Destiny, Outbound to Poland

I remember Mrs. Paula always telling me and the other outbounds to always say yes; this advice has led me to great opportunities. To every future outbound I encourage you to always say yes because that’s when you truly start living.

In November I got to go on trip with some other exchange students in my city to Czech Prague, Vienna Austria, and the mountains in the south of Poland. I got to see snow for the first time in years. As soon as we all saw the snow we jumped out of the train and started throwing it at each other and it was so much fun. During the trip me and the girls became really close and I will cherish the hilarious memories we made together. Also, if you ever get the chance to go to Prague TAKE IT! It is the most beautiful city I have ever seen.

I have been told from exchange students that Thanksgiving is a very hard time where you will feel the homesickness, they are not wrong. I was really lucky though because my host family made me a big Thanksgiving dinner and they had my grandparents come over. I was extremely touched, and it helped me so much. There is a tradition in my family where we pray and then pass a spoon around the table and we say the things we are thankful for. When my host grandma started praying she was thanking God that I came into their lives and that I was such a good girl and that she was thankful I was a part of their family. I cried very much because I felt so loved and happy and they all made me feel like I was family.

Recently I got to go to Warsaw and see all of the Christmas decorations and my good friend Weronika. We even got to go Ice skating in front of the Palace of Culture and Science, which is probably my favorite building in Poland, it almost felt like dream. To be honest I have a lot of these moments because on exchange I have experienced so many things that I have always wanted to do. I have made really good relationships with exchange students, Polish friends, and my host families, and I absolutely LOVE my city Bydgoszcz. Side note, it is extremely easy to make friends with exchange students, they will become your family while you are on exchange. It is super easy to connect because you all go through the same things and you know how to comfort each other.

Recently I also went on a school trip to the Christmas markets in Dresden Germany. In December, we had our Wrocław Rotary trip. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone from our exchange group. We got to go to Ksiąz castle where Hitler lived and worked. We also went to the Zoo and we went to a hydraulics museum. During our weekend we went to the Christmas of many nations meeting where exchange students would sing Christmas carols in Polish. At the end, we all got in a circle and sang “We Are the World” and it was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced, I will never forget it.

I got to celebrate Christmas which was a very nice holiday. In Poland we celebrate on the 24th. We have a big dinner which mainly consists of many different fish dishes. We also open gifts this night too. There is a tradition here that you break apart a piece of a wafer and wish everyone good health, a happy life, and you bless them. It is such a sweet thing to do and I will definitely be bringing this tradition back to my family in the U.S. I will say Christmas time was probably my hardest time so far in terms of homesickness; the only advice I can give is to realize how lucky you are to be on exchange and live it to your fullest because next year you will be back with your family again. So, try to be positive and soak up as much of this new culture you can.

I also switched families a little after new year. I am so blessed to have had such a wonderful first family and now a wonderful second family. I already love them so much. I have a little sister and I can tell we will be close. On my first night she sat with me while I unpacked, and we listened to music and danced and played monopoly and I think she is the sweetest thing. My parents are extremely helpful and are super funny. I have already picked up new Polish phrases and words from speaking with them.

The weather is definitely something that takes some adjusting to get used to, layering is key and always keep your head covered. Something else that is helpful is to get waterproof boots for the fall and winter seasons because it rains and snows a lot. Public transportation is something very daunting at first, but you will get the hang of it quickly; I take buses and trams all over my city now.

Polish is definitely difficult, but it is also do able. Practice makes perfect. Also, don’t be afraid to use your Polish, people will be happy to see you are trying because they know it is such a hard language to learn. Making mistakes also helps you learn more and faster so don’t be afraid.

Good luck to all of the new outbounds, whoever gets Poland I know you will love it just as much as I do. Thank you Rotary for giving me this once in a life time opportunity to grow as a person and to see the world. Dziekuje, powodzenia, I do zobaczenia.

Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku (Happy New Year).

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