I’ll tell you a story about something that changed my life, about all the people I'll remember for the rest of my life and all the memories we've created together. When I applied for the first time, I was super excited to see what's waiting for me in Poland. I went to this little city called Gliwice at the Silesian University of Technology. And I went there twice!
The first semester I've spent with 4 amazing people from Mostar. We were always there for each other and yes, we were arguing from time to time I'm not gonna lie, but you don't always get along with your family, right?
I want to use this opportunity to thank them for everything.
I still remember arriving in Gliwice at 5 am and hearing complaints from my friend about how cold it is. Up until today, he claims that it was the coldest day of his life. We arrived on Sunday and, unfortunately, we didn't know that everything is closed. We had no zloty and we couldn't do anything with euros, so we went in search of “kantor“. Poles mainly don’t (want to) speak English, so we had a little problem communicating with them. If you're going from one of the Slavic countries, try speaking your language rather than English, because chances are they'll understand you better. (Beware - some words may be pronounced the same way, but they don’t mean the same!) Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, so you'll encounter people who really enjoy speaking English and will do anything to help you.
Anyway, the scholarship we've received there was more than enough to cover all our expenses and little luxuries we provided for ourselves. We had to pay for our trip to Poland and visa, but we got a refund for both. We've decided to stay in one of 11 dorms close to campus and prices for those are from 80-160 euros, depending on whether you are in the mood to share the toilet and the kitchen with other students or you want to have your own.
The academic year began with orientation week where, among other things, we were provided with the necessary instructions for opening a bank account, we’ve met our faculty coordinators, enrolled in Polish language course and received our first scholarship (we were supposed to wait for about 10 to 15 days upon arrival, which is not the same for all universities, so be sure to check before leaving). Classes were taught in English in a group that normally has such classes because this university has many international students who are full-time students. The professors and assistants we’ve met were always ready to help us even with the smallest problem we would encounter. ESN students also gave their best to make this experience memorable. They've organized themed parties, trips, international dinners (all students prepare some of the traditional dishes and then eat together) and other different social activities. Apart from them, local students, contrary to the stereotype that the Poles don’t like foreigners (or at least we didn’t come across those), made our stay at dorm an unforgettable experience. They’ve helped us communicate with ladies at the reception, invited us to their parties, offered traditional Polish dishes and we’ve even spent some weekends with their families.
While I was in Poland, I fell in love with nature and architecture that surrounded me, visited some of the most famous Polish mountains and lakes, enjoyed amazing Polish cuisine, volunteered, fell in love with a couple of Polish bands and enjoyed traveling by train between cities that left me speechless.
The only reason why I wouldn’t recommend you to go on Erasmus+ exchange is the leaving-back-home part. You have to say goodbye to the people you've spent your days with, learning, laughing, crying, going out, traveling... When you return to your hometown, nobody will understand why you want to go back so badly and why you're spending hours close to your phone or laptop, talking to those people you have “just“ met. Nobody will understand why you miss Monica from El Salvador, Borja who is technically from Spain, Khadijah from Yemen or your people you've met in Poland.
Someone once told me to keep on chasing and, I just kept chasing – my dreams, hopes and happy moments. And I'll keep chasing them until I create a life worth remembering. Erasmus teaches you to trust strangers, to get out of your comfort zone and the whole experience is like balancing on a rope, almost impossible! Your life will be turned upside-down the moment you get on that bus, train or plane.
On this journey you get to know yourself, you learn to deal with your fears and find the little things that make you happy. You also learn that everything is possible if you want it bad enough. There will be days that you’ll replay in your head over and over again and yes, there will be those you can hardly wait to go through. You will discover new cultures and traditions, learn new languages, teach new friends what “merak“ is and you'll, for sure, polish your English. You will spend every day learning - about yourself, people around you, life, friendship, happiness, love…
And what else can I tell you? Indeed, Erasmus is not only one year in your life, but one whole life in a year. Go ahead, take this opportunity. Maybe you’ll also make your dreams come true, meet your doppelganger, visit the cities you’ve been dreaming about your whole life and build life-lasting friendships. Who knows...