Poznan is a city with a rich history going back more than a thousand years. It is among the oldest cities in Poland and it was here that the first Polish rulers settled but it has now become a modern, vibrant city with a population of nearly 600,000, over 130,000 of whom are students. It is the capital of the Wielkopolska region in west-central Poland, approximately 170 miles from Poland's capital, Warsaw and the same distance from Berlin, Germany. Poznan has its own international airport making it easy to reach, even from Ireland, so hopefully we can expect lots of visitors who will be excited to see what Poznan has to offer them!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Week 2: Monday 15th - Sunday 21st February 2010

This week it became really obvious to me that there are a lot of students in Poznan! All of a sudden the student population had 'landed' to begin their second semester of classes and they are everywhere! Having been here for a week myself, by Monday I was hoping to get the academic side of my stay here finalised but it wasn't possible just yet! Most of the classes in the university had started but this wasn't the case for me! Whilst here I'm going to take classes in AMU-PIE, the 'faculty' which provides subjects in many of the other faculties in English, I'll be learning the Polish language and I'll spend some time in a school placement, something which is yet to be arranged. For now, however, I am still acting like a tourist here and so went for a bit of a walk around the city.
At midday I saw the 'lucky goats' on the city hall which people crowd to watch every day at this time. Later on my mentor and I, accompanied by another Erasmus student from Turkey, went in to town to buy some posters to brighten up my room and I spent the evening with my Polish flatmates and neighbours as I often do. I am constantly exposed to the language with them and we watch a lot of things which are in English with Polish subtitles, or vice versa, which is really helpful in encouraging my own development in the language.

On Tuesday morning I went back to Park Cytadela which I had been to with the Spaniards, only this time it was with my next door neighbour in halls, a Polish guy called Radek. In the afternooon there was a meeting for all the Erasmus students of the semester where I got to see how many people had come to Poznan just like myself and the variety of places they had come from. I am the only person from the UK and the meeting confirmed my suspicion that most of the students are from Spain and Turkey although they come from almost every country in the EU. In the evening I spent my time with students representing many of these countries: Ramazan (Turkey), Anna (Germany), Asta (Lithuania), Cristian (Spain) and Magda & Dominika (Poland). By Wednesday I had finally met the Erasmus Coordinator in my faculty of Education although little was finalised in terms of my academic life here. There are vending machines here that sell ready-to-eat microchips (the fastest form of food I've ever seen!) so I just had to try them!

I finally went to a class on Thursday morning. Statistics is taught in English but there were only two students in the class! I believe there will be more next week but classes here do generally seem to be a little smaller than we are used to. I was happy to find out it's only a five minute walk from my dorm. :-) Later on in the day I had another class, Environmental Sociology, which I think is going to be really interesting. It's really nice for me here being the native English speaker in an environment where the common language is usually English and in classes it's much easier for me than for the rest who, although most speak English well, have to try to understand some very specific vocabulary. I have to be thankful that I can listen in class without having to translate everything like the rest do!

After class I got to know some more spanish girls better. Ina, Gema and I headed to one of the (3) big shopping centres here - Stady Browar and stopped to enjoy a really delicious white chocolate mocha before doing some grocery shopping in the first supermarket which made me feel at home because I could actually buy things which were familiar to me! Back at the flat I watched a film with the other guys, something which seems to have become a bit of a routine for us.

On Friday morning I went with a Polish friend to her faculty (which is much more modern than my own) and I experienced a Polish 'hamburger' which I was unable to eat without a knife and fork because it was HUGE! By now I know at least one person who will be worrying that all I'm eating here is fast food...which is certainly not the case! Having never really cooked anything in my entire life, in the evening I made a proper dinner with 'good-old potatoes and veg'. I was beginning to miss potatoes so my roommate, who is teaching me how to cook from scratch (!), walked me through the process. Since then I've also branched out to 'spaghetti bolognese' so my culinary skills are definitely improving, slowly but surely!

My weekend was quiet enough, however on Saturday my flatmates took me to Lake Malta, a giant man-made lake here in the city. Right now it is completely frozen, as are the rivers. It was a beautiful day, though, and I got some great pictures! There is also a ski slope here which I would love to have a go on sometime before it melts! My roommate made me a Polish dish comprising of frankfurter sausages, vegetables and pancakes ... an interesting combination! Later that evening I went out with a friend, Anna, and it was great to get to know more about her and her culture back home in Germany. Sunday was very similar to last week, as I'm sure it always will be! I went back to the International Church (once I could find the door!...I was a little late) and after stayed for a Polish church where I get everything translated into English through a great little headset device tuned in to a particular frequency. In the afternoon I met Ania to go to small group which makes me feel so at home. Little things like taking off your shoes at the door, sitting at a TABLE drinking tea & eating cheescake and getting a lift home in a car make me feel like I actually know some people here and that makes you feel so at home. It's also really nice to spend time with older people instead of being with students all the time! I enjoy the variety of people and continue to be surprised and pleased by the time and effort people have invested in me and their willingness to look after me so far here in Poland.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Week 1: Wednesday 10th - Sunday 14th February 2010.

