Blog entry 1 - Soon it starts!
In the recent weeks, I was often asked the same question: Why Poland? "Well, why not?" I always replied.
What I know about Eastern Europe so far from holidays spent there, is good food, sincere, affectionate and friendly people and exciting cities, which are distinguished by magnificent architecture and charm of their own. In my eyes these are already good reasons to take a semester abroad in Poland and to intensively emerge oneself with the local culture.
When I saw that the FHWS has partnered with the University of Krakow, it became very easy for me to decide. I remember well my first visit to Krakow a few years ago. The city had pulled me immediately in its spell, not only because of its interesting architecture and the many streets with small cafes and bars, but above all with its turbulent history. For centuries Krakow was the political, economical and cultural center of Poland and offered one of the largest Jewish communities a home in Europe.
Particularly what fascinated me even then was the Collegium Maius, the oldest building of the Jagiellonian University. It must be great to study at such an old and traditional university, I thought; without knowing that I would do just that a few years later.
The anticipation of the first day at the university was steadily increasing.
Last big dinner at home, before going to Krakow the next morning. On the radio, there was a report on the controversial new Police Act in Poland, which constitutes a significant restriction of civil rights progress. It is one of many legal changes that would enforce the newly elected government in Warsaw and with which they will move away from European principles. That just made it even more exciting to come to Poland, as to follow the events that proceed , and to learn how Polish students think, for example about the controversial media law.
Obviously, one is engaged in advance not only with such big questions – also with a lot of everyday things that must be organized. For example, find a roof over the head. Fortunately, in Krakow it is not as hard as in many German university cities. In the ERASMUS Facebook group many students are looking for a new tenant for their room. After a few messages and a Skype conversation, I had found the ideal shared apartment: central and old town-close location, right at the university, and mixed together with two Italians and a Spaniard.
The course registration proved to be even more complicated. The whole process required some patience and lots and lots of emails to professors and coordinators. But the University of Krakow had a wide and varied program also in English, so it was well worth the effort.
Fortunately, the knowledge of the Polish language was not a requirement for studying. However, it is not a mistake to take a course in advance, as to cope better, for example, while shopping. To improve one’s knowledge, a person can then take a language course in the university.
There is a lot to organize before it finally starts, and sometimes you feel quite helpless. Therefor the University of Krakow offers a mentoring program. Mentors can help with almost any problem – from course registration, finding a hostel for the first night, up to helping with activating the Polish SIM card.
Airborne, then comes for a brief moment a bit of a panic. What are you doing here, going to a country for five months, whose language you haven’t even mastered, I thought to myself. But then, we are already above the clouds and an exciting new semester awaits.