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, 29 March 2010

Week 7: Monday 22nd – Sunday 28th March 2010

As time goes on I am realising how much I am gaining from this experience. It is something that I needed to do and I know it will be of huge significance when I come to look back over my time here. For some reasons it was right that I come to this exact place, for example the specific people I have met and the ways in which they have helped me and continue to help me, but in other ways I could have gone anywhere and would have gained similar experiences and knowledge and wisdom of a number of things. However, I personally know that this exact place is exactly where I needed to be to gain as much as I possibly could and it is in this place that I will develop most spiritually, relationally, in confidence and with self-acceptance as I am changed and moulded into the person that I should be and as I come to terms simply with the person that I am. I am thankful to have been brought here and for what is becoming of me and the growth taking place in my life right now.

By now I really have settled into a very normal way of life. In some ways it is not as exciting and this week I certainly didn’t do something worthy of mention every day! I may not have met as many new people this week as in previous weeks but I’m beginning to think that it could be a good thing – this week three different people came up to me and clearly new me but I had no idea who they were! I think if it’s possible I have reached the limit of my ability to remember faces and names! However, it is still exciting for me that I am developing the relationships that I really care about here. That is what has become important for me now.

During the week I finally completed the process of my Learning Agreement so I have now officially signed up to all the classes that I should continue with until the end of the semester. I am ashamed to have to admit that I am still not doing an awful lot of work here and I know now that I could be! I could be learning more Polish and I can now begin preparing for some presentations that I will have to do at the end of the term. I became very aware of making the most of my time, not just my time here, but my lifetime. Once time has passed it is gone and don’t want to be wasting it. This week I also discovered how wonderful the Polish doughnuts are! It is called a pączek here and I pass a delicious bakery on my way to many of my classes so some self-control is needed there!

On Tuesday this week I went to a quiz for Erasmus students. I met some lovely new people and had an enjoyable night. I got some Easter eggs even though we didn’t win so the night ended well! It was a rather quiet night but it was good to get out and learn some general knowledge. On Thursday I had lunch in a Greek-style café and then dinner in a more Polish-style one. Usually I don’t eat out so much in one day, that was a bit excessive, but it is easily affordable if you choose the right places to go to. There isn’t really anything worth mentioning about classes. I wouldn’t miss one and they are all teaching me something but there isn’t anything much different about them! I started a new class this week, the biggest in number by far. It is the Sociology of Multiculturalism but don’t ask me what that means! It is open to much interpretation! The class has a lot of Polish people but also a lot of Erasmus students from all over the EU. It is an interesting class with lots of discussion.

On Friday it was about 22 degrees Celsius and it was beautiful! I went for a walk in the park and it was nice enough to sit and read. It was so nice to finally feel comfortable being outside and it makes me look forward to when every day will be like that – well, that’s what I’m hoping for anyway! What I did next that day will shock most people; I went to a fitness class which included gym time and going to the swimming pool! A Polish friend invited me along to her class and so I decided it was time to put the past behind me and set my fears aside and just get into a pool! I was surprised to find that after four years out of the water I could still swim although I did find it hard to breathe in the water – and I don’t mean when my head was under the water! I think I just need to keep going and let my body get used to it again. As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, in the evening I went to hear the philharmonic orchestra again in the Grand Hall of the university. The tickets were free for Erasmus students so I thought Why not!? I went along with a friend and met up with a lot of the other Erasmus ones that I know there. I even bumped into one of my course co-ordinators! It was a nice evening and again I was blown away by the sound that came from the orchestra. There was a special violinist playing too and he was very good also, but I have to say that the kebab I had after really finished off the evening nicely!

Saturday was a very long and busy day! I woke up at 4.30am to be ready in time to begin my journey to Berlin, the capital of Germany. It was a very last minute decision and we only spent the day there but I got a bit of a look around the city. We thought it was the cheapest way to go by three trains which took 5 hours! So we arrived about 11am and had to leave shortly after 6pm which gave us time to meet up with some friends and have a look at the main attractions. Basically we just walked around all day and looked at things from the outside! I think I need to go back and spend more time there. It was a very fun day though. The German, Mexican and Polish people that I was with were very funny and made the day very enjoyable. The weather wasn’t perfect but it didn’t rain much so we were happy enough. I would like to tell you what all we see but I really don’t know!! Maybe if you’ve been to Berlin you’ll recognise some of the things from my photos! One of the best thing from the day were all the hours I spent travelling because it gave me the opportunity to talk to my Polish friend (in English and Spanish!). I learned a lot about her and am glad we got the opportunity to get to know each other better and have some good discussions, after all, we did have nearly 10hours to talk!

