member
Jun 07

Parabens! This is a wonderful piece of writing. I taught English, communication (writing), and reading for children ages 5-18 in the United States. My husband and I have made Madeira our home now and just celebrated our first year as residents here. We believe Portugal exceeds the living conditions here in all areas except the poverty of the locals and lack of opportunity for young people.

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