The work and traveling I did in Poland has been the most rewarding and eye-opening experience I have ever had the privilege to be apart of. Deciding that I wanted to go abroad was nerve-racking. I was going to be traveling to another continent for the first time without anyone I knew in a time when I was already going through many changes and a great amount of turbulence, but the process with AIESEC went so smoothly that before I knew it I was doing interviews and talking with people all over the world to find a project for me. My interview with AIESEC in Poland felt so comfortable and the project seemed like exactly what I wanted to be apart of so I couldn’t be afraid and back out at that point, I knew I needed to do it.
The amount of things I have learned and the extent in which I feel that I have grown or change is tremendous and I would recommend going abroad to anyone who was considering it or looking for opportunities and if they didn’t know where to go I would say Poland, without a doubt. Things I have learned and would advise are the following:
- Talk to strangers. On trams on your way to work, the people you work with, the cashier at the market across the street from your accommodation, everyone you can. Language was obviously a huge barrier when I was traveling as I knew enough Polish to get around, but not enough to carry on conversations, but I was able to pick up a lot more of the language from picking up conversations with anyone who spoke enough English and could teach me the Polish I needed. My friends I went to dinner with a homeless man one night and I couldn’t begin to describe the things we learned that night. The cashier at the Biedronka I frequented the most, taught me where the best places to go and clear my head to write were. Getting lost in foreign towns was a lot more scary when I was too afraid to ask people on the tram if I was on the right one or not, but not so scary when they’d tell me to get off the next stop and head back in the other direction.
- Don’t forget hidden costs when you budget. Ubers and last minute hostel bookings and you forgot sweaters (now, you’re cold), oh my. There are costs you won’t be able to plan for and it is important to remember that when saving and budgeting for trips abroad especially on your own.
- Bring a folder. If you are sentimental you’re going to get dozens and dozens of different papers from flight tickets to train tickets to a memorable receipt to a snack wrapper and you don’t want them all over the place in your bags. It is really easy to bring a folder to help keep yourself organized.
- Grocery shop when possible. It is a lot cheaper to make yourself food, even if you buy sandwich stuff just for lunch, than eating out for every meal.
- Learn to be okay with uncertainty. My best days were ones that were unplanned. Days where I woke up, realized I didn’t know what I would be doing that day, and just explored. I found some of my favorite shops and corners of towns and views I wouldn’t have had I planned out every hour of all of my days in Poland. It is good to know what you want to see and do when you’re abroad so you don’t feel overwhelmed, but take days to walk and decompress. These are the best days to reflect and be introspective about your experiences up to that moment.
- RESEARCH! To the opposite of my previous suggestion, it is obviously very nerve wracking when going to a foreign place and you feel on your own. Youtube and google and personal blogs are your best friend in learning more tips and tricks and the best places to eat, see, and explore before you leave on your trip. Learn from others mistakes before you have to make your own, which will most likely happen (like buying an expensive train ticket instead of a tram ticket!), and learn of others successes so you can see those, too!