On Sunday morning I was very tired what with the time change and the fact that I had been travelling so much the day before and got home late. Nonetheless I was at church at 10am and stayed after to have a small lunch with some of the church leaders. It was an ideal time to get to know the people in church better and it was nice to hang out with them. In the afternoon I went to my small group which I’ve been attending and it was the last one in the series that we have been studying. We had an amazing time with great discussions and fellowship with each other. It went on quite a lot longer than usual but we weren’t complaining. I love that family and the rest of the group a lot and will miss our times together. Unfortunately there is still nothing to say in terms of school based work. I am still waiting in anticipation to hear about my placement in the international school here. However, I do intend to go visit the Primary school that my Polish friend teaches in again and, also, I’ve been invited to observe/speak in English classes of a High School. I got to know a language assistant in the school and she is helping me get in to visit some classes as I’ve been wanting to see what it would be like to be an English teacher in a secondary school. Hopefully it’ll not be long until I get to tell you about these experiences. Until then, thank you so much for reading these blog entries and God bless.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Week 6: Monday 15th – Sunday 21st March 2010

I’ve come to realise in my time here that being away from home on Erasmus is a chance for most students to be whoever they want, to forget about their studies and to ignore all the rules! Being on Erasmus is seen as a time set aside, almost entirely, for partying, getting drunk and doing all the things you’ve always wanted to with the great excuse that you were under the influence which seems to make it all ‘okay’! For me this is a very different environment to adjust to, one far from what I’m used to at home. Of course, this does not happen all the time and it’s also easily avoidable. Because of my quiet, rural, sheltered upbringing, the world often seems like a much bigger place to me than it might for others!! What I mean is that even the things which are common to other people are often new to me so I really am experiencing much more than just a new culture, new country and new people; I’m experiencing all the things in life that the average student has already encountered! This makes my time here very exciting and very different, but difference is good! It makes you think about things and compare things and consider who you are and what you are becoming. To use a huge cliché, it’s a time of self discovery! I feel it is important to at least see what is out there and then decide what to do with that information and those experiences personally. I also believe that it will be difficult to see how I have changed myself, at least until I’ve returned to my normal life at home. I think it will be easier for others to see a change in me that I won’t.

The weeks are all just merging together now. Every Sunday I realise another week has passed and it shocks me every time, and I know that as long as I keep busy this will not change! If I’m honest I still have very few classes. I have about ten hours in class each week now and am off on Tuesdays and Fridays. The only class I have earlier than 3pm is my Statistics class on Thursday mornings at 10am, which I like a lot and don’t mind waking up for (although if I turn up at 11am it’s okay because the first hour is not mandatory)!! The rest of my classes are enjoyable mostly too. Polish class on Monday and Wednesday evenings makes up half of my classes and I’m currently finding more enjoyment in getting to know the interesting backgrounds and lives of the classmates than I am in the Polish but I think that’s okay! I pick up a little Polish sometimes too! I’ve come to realise I need to start studying my Polish because I do want to improve and become at least capable of having a basic conversation.

On Tuesday I finally got around to giving our bathroom a good clean! It was in desperate need of it the whole time I’ve been here but initially I had just got used to it. Now everything that should be white is actually white again! I reckon that if I don’t do it no one will, and it’s the same for my room. However, guys not cleaning up after themselves is not something new to me!! (By the way, I hope those dishes in Navan 12 are under control!) That evening I met Kaja and Magda and their respective partners for a night out in the Grand Hall of my university, Adam Mickiewicz. We were there to hear the philharmonic orchestra play and it was a great concert. I have never heard such a full orchestra play and the sound they made was just amazing. It was like listening to the soundtrack of a film, only live. The second part was very different though as a famous jazz musician played his electric guitar with his friends on the saxophone, drums, double bass and piano, in a way that I didn’t know a guitar could be played. Again, they were great and provided a great night’s entertainment. After the concert we all went out to a Mexican restaurant, aptly called ‘The Mexican’, with some other friends. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the company. I always find it lovely to spend time with some people who aren’t students!

