Fot. Ł. Zakrzewski Fot. B. Fryszkowski Fot. E. Piestrzeniewicz Fot. E. Piestrzeniewicz fot. Michał Bachański

My Erasmus story…

Data aktualności: 30-03-2017

O tym, jak to jest być studentem Erasmusa w Polsce, co dają studia za granicą i jak fantastyczną przygodą jest udział w wymianie – opowiada stażystka Europe Direct – Szczecin, Clara Berthelot.

Whenapplying for my Bachelor degree in European Studies, I knew that I would do an Erasmus semester abroad. It was one of the reason why I chose that degree. Although I thought that I still had time to think about where I wanted togo, the deadline for the decision arrived more quickly than I thought it would.

And here I was, struggling between Germany and Poland, having already erased the United Kingdom from my « wishlist ». Of course it was not a random decision. First, I gave a particular attention to the lessons that were offered in the various universities. Second, the language spoken in the country was also important, as I wanted, and still want, to improve in a foreign language other than English. Thirdly, the attractiveness of the city and how easy it was to get there. My final choice therefore was Wroclaw. I have often been to Poland, because I have family there, and although I had spent two months living there during the summer holidays, I knew it would be very different to live there one my own. Moreover I had never had the opportunity to visit Wroclaw.

I remember telling my mum during my first university year that there was no way I was going to spend my Erasmus semester in Poland, because I already knew the country and I wanted to go to the United Kingdom. Yet, my choice was Wroclaw, very much a part of Poland.

Now it has been almost a month since my Erasmus semester in Wroclaw has ended, and I cannot really see the long-term effects it has had on me yet. I am actually still in it, as the last time that I was in France was almost seven months ago, and I will not be going back until at least the beginning of the summer, for I am currently doing an internship in Wroclaw.

However, I still try to make a list of what it has brought me, concretely. I like when things are in order, or at least it is easier for me to understand what has changed, what is still the same, and what is in process.

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about Erasmus is: paperwork. It is the first thing that you have to face in order to be able to leave. Of course it is not that much of a big deal, but still, you have to remember to have every paper signed before, during and after, on time and by the right persons, otherwise it can have consequences on your semester. BUT once you have made sure that everything is in order, the Erasmus « experience » can begin. And thinking back on all these papers, I think it makes us more responsible.

Living in an international environment will probably be the main change. There are people coming from all countries, and even though some may be from yours, I see no point in staying with them. The idea is to be with people you never had the opportunity to speak with. Personally, I feel that what challenged me the most was exchanging point of views on things I thought were normal for me. I am not speaking about daily life things, although I will come to that later, but about having different opinions during classes. Different people ultimately means different points of view. In Wroclaw there was a sort of European vision, but it was shared between Eastern and Western Europe. It mightseem rather simplistic to say that, but it is something that was often happening during history lessons. We disagreed on  « how? » and  « why? » things had happened, because our past and culture shapes us thinking differently.

Moreover, the university offered a broad choice of courses on identity, which was very interesting for we were all from different backgrounds, and we could see that we simply did not identify and describe ourselves in the same way. Going on an Erasmus exchange, I wanted to acquire new knowledge, things that I knew I would not be able to learn back home. And this was achieved through the study of Eastern and Central Europe history and political systems. I basically wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

Regarding everyday life, as I said, I was able to meet different people, meaning different cultures coming together and mixing. I remember in particular going to a Thanksgiving dinner organized by a small group of American students with a Polish-American friend. They had tried to cook as traditional a dinner as they could with the few utensils they had and the impossible task to buy a massive turkey and to cook it without an oven. They were all very happy to feel a little like home but also proud to be able to share it with foreign people who had never celebrated this holiday. These cultural differences can also be seen in daily life: how to say hello and goodbye ? Hug ? Kissing cheeks ? Just « Hey » ? It is a real dilemma. You might be used to kiss cheeks but fell highly uncomfortable hugging people even if you have known them for a bit now. It is this kind of funny situation that leads us to share and mix our different customs and habits.

There was also the Polish lessons ! I'm not going to say that it is an easy language to learn, because we all know that it is not. But living here has definitely forced me to speak in front of other people. Speaking English in front people is an easier task because I study in English even in France, but in Polish or even German it is much more difficult. Maybe because of that French way of always making fun of people trying, I am always nervous when speaking Polish in front of Polish people. I am still progressing, and working on myself to be more confident when speaking Polish in front of other people.

Last but not least, and maybe one of the most important thing that I was able to do during my Erasmus time is that it allowed me to have more hindsight on my native country. In France, we like to complain about everything, we never see what is good here, but by living abroad I was able to compare and contrast. I am not speaking only about food, but about how things work overall, how society is made, and how the system is working. I understand my country better, and I am even more convinced that our role as citizens is to be used to try to change things with which we disagree. I might also have developed a stronger sense of belonging to Europe as a community with differences that we can overcome. When living in your homeland, you easily think that there is so much that separates us from each other, but when travelling you are able to see what unites us all across Europe.

Clara Berthelot

Źródło: Europe Direct – Szczecin


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