Finally, they have accepted my scholarship bid, now what? Here comes the hardest decision for some: choosing the Erasmus destination.
In recent years Poland has become one of the most popular destinations in Europe for Erasmus students, especially among the Spanish. Yes, that country which your grandparents still don’t know where it’s situated on the map (but wasn’t it Russia?) and your parents are afraid to send you because you may never come back. Don’t worry, everyone who has done their Erasmus in Poland has gone through the list of opinions.
If you are still hesitating then we will give you a few reasons why Poland could be your perfect destination.
The change of currency
Poland does not use the euro, but the zloty. Therefore, upon arriving you will have to go to an office for exchanging currency, or ‘Kantor’, to change your euros. The value of a euro is approximately 4.20 zlotys, but you may receive more or less depending on the Kantor. Try not to go to those located in the airport as they can charge you commission. Never trust an offer of less than 4 zlotys per euro.
In addition to the currency exchange, living in Poland is much cheaper than in Spain. The minimum wage is about 400 euros per month, so everything is cheaper. You will find beer for a euro, plates of food for four, and a thousand things more: public transport, accommodation, flights, vodka… The flight home will be harder than you thought.
A unique winter
The whole world has the idea that Poland is a cold country. As soon as you tell her, your grandmother will probably knit you a massive jumper for you to take but NO. Obviously winters are colder than in Spain, but you are not at the top of Mont Blanc. There are many things you can enjoy.
The snow fills the streets and accumulates in heaps by the sidewalks. For those who have never seen snow it is an amazing experience: sleighs, snowmen… the lakes freeze and you can go ice-skating on them. Also in Poland there are many cosy places to drink tea, coffee or hot chocolate (sometimes you need to drink more than vodka).
From now on you won’t leave home without first seeing the temperature it is outside on your phone. The cold is not as obvious from the inside as the rain is. Even if it is -20ºc, you won’t notice it inside your residence. Indoor heating is so powerful in Poland that you’ll have to forget all about your Primark robes and pyjamas.
Poland is in the centre of Europe
The situation of a country is very important when choosing an Erasmus destination. You can have a great time on an island but it will never be the same if you want to travel. In Poland transport – trains, planes and buses – is very cheap. As we said before, the cost of living is cheaper than in Spain and that includes travel.
When choosing your Erasmus – Location key. In case anyone doesn’t know where it is, Poland shares its borders with 7 different countries: Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and a small part of Russia.
If you want to see all of these countries a good option is to go by bus. You can visit small villages and discover some surprises that would not be possible with traveling by plane. Unitrips offers you a series of already organised trips where you can share experiences with many other young foreigners:
Discovering the culture of eastern countries on your year abroad
Erasmus in Poland can offer you much more than you think. The differences will enable you to open your mind and to learn of thousands of customs that exist only in this area of Europe. Here are a few details that you may not know and will be surprised to encounter when you arrive:
- After being invaded by Prussia, Austria and Russia over the course of many years, the Polish territory today has many influences, including both Russian and German, especially in its food and architecture.
- One of the typical dishes are the pierogis, which is a bit like ravioli but much bigger. Another national dish is a famous called Zurek that is served within a roll of bread.
- Poland is the most Catholic country in Europe, and they’re very traditional. They worship Pope John Paull II and I challenge you to find a Polish city without a statue of him.
- In this area of Europe you drink a lot of carbonated water so ask for still water if you do not want a surprise when you open the bottle!
- Watch out for zebra crossing – in Poland you can be fined up to 50 euros if you cross at a red light.
- Once a year, normally during the second week of May, the mayors of Polish cities give the key (and control) to the students, who organise a part of epic proportions. The event is known as Juwenalia and you can’t miss it for anything in the world!
Alcohol: Good, tasty, cheap
Clearly, if you hear the river, water is carried. Rumours that Polish alcohol is not only cheap but delicious are true. Sorry for the lovers of rum, but in Poland there is not an abundance and what little there is, is very expensive. But you’ll have hundreds of vodka brands. The most famous are the flavours and the Zubrówka. In winter hot wine is also typical, which is sold in small jugs. You will be able to try them all on your Erasmus in Poland.
As for beer, you will be able to find many brands, especially Polish and German, and glasses are sold in half litres. Some girls like to mix it with syrups: peach, coconut, pineapple, strawberry… Although it seems strange, many people drink beer with a straw.
The Erasmus atmosphere
Like you, many other students will choose Poland as their destination next year but why are there so many Erasmus students in the country? After the fall of communism in 1989, Poland tried to engage with Europe by strengthening its relations with the surrounding countries. Today it has many agreements with foreign universities because it is delighted to be part of Europe and that foreign students visit Poland and learn of its culture.
The cities with the most Erasmus students are Poznan, Warsaw and Krakow. You will find many Spaniards in these cities but also people of other nationalities: Turks, French, Ukrainians, Italians, Greeks, Germans, etc. The Polish festivals are unforgettable – alcohol is cheap, the nights are long, and Erasmus is short. I don’t know what you’re waiting for!