Wednesday, of course, was St .Patrick’s Day which caused quite the fuss. I had lots of people wishing me a happy St. Patrick’s Day and it was quite a fun filled day. In the morning I went to see my Erasmus tutor where I got a few more things arranged in terms of my classes. This person has been very good to me and he even let me use his computer and sit in his room while he was away! However, I’ve noticed, and heard from the Polish students, that tutors treat the students here rather poorly. This surprised me at first because everyone here has been so kind to me, but apparently I am treated differently as an international student. I thought this quite sad as tutors and students often have such good relationships, and friendships even, at home. However, university students are treated more like high school pupils here in other ways too, for example, they have to participate in ‘PE lessons’ for their first two years of university. For Polish students, though, this is normal and so they don’t feel like they are still at school.

Later on I found time to decorate my wall. Some people will be surprised to learn that until now I’ve had no photos up on my wall! Thankfully, that situation has now been rectified because of a kind parcel from home and the fact that there is a photo printing store very close to my dorm…maybe a little too close for me! You can see the finished result below. After having lunch in Jowita (our cafeteria here) I went out to find a hairdresser (because I could no longer look through my fringe) and I found one that had been recommended to me. They were friendly, they spoke English, it wasn’t expensive and it doesn’t look bad so I was pleased! I’ll probably go back to the same one every time. I have to keep remembering to try new things though because I can very easily keep eating, keep using or keep going to the places that I know I like from previous experiences here.

After a brief visit to the fancy shopping centre I went to my Polish lesson for an hour before leaving early to meet up with Kaja, Magda and Daga to go to participate in an English class’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations! The girls were doing a presentation on their time in Belfast and I went along to support them and say a few words about Ireland. It was a great evening and I felt happy to be part of a group of Polish students, although it was very strange for me to be singing ‘Lord of the Dance’ with these people when I’ve never even sung it at home! When we had said our goodbyes to the group we headed off to an Irish pub where we were joined by my German friend, Anna. There was a traditional Irish band playing and there was a great atmosphere. It was a very enjoyable evening and the main thing was that the girls got a photo of themselves to prove to all their old Erasmus friends from Belfast that they were in an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day! I left quite early
though to get some food with Anna in a kebab shop before we headed home. The great thing about Poznan is that you can get a tram or a bus in the centre all night, so there are no difficulties in getting home safely.

On Thursday I attended my Statistics class in the morning which I really do enjoy. I am the only one in the class with a mathematical background so it’s much easier for me than the rest I think. Apart from that, there’s the fact that I am the only one with English as a first language so I understand what the teacher is explaining when often the others do not. It’s a nice position to be in and I am learning lots about using computers to work with large amounts of statistical data. The teacher is a lovely person too which helps make the class worth attending, although I hate when the Spanish people talk over her loudly and talk to each other in Spanish when she is trying to explain something to them. Three out of the five students in the class are Spanish so they often have to explain things to each other in their own language. I just have to think of it as another opportunity to improve my Spanish!

I hadn’t seen my mentor, Natalia, in a few weeks and I felt it was time to meet up with her again so in the afternoon I went with her and her friend, Magda, to a quaint, little café where I had to choose from about twenty different types of hot chocolate! This always seems to be a problem for me here, but they are always good no matter! Unfortunately, this made me a little late for my ‘Environmental Sociology’ class from 4.30 to 6pm. This class is quite tiring because of the disenthralling content and the fact that we don’t really engage in the class, but somehow it seems to interest me at times and the people are interesting. That evening I got to catch up online with friends at home who I have not forgotten about! I really have to try hard to remain in touch with people at home when I’m so involved in new relationships here!

During the day on Friday we had lovely weather, as you can see from some of these pictures around Poznan, and I spent a little too much time and money shopping in the city centre but after that I was invited to a German-themed dinner in the flat of another German friend. It was such a lovely evening when I felt like I was finally getting a good home-cooked meal. It was like a nice Sunday dinner at home only with German food and people! Our host, Maria, then taught me how to make big pancakes, since at home we usually make the smaller ones. We talked about our different cultures and laughed about the stereotypes we have in our home countries of each other! On the way home it was nice not to feel cold without layers and layers of clothes on which proved it is definitely getting warmer here. Spring is now upon us!

