Life in Poland

It's a millennial's dream to explore Europe. As I was nearing my college graduation, I couldn't help but dream of the proverbial Eurotrip, that was probably in every millennial like me's bucket list. Doing everything I could, I was able to turn that dream into reality. Fresh out of college, my curious 21-year old self was fortunate enough to embark on a solo trip to Europe.

I remember mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety as the day to fly out grew nearer. When the day arrived and after our plane took off, all feelings of anxiety and fear left. I remember thinking about this quote then as I played the Secret Life of Walter Mitty's 'Step Out' on repeat: 
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” - John Green
After going through the exhausting almost 20-hour transit, I finally reached my home for the next 2 months: Poland.

I literally knew nothing about Poland. To be honest, I just randomly chose to have my internship there so I can travel around nearby countries during my free weekends. With no idea about the country, I was more open to all the experiences that would come my way.

So... what on earth was a 21 year old like me doing in Poland anyway? I was teaching in different towns. Every week I'd travel to a different town in Poland and stay with a different host family or a college dormitory. I'd teach both grade school and high school students about my home country, the Philippines. This was a good bargain for me because it saved me from spending money on accommodation and food. Plus, I got to interact with the locals and other international exchange participants, get to know the local culture and basically live there. I was also very glad to represent my country and be able to give others a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Philippines.

The situation every Monday: Waking up at 5AM to catch the bus or train to a new town we'll be staying and teaching in that week

My home in Poland - Lublin

Lublin is 3 hours away by bus from the capital, Warsaw. On my first week here, we got to explore their old town, while having orientations to prep us for teaching and also learning the Polish language - which was slavic by the way! It was like a tongue twister every time for me! Do yourself a favor and google "Lublin Poland" because those photos will give more justice to this beautiful town than my own photos! Quite sadly, I didn't have enough time to take a walking tour to know more about this wonderful place. I totally missed the breathtaking panoramic view of the town!

"Lublin Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Poland. Within an area of 7 hectares on top of a hill, there are more than 100 historic mansions and other important buildings. They can be reached by going through the 14th century Krakowian Gate, the cultural symbol of Lublin and the home of the Museum of the History of the Town. The classical Old Town Hall stands in the Old Town Market which was once the seat of the Crown Tribunal and is surrounded by mansions that date back to the 15th century." - Poland travel website

At night, the vibe of the old town totally changes

Don't be fooled by that nice castle on the hill behind me. "Lublin Castle, built in a Neo-Gothic style in1828 on top of the ruins of the king's former castle was a prison until 1954. It was here that many thousands of Polish people were murdered during World War II and also during the years of Stalinist terror between 1948 and 1954. Today the castle houses the Lublin Museum" - Poland travel website

The Polish Diet

When I tell my students that we Filipinos eat rice three times a day, they just couldn't believe it! If there's one thing I learned how to do while I was in Europe, it was to have the appetite of a man. Here, a whole pizza is considered to be a meal for one. Back in the Philippines, it's shared by a family - this was something they really found odd! I'm just glad they were very generous with food there. Hahaha! Their servings were more than enough!

They took me to Pyzata Chata, and introduced me to "Pierogi". It's basically like Polish dumplings with either meat, vegetables, or cheese inside. It was delicious!

Another favorite was Schabowy, which are like breaded pork cutlets. 

A typical breakfast in Poland:

Breakfast was officially my favorite meal of the day. We'd be served different kinds of bread and deli ham or sausage along with cheese, butter, sour cream, cucumber, lettuce, and pickles, occasionally some bell peppers. We'd have raspberry tea for breakfast (my favorite discovery there!) and yogurt. It was really filling!

Lunch would be served in the afternoon, usually around 2-3pm. The meal always starts with a type of broth or soup to fill our tummies quickly. The main course is usually a type of meat paired with salad, vegetables, or pickled pepper and mashed potatoes.

For dinner, we basically eat the same thing we eat for breakfast.

Now let's go to my favorite part, the alcohol.

Although Poland is known for its vodka, I really liked some of the drinks that were introduced to me there. The first one happens to be hot wine, which I didn't get to take a picture of :( I remember my new polish friends offering me this drink after landing a few hours earlier since they thought I was still adjusting to the cold winter weather and this would keep me warm. I was pretty surprised cause I never knew hot wine was a thing. It tasted like soup to be honest since it had some other spices in it but still pretty good!

I guess the best thing about the alcohol wasn't really their famous vodka, but for me, it was the beer or piwo as they call it. I never knew beer could taste so good with cranberry juice. I was pretty obsessed with it. I drink beer but it was only here I got to really enjoy drinking beer. Zywiec was probably my favorite non-cranberry beer.

Life in Poland

Since every week we get to travel and stay in a new town, I've had the chance to really get to know the Polish culture and its people. Teacher life was actually very hard. I would teach 3-4 classes everyday, at around 3 hours at most per class. It was exhausting, not just having to repeat the same presentation to each class but to keep my energy up to socialize after class either with my students, hosts, or colleagues. Usually after a whole day of teaching, my students or hosts would take us around town. It's so crazy when I check my steps, I cover around 20km in a day! 

Sunset in Zamość

Also absolutely grateful I had the chance to learn more about other countries since I was also partnered with different international interns each week. 

My little sister Ilgin from Turkey teaching our students some belly dancing!

After 5 days of teaching in that town, we'd head back to our hometown, Lublin to be with the AIESECers. Usually after our meetings they'd take us out to eat, drink, socialize, and dance!

In Lublin, we stayed at a university dorm. I was in a dorm room with 2 other international interns - Vanessa from Brazil and Novi from Indonesia. We were all also assigned to a buddy each. Mine was Klaudia. She was my go-to person in case I needed anything. Living life in Poland was so much easier because of our friends there. They were very accommodating. Every week we and the other interns would do grocery and wash our clothes. I guess it was good training for the adult world for a college fresh grad like me! Hahaha! Some weekends I would travel out of the country solo or with some of them. Luckily enough I was able to visit Prague, Budapest, Paris, Salzburg, Vienna, and Belgium during my off days! 

Dorm Life

The whole experience was culture shock to be honest, but it has totally expanded my worldview. I won't be able to totally encapsulate all the insights and feelings I had on this trip but I hope this post was able to give you a glimpse of this life-changing experience. Kocham Cię, Polska! Until then!

Thank you, Dane for letting me share my experience!

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