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!