Every day at noon when the clock strikes twelve the goats on top of the town hall come out to crash horns. I had seen it before so I wasn’t very disappointed that I was late to meet Anna and Maria on Saturday in the old square (Stary Rynek). Once I arrived we went to the museum, Muzeum Historii Miasta Poznania, which displayed the history of the town of Poznan and, well, I liked the old photographs! Unfortunately it was raining when we came out of the museum so we had to find somewhere to eat quite quickly, but we didn’t! So after lots of exploration we found the traditional Polish restaurant we were looking for where I got some traditional Polish dumplings called ‘Pierogi’. It was like being in the home of an old Polish person which was very quaint, although it was a little too expensive and the service wasn’t great so I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon! After eating we went shopping for a while together and then I went home for a short rest. In the evening I made good use of the tram service going back and forth, from home to Tesco then back to the Post office then back up to another dorm where I attended the birthday party of another Erasmus student, a Spanish girl, Irene. In the picture you will see a group of Turkish students that I'm friendly with here.

I spent a busy Sunday as usual this week beginning with the International Church at 10am. We have just completed our 40 Days of Purpose series and I couldn’t believe that I had been part of the church for so long! I’m glad I got to be part of this whole series and partake in the small group associated with the Purpose Driven Life. After Church I was invited to the pastor’s house as part of the music group which I will be a part of. We were caught in a heavy rain shower on the way but the Taiwanese guys I was with, Canon and Tim, kindly let me have the umbrella so I was okay! At Pastor Richard’s house I got to experience something I never have before: Sushi! I was taught how to make it and how to eat it! I’m not sure if I will have it again but it was good to try it! I don’t think my body was prepared for raw fish though and I don’t even really like cooked fish all that much! After all the Sushi eating I was late for my small group so the pastor’s wife, Brooke, gave me a lift to the tram stop. The journey was very funny because their four year old girl kept forcing me to watch her children’s TV programme in the car! After getting two trams in the direction I was going the host of the house group collected me at the station so that I wouldn’t be any later. We had such a good discussion about the Good Samaritan and being led by the Holy Spirit to do things. I enjoyed it! We have a great time together and I love being a part of this family. Unfortunately I think next week will be the last session. After that I might join a men’s group which I heard about in church on Sunday. So that was my rather full week and the reason they are all going in so quickly! Have a good week yourselves!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Week 5: Monday 8th – Sunday 14th March 2010

Very shortly I will have been away from home for longer than I have ever been before and it makes me consider my last five weeks here. By now I feel quite at home here and I have to say that I am having a great time in Poland. I’ve nearly perfected my responses to ‘Why did you choose to come to Poland?’ and ‘Why don’t you drink?!’, the two questions which I’ve been asked more than any other and on numerous occasions! One thing I have learned is that Northern Ireland is a little world of its own. We have traditions and customs and a whole host of rules and morals that are simply unheard of and almost absurd among any other nationality. Leaving the country for this long has allowed me to see these things clearly and I am now at a point where I can make decisions about my life which could change it forever. I honestly do feel that my time here will change my life in ways that I could never have imagined. For this, I am very excited. I felt like I had to come to Poland (for reasons unknown to me) and I’m beginning to realise how crucial it was for me to come here, to meet the people that I’ve met and to change my life for the better! It all seems very deep and spiritual, and it is! I’m just so happy that I have come here and that I have time to make some big decisions about my life before I go back to normal life at home. Somehow when you are out of your comfort zone things become important to you that you didn’t notice before and you are forced to think through things that you haven’t had to in normal, everyday life. This is good for us. We should learn and grow in our lives, and sometimes we need to shake up life a bit in order to do this.

On a more practical note, what have I been doing the past week? I continue to lack motivation to learn Polish but it is coming along slowly now. I have plenty of people making sure I try to put it into practice and helping me with it. I also took part in a small Spanish conversation ‘class’ this week which encourages me to keep learning it, not that I need much encouragement with the Spanish, unlike with Polish! At one point this week I was called a ‘moving dictionary’ because everyone is trying to improve their English and I am the only native speaker around, 99% of the time! I enjoy this though and am more than happy to help. It is definitely a benefit here because it gives people an added incentive to speak to me, not that it’s the only reason they speak to me! I had the opportunity to help out with an English presentation for an English student, I helped English teachers with idioms in English and to know some differences between British and American English and I helped students understand films because most of the movies are in English with Polish subtitles.

