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, 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! :-)

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