Saturday, 16 August 2014

An amazing exchange in Poland!

Hello everyone,

As per usual, I spent this morning behind my laptop. However, not to watch YouTube or watch a drama BUT to reminisce over the days of my exchange/travels. The most unforgettable days of my life! This was also when I first “tried” vlogging. I never shared these videos with anyone but myself. Simple because, I did not think anyone would be interested. Today I decided to share this with anyone who happens to stumble across my YouTube channel or this blog. Below is a mash up of some of the videos I made :D For those who are interested to know more about my exchange then keep reading below the video!

              

Back in 2012 I did a “Global Community Development Project” (GCDP) exchange to where, I now call my third home, Poland! I did this exchange through AIESEC Auckland (a student led organisation that I was volunteering at, at that time). The project I participated in was called “Make A Step”. This all sounds like a bunch of fancy jargon but basically, what I did was work with high school and junior high school students to give them a much more practical English learning experience as well as share knowledge about the beautiful country I live in, New Zealand! This was a life changing experience for me. If I could have the option to relive this experience, I would say yes in a heartbeat!

Through the whole application process which included multiple interviews, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions – terrified, excited, self-doubt..etc. At that time in my life, all I’ve ever done was stayed within my “comfort zone” and never did anything that scared me. I knew that it was time that I stepped out and discover what this world was really like. At the same time, this was me taking my first steps to a journey of self discovery.
I’ve never looked back. No regrets.

I remember sitting at the airport in Hong Kong waiting to board my flight to Frankfurt (then to Poznań), I was messaging one of my friends. The exact words were "What did I get myself into?!?!?!?!?!" Luckily, turning back and flying back to New Zealand was not an option. With all the thoughts that were going through my head at the time, I think I would have actually taken the option to go home. I've never felt more scared in my life! Reality sank in, I'm flying to a country where I didn't know the language, and where most the country did not know English either. And, I'm going on my own! I also remember thinking, "I can't wait for these three months to be over and I can go home!"

The flight to Poland passed so fast! Before I knew it, I had landed in Frankfurt, waited in transit, boarded my flight to Poznań and landed in Poznań. I remember when I was waiting for my luggage to arrive, I was thinking “oh man, I hope the people here remember to come pick me up from the airport!” After walking out with my luggage, I see two Polish girls with a massive smile on their face, one holding their phone and recording a video and the other, a card board piece of paper with my name on it. I felt so relieved to know that I was not stranded at the airport!

The next day, I met all the other exchange participants and here the most amazing journey of my life began! Each week we were partnered up with a different person and we would train together to a different city/town in Poland, to a different host family, different school, different students, a different experience. Each host family and each school were very welcoming. I met some of the most enthusiastic and inspirational people! Till this day, I still cannot believe how passionate these students were about learning English and how curious they were about me.

During the breaks, I would do some travelling along with my fellow exchange participants. Together we travelled around Poland and also to other countries in Europe. We did really crazy things and were definitely not afraid of trying anything new! Of course, we also had some really stupid moments. I remember how we were trying to find a concentration camp but instead we got ourselves in front of a graveyard!

That year was also the first year I celebrated Christmas. I come from a family where Christmas day was just another day so to be able to celebrate Christmas was super exciting! I experienced a somewhat traditional Christmas and definitely ate so much food that I felt like I was going to be hospitalised! By the end of my stay, everyone in Poland knew that I love eating Pierogi Ruskie and Pierniki!

A few days after Christmas, I met up with the other exchange participants and we began our travels around Europe. First stop, Paris. We spent New Year in Paris. A few of us got ripped off along the way. I also had the most heavenly crepes and macaroons ever! We flew straight to Prague on the morning of the 1st of January and saw one of the most spectacular firework shows of my life! We also sang Ona Tanczy Dla Mnie under the fireworks and LOTS of people were staring at us like we were crazy. We probably were. Our last stop before heading back home (Poland), was Budapest. I spent €2.50 and got myself a bag filled of mouth-watering pastries. Here after, I have never found any shop that sells pastry that comes close to those!

Together, we not only survived -20c, 10 hour bus rides and 8 hour train rides. We grew as people, we grew to become friends, we became one big family. Life long friends!
To everyone who had been a part of that experience, dziękuję bardzo, Kocham was bardzo <3 Man nadzieje, ze bedziemy mieli Okazje niedułgo spotkac sie znow!

I highly recommend that anyone who is considering doing an exchange – DO IT! I promise you, you will never regret it!

This blog entry has been really long but I hope everyone enjoyed reading it!

Talk to you in the next post,

Joyce <3