On Thursday I had a busy evening which began with a Spanish ‘merienda’ with some friends. Afterwards I got to try some traditional Hungarian food at the birthday party of another Eramsus student where I got to develop further my friendships here with a group of internationals who have become the group I am usually with, although I love the fact that there are lots of different groups of people, Polish and otherwise, Erasmus and not, old and young, from different universities and different walks of life that I can spend time with and develop relationships with. That night I got to meet a whole new group of people who were very friendly, and not at all sober, when out in the very busy night-life of Poznan!! With students making up a fifth of the population you can hardly expect much else!

Later on that day (Friday) I was invited ice-skating by some Polish girls I had met back home in Belfast. It was such a great day! They are all lovely people and I had a great time with them. I feel very lucky (blessed!) to know so many Polish people because, although we’re in Poland, many of the Erasmus students will only ever spend time with other Erasmus students. As you will notice from the photos I am continuing to meet new people, which I just love, and the more people you know the more you get to know. However, I’m also very keen to build close, lasting friendships with certain people and I think I am on my way to making that happen.

On Saturday I learned how to use a washing machine (I know, shame on me!). In the evening I was out for dinner and then out for drinks in a favourite little place of mine with the Spanish group I like to hang out with. Many of us were yet to experience the Soviet-style bar where you can try on an array of different hats! It was something we just had to do… so we did, as you can see! Sunday was a little different this week as after my usual visit to church in the morning and small group in the afternoon I attended an ‘international dinner’ which was being held in the floor below in my halls. I experienced a lot of food from Turkey, Spain, Bulgaria, Finland and many more. It was the first time to see again many of the Erasmus ones who had been at the residential the weekend before and also to meet loads of new ‘Razzies’ and Poles. It was a fun night made all the better by the fact that I just had to go up a flight of stairs to get back to my room!

One thing I have left out from my week was my first visit to a school in Poland. It was so nice to be back in school and I had such a lovely morning. One difference is that classes here begin at 8am and that is the case in Primary schools too which means an early start for me in the morning on the days that I’m in school! The school I went to is a Christian school and I observed in the English classes of a friend of mine who had invited me along. The classes were quite small because of the private nature of the school but it allowed the teachers to have much more time for one to one teaching. The school was extremely welcoming and very pleased to have me, and I hope to go back and take a few lessons sometime. My main teaching block will take place shortly (I think) in Poznan International School. Here I will be able to teach the whole curriculum as everything will be taught in English. I look forward to writing about my experiences in school which should be coming to you soon!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Week 4: Monday 1st – Sunday 7th March 2010

It’s hard to believe but I’ve now been here for a full month and I’m still very happy to be here, thankfully! This week just flew in but I guess I should stop being shocked at that fact as I imagine it’s going to continue for the rest of my time here! This week I registered for classes which means whatever I’ve chosen now I have to continue with for the rest of the semester. A couple of my classes will not begin until the middle of April which leaves me with quite a lot of free time still, at least until I begin my placement in school which shouldn’t be too far away now. All the time I’m learning to deal with the different attitudes and idiosyncrasies of people caused by the culture they have come from. Sometimes we don’t completely understand each other possibly because of the language difference but it is sometimes just the different mind-set that a person brings to the conversation. This means that we have to be very sensitive when part of a large international group not to upset other people, but at the same time not to be too sensitive to what other people say as they don’t always realise how it sounds to someone else. I try to take a positive response from everything that people say and remember that people speaking English as a foreign language would obviously find it difficult to be euphemistic in expressing something!

This week I got my ‘Kom Karta’ which is basically a student card for the transport system. It is great because, for the next month, I can get on and off as many trams and buses as I like without having to think about anything and without paying! The great thing is that the card cost less than a tenner to begin with! I don’t think I could live without the trams now. They play a part in most days of my life now and they are extremely reliable. I’m also getting used to the Polish food. Cabbage is still an issue because they love it here and I do not, however I have found many, many things that I love, the zapiekanka to name but one! This week I discovered my halls of residence’s version of ‘Chatz’ and I like it! I can get a great, big dinner with starters and a drink for £2.70 and I can see it becoming somewhere that I visit frequently from now on. I barely have to leave the building to get to it which is a bonus since the weather is ridiculously unpredictable! We say we can experience all four seasons in one day in Northern Ireland but Poland can use the same expression to the extreme. It is hot when the sun shines and it is still very cold the rest of the time. The snow comes and goes as it desires, but I think spring is just around the corner; at least I hope so!