The last few days I've been kept really busy! I've been introduced to literally dozens of people and I can remember about a quarter of the names or fewer even! My mentor continues to help me feel more settled here by seeing me nearly every day to get different things sorted out. On Wednesday I received my free Polish simcard already topped up with some Polish Zlotych, the currency here, which is quickly running out! Along the way I walked past an opera house and upon hearing the orchestra playing I decided it was about time I saw my first opera! One group of people that I'm often found with consists of my mentor, her friends and their ERASMUS mentees! I was able to help one such mentee, Ramazan, a Turkish guy, as he arrived in Poznan for the first time. Unfortunately for him (and the others!), I was the only ERASMUS student this semester to get a place in the accommodation closest to the city centre, so we had to walk with him for quite a long time to get to his flat!

After sorting a few things out for my halls of residence (shown here in the picture) on Thursday I met up with a Polish friend, Magda, and enjoyed a cup of thick, hot chocolate and a doughnut, something which is typically eaten on this day, a week before the beginning of lent, according to Polish tradition. In the evening we went out to a party for all the new ERASMUS students where in fact most of the people I met were friends of the people I already know here but I also met more international students whose origins varied from France to Iran!

On Friday I experienced the system for payment of accommodation in the local bank and then went on a much needed trip for some essentials in IKEA with my mentor and friends. I love IKEA! I got all the things I would need for my room to make for a more comfortable stay here for the next few months! In the evening I met Cristian again for the first time since last summer and he introduced me to a whole new group of people! Three were from the Basque Country (Spain) and the other three from other parts of Spain. We went out for pizza in a local restaurant and I had the opportunity to refresh my (failing) memory in Spanish!

By Saturday I was in need of a trip to the shop so a few of the Spanish girls came with me to show me where the closest one was located. I also got to see the Educational Faculty of AMU where I should be based most of the time once the semester begins. Later on I met up with the Spanish group who were accompanied by two more spanish girls and one from Lithuania. Apparently there are around 80 Spanish students in my building so there are a lot and it's a great opportunity for me to improve my Spanish which I'll be doing alongside my Polish course! We went out for hot chocolate before I left to meet another group of friends (mentor, etc). I ate the most gigantic hot dog ever and met more French, German, Lituanian and, of course, Polish people. I even bumped into an Englishman while out in this very international city!

Yesterday [Sunday], I spent the best day here yet. Cristian took me to Poznan International Church - www.international.pl - where I was immediately welcomed by people from all over the world; USA, Taiwan and Botswana to name a few. It was a great experience and it was useful that the service was in English, however, we also stayed for a little of the Polish service! After church Cristian and I met up with the Spanish gang and went for a trip to a large park, buried in a foot or more of snow in some parts. After getting very cold and hungry we left the park and I experienced life with a real Polish family. In church I had signed up to a small group which were meeting together and it was held in a family's home in the city. It was amazing to get to know these people and spend time with them in an actual house! I really felt completely at home and settled in Poland for the first time. It's nice having friends here but it's amazing having the family of the Church wherever you go in the world. This is a group I will attend each week and will be good for my Polish as everything is translated between Polish and English (whereas most people are there because they want to improve their English!). Afterwards we were taken to celebrate the Chinese new year with other members of the church which was an enjoyable end to the day!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Initial Thoughts...

Day 1 – Tuesday 9th February (Don't worry, I'm not going to update it EVERY day!)

This is just a special note after my first day here...don't be expecting this level of detail everyday (or week!)...I'm sure the novelty will wear off once I get settled in and this becomes my life! So, after arriving in Poznan airport at about 4.30pm and finding the right conveyor belt to collect my luggage from I was met by my ‘mentor’, Natalia, and her friend Magda, who escorted me to my halls of Residence, ‘Jowita’. We travelled on the bus which was my first experience of the public transport system here. The tickets can be used on all the modes of public transport (bus, train, tram) and the ones I have are valid for 15mins! So, at the beginning of each 15min section of your journey you have to get a new ticket punched! Of course, you can also just get a monthly ticket which will be one of my first purchases tomorrow! My accommodation is not quite up to the standard of Stranmillis halls AND I have to share it with another guy, my Polish roommate, but he has been really kind and friendly (mainly because he set up my internet!) and he speaks English really well. Natalia took me to the shop where I realised I’m going to have to try a few different things until I find out what types of food I like here. One of the reasons I wanted to participate in ERASMUS was to meet people from different countries and cultures and I already feel like I’ve been immersed with the Polish language what with the Polish music playing in the background and people speaking the language around me in my room all the time! Hopefully it’ll not be too long before I pick it up a bit myself! I'll try to post again at the weekend and then they'll be on a weekly basis from that point on no doubt! By the way, the picture is the view out of my window - I love it!