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!