I’m continuing to learn Polish but it continues to frustrate me as it is rather difficult and classes are very tiresome with the bombardment of new vocabulary which I can’t remember and won’t remember until I sit down and learn it! Living with Polish people proves to be most useful when I have homework to do for Polish class. My Spanish should also be improving now with practise and I’m thinking about enrolling in a class when I figure out if I have time as well as attending a small informal gathering each week for people to learn Spanish. I’m still around Spaniards quite often so I practice with them too. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find the motivation to learn Polish when Spanish is the language I love more!

On Thursday night I met a whole new group of Polish people when I attended a CU for young people. We watched ‘Slumdog millionaire’ and then discussed the film in small groups…in Polish! The people were great though. Those who could speak some English tried to translate everything for me and they were all very kind and welcoming. I may not have understood everything but it was such a nice opportunity to get to know more Polish people.

The main event of the week, as highlighted by the fact that all the photos in this post are of it, was the intercultural weekend in Gniezno, a town about an hour away from Poznań and the first capital of Poland. The weekend was for Erasmus students from 3 different universities in Poznań so I met lots of people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was a great weekend and I got to know the people that I’ve met here a lot better. Workshops were put on for us to learn about interculturality, tolerance and the Polish language, and we were presented with certificates at the end of the weekend which allows me some credits as well. On Saturday we went on a tour of Gniezno which was…really cold! It was only -2 degrees celsius (I say ‘only’ because it’s Poland!) but we were outside for quite a while and the hot chocolate I had when I finally got inside was much needed! On Saturday evening we had to combine legends from different countries so I managed to get Finn McCool mentioned and he became part of the drama which we had to create to include all of the legends. Our group managed to include 9 different legends coming from Germany, Poland, Spain, France, Portugal, Lithuania, Romania, Turkey and, of course, N. Ireland; What an international group it was! I’m really very excited now to see how the relationships I am making here will develop, and I look forward to the prospect of having good friends in all of these countries! It might just be beneficial considering how much I love to travel! :-)

Monday, 1 March 2010

Week 3: Monday 22nd – Sunday 28th February 2010


I cannot believe I am having to write this blog again, one week since last doing so! The weeks are really beginning to fly in and I’m quickly realising I need to make the most of my time here now before it’s time to return home again! So far I feel like I’m getting the most out of this experience as possible even though I’m quite sure it’s not the ‘average’ Erasmus experience. Many of the Erasmus students spend most of their time with each other, which is great and I love getting to know them all as well, but I’m really grateful that I’m getting more of an insight into ‘real’ Polish life; I spend a lot of time with native Poles, I get to experience life in a Polish family and in a Polish Church, and I have people to prepare traditional Polish meals for me! In all of these situations I hear the Polish language spoken and have the opportunity to practice what little I have learned myself. The language hasn’t been a barrier here for the most part because so many people speak English and because I’m so often with someone who can translate for me! In all other occasions I just resort to hand signals and other gestures!

Personally I think I adapt quite well being out of my comfort zone. I think I just get over it and get on with life. This is where I’ll be for the foreseeable future so I had to get used to it! Yes, the food isn’t the same as home, the pillows are a funny size, people speak a different & difficult language and it’ll snows one day and I’ll need my sunglasses the next but if I wanted to experience the same things I’ve always been used to I would have just stayed at home. For me, the important thing is that I love people and I love getting to know people and spending time with them, and here I can do that with ones from all over Europe. The photos within the text here show how basic the facilities in the kitchen are and the view from the kitchen window.

I’ve found that living here isn’t all that different for some of the other foreign students, for example, friends from Germany and Hungary simply got in a car and drove here! The Lithuanian girls are used to the freezing temperatures (although those days are behind us, I hope), and the Spanish ones, well, they have each other!! In saying that, I’m not complaining. I’m glad to be from somewhere so different (and great!) and we do share at least one common interest, much to my liking – potatoes! Time is a wonderful thing as it passes: it allows me to build lasting friendships, it lets me feel more at home in a foreign place and it helps me get on the right tram! I’m not sure that much will change other than these things now that I’ve ‘settled in’ here, but I look forward to the many different things I will do before I leave.


