I am in the first week of my classes and have completed a presessional Polish language course so now seems a good time to write up my next article.
Classes in Poland are fairly different to the UK. Modules are much different than I am used to as a history student, with a greater emphasis on seminars and discussion. A good part of your mark is based on seminar contributions and many of the exams at the end of the semester are oral, not written. As someone who has generally struggled with written exams, I find this quite reassuring.
Choosing modules is also slightly more complex, the first week of the semester is a ‘taster week’ and in the second week you show up to the classes you want to continue. This gives you a lot of flexibility,
but planning your studies with several timetables in front of you can be a little bewildering. To add to this, I am down as a Archaeology student for them due to the way the departmental links work, but it makes no difference as it is the same faculty so the same list of English-medium classes are available.
I didn’t struggle with culture shock for the most part, although I found the 10 days of not much activity between the presessional course and classes starting slightly demoralising. I managed to get past that with no real hiccups though, apart from a slightly embarrassing fine for losing my tram ticket. The one problem I did face was that Polish people are generally much more direct than the British; this is something it took me a couple of weeks to get used to and I did spend time thinking people were being rude when they probably were not.
My Polish speaking skills are still somewhat rudimentary but my confidence is improving. I have already been able to get a haircut and buy food by weight through speaking in Polish.
Wroclaw is a lovely city with a huge amount of history, often defined by the number of cultural influences it has had. Having originally been part of the medieval Kingdom of Poland, it found itself within Bohemia, Hungary, Austria, Prussia and Germany before being part of Poland once again in 1945, when the German inhabitants of what they knew as Breslau were expelled, and replaced with many Polish refugees from the East.
The university here was founded in 1702 and counts many famous thinkers, including some Nobel Prize winners, among its alumni. Many of the buildings were damaged in the Second World War, during which Wroclaw was the last major city in Nazi Germany to surrender to the Russians, but they were rebuilt as they had been originally and so have lost none of their charm.
In the next installment, I will talk about Polish food and drink.