This week was my first with my full complement of classes, but as that only amounted to ten hours I still had plenty of time to do other things and experience more of the culture here! At the beginning of the week I finally got my student ‘card’ which I have to carry around with me all the time because I need it to make my student transport card valid. This would not be an issue if it was actually a card but instead it’s a little more old-fashioned and similar to a little book. However, I think it’s nice and different and it will be a great little souvenir of my time here; I will just have to buy a bigger wallet to keep it in! Things are quite relaxed in terms of university but I think this is only true for Erasmus students as the locals seem to be under quite a lot of pressure with their studies. Polish class is difficult! It is a completely international bunch of people so, of course, the teacher can only speak in Polish. This, however, is a problem as we’re being taught Polish for beginners in Polish! I have a nice relationship with the teacher though and always make sure to sit beside here as she helps me out in English sometimes! It’s very funny because she refuses to speak to anyone else in English, even though they all understand a little, just in case they get even more confused with the Polish! Although it is difficult, this class has allowed me to get to know more people. One guy from Mauritius and his Polish fiancé have been really kind to me. I’m thankful that people seem to like to look after me here – it may well be the case that I look young compared to all the other foreigners, I’m not sure!

This week I got to taste lots of traditional Polish food. One evening Cristian and Amaia, both Basque, took me to a normal Polish café where I had the local tomato soup which came with rice in it, meat croquettes called ‘krokiety’ and delicious mashed potatoes (something I was missing!). I washed all that down with some lovely cactus juice which was actually very good! I have been trying different foods here but I can get most things I’m used to since I found the nearby Tesco :-) . Whilst I’m on the subject of food, I also had my first McDonalds here, a place I don’t wish to frequent, but it was a great night where I met many new Erasmus students. We had all gone to the Opera Theatre to see (or strictly speaking, hear) Straszny Dwor as the Erasmus students had got free tickets to the opera! It was a great, new experience for me but unfortunately I didn’t understand anything! Thankfully someone was able to tell me what was going on in the breaks! Before going to the opera I met up with Magda who continues to be a great help to me as one of the few people I knew here prior to my arrival. We played pool in a place very close to my halls and I found out what the Polish think ‘nachos’ are.

I realised this week that I should start budgeting! I’m not great at handling money and I’ve been to far too many coffee shops, cafés and restaurants already. Sometimes it is just as cheap to find a small café and buy your food that way as it is to buy it in a supermarket and cook it for yourself…and personally I think food tastes better when someone else has made it! Going out with people to eat is a great way to spend more time with them and develop relationships, even if you have just spent a fortune on textbooks for Polish class. For my parents’ peace of mind, I will keep an eye on my spending and cut back a little where possible…if possible! I felt it was ‘money well spent’ on my tickets to see Avatar in 3D, finally! It was shown in the biggest cinema I have ever been in, which surprised me. The Polish have some really glamorous places but I guess that is to be expected of a city of Poznań’s size. On Friday evening, Anna and I went to the weirdest little café which was full of cats, not real cats but pictures and decorations and such things, however they had great caramel hot chocolate!

As for the weekend, the only thing I really could discuss is the traditional Polish food I had, however I don’t know what any of it was called and my description of it would most likely be long and boring, not to mention incomprehensible anyway so I won’t even try. All that I will say is that I rather like Polish food and look forward to trying whatever else Cristian orders for me when we are out or, indeed, what he cooks for me himself! I’m trying to get more involved in my church here so on Sunday I attended the Sunday school teachers’ meeting and will start helping out there in the next few weeks. I’ve also offered my services as a flautist so will be joining the worship band soon too. One girl in the church found out I’m training to be a teacher and wants me to take her class here sometimes so I’m excited about the prospect of that if I can, especially as I haven’t started teaching practice officially as organised by the university. I’m also thinking about teaching English here as I have quite a bit of free time and wouldn’t mind the extra cash to fund my lifestyle here! All of this experience will be useful and I can’t wait to get back into school. Below you can see how the view from my window has changed in recent days compared to the first picture I posted! So this ridiculously long blog is a result of me trying to follow the blog guidance but you'd better get used to it as the ‘professional blog’ is yet to begin! Goodbye for now!