Erasmus – the best chance for new friendships and contacts
The conversation with the student GWSH who was participating in an international student exchange in Turkey.
Szmagliński Paweł, a student of Management (specializing in Independent Accountant), in the winter semester of the academic year 2012/2013 was a participant in an international student exchange program Erasmus. He lived in Denizli in Pamukkale Universitesi. He decided to tell us about his experiences of traveling abroad.
Why did you choose to participate in the Erasmus program and a trip to Turkey?
– In July 2012 as a representative of the Department of European Studies GWSH I participated in Model United Nations Conference organized by the next UN Scientific Research Forum of the Faculty of Law and Administration of Gdansk University. It involved a simulation of an UN meeting with students from many countries. The conference lasted for a week. Apart from the official talks we held various informal meetings. Everything was in English. During this conference, I gained confidence as for my language skills. Most of the students had been involved in this project for many years. They talked about their travels across Europe, that sometimes they go three times a month for such a meeting. It turned out that most of the students also participated in the Erasmus program – studies; or Erasmus – professional practice. I thought about going for a long time. When Ms. Monika Mechlińska-Pauli (Institutional Erasmus Coordinator in GWSH) presented me with all the information related to the project, I decided to participate in the program. It turns out, that most students from GWSH choose Turkey. The reason is simple. It is a lot cheaper a country than in Western Europe and the most civilized in the East. I am also driven by economic considerations. I chose the city after a short deliberation. It turns out that the site – part of Denizli are Pamukkale Water Terraces. The most popular place among tourists in Turkey. I will not hide that this tempted me to think that I will be able to connect studies with everyday leisure. I was tempted like a snake tempted Eve. It was also helpful to know that our university works very well with Universitesi Pamukkale. Guests, not only students but also teachers who conduct classes in GWSH, of course, all in English. Another most important asset of participating in the Erasmus project is the fact that information is put away in the Diploma Supplement. There's no denying that it is a useful bonus when planning your professional careers.
How did the classes look in college that you visited? How was your student’s life different from what you experienced in Gdansk?
– There, the reality is quite different. I compare the situation in Poland, as well as studying at the Technical University of Gdansk, which switched to another faculty when GWSH announced recruitment for the EU funded studies. Today, I believe that my university is now GWSH. I cannot imagine studying anywhere else. All these events made my study at a huge picture of the state and private universities. However, in Turkey, is completely different. First, the PAU campus (Pamukkale Universitesi) is so huge, like three PG. To the extent that there is a free bus that runs on the campus for students. Unfortunately – it did not run at the weekends. The professors were very nice, even those who do not speak English. The main thing that surprised me the most was the duration of the class. In Poland, a lecture or exercise lasts 1.5 hours., In Turkey as long as 3! And it's in every subject! In Poland we usually create a climate of school benches, chairs or corners for students in the hallways, we can sit, relax and chat. There in Turkey there are simply empty corridors. But there are two parks for students. One quiet one with a pond and a fountain, the other one with seating and swings. Fairytale. There is no locker room, as each student is in the hall of his bench – table. But basically there is no need for clothes (laughs), because the temperature is usually 30° C. In addition, you can take three semesters in one calendar year. I think it's very good for ambitious students.
Most students probably would like to ask what the experience of Turkey, what will you remember the most?
– There are two such adventures. I think the most memorable is ... the fire. Funny story. Week Bajram – Muslim holidays. City empty. In my block only one person in the apartment next door. I got up in the chair. 10.00. I went to take a shower. During the bath water heater exploded and began to burn with the wall and ceiling. I ran in the towel on the corridor, shouting for help. Next door neighbor helped me. He turned off the electricity and helped extinguish the fire. Today it is no longer merely laugh, remembering how ridiculous I must have looked in the hall, crying out for help. I am presenting this situation as most typical experiences of everyday concern. There were such stores where chicken cost 54 PLN per kilogram, and not very appetizing – looking meat in 1040 PLN per kilogram. That's why we asked for the price and were amazed thinking that this was the code for the cash register. There is medicine available in Turkey for free under public insurance. Besides, there are many things that are different in Poland and my own life without them is unimaginable, but Turkey can live without them.
In Turkey, you also spent Christmas and New Year. What do they look like in a country so different culturally and ideologically?
– This is a Muslim country, and in addition negating all Christian and Western culture. So when we saw the beginning of December, at roundabouts, streets and shop windows Christmas decoration, we were very surprised. Everywhere, Christmas trees, stars, fake snow, and Santa. So I asked the native people, why do it? Since they deny our culture, what it means, and most importantly – what about Santa Claus? It turned out that the Turks celebrate the New Year, and Santa Claus comes to children throughout December without a specific date. However, we have a concrete date – Dec. 24, so the rest of the students organized the International Christmas Eve. There were traditional dishes. Ravioli, dumplings, borscht soup, cinnamon, salmon, mushrooms and fruit compote. A total of 12 dishes, according to tradition. Guests sat at the table with the Romanian, Polish, Ukraine and Turkish people. We shared the wafer and sang together at supper, Christmas carols and pastorals. Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian and English. No real Christmas tree was replaced by a paper cut – out which I did. For each of us it was the first Christmas in our lives without family, but very reflective. People do not appreciate how much they have. What is important for Christmas is not the table, but the people sitting round it. On the first day of Christmas naturally entered the meat on the table, which we all had been waiting for. In the evening, my Turkish friend took me to a concert of traditional Turkish music performed by the orchestra and a choir. It was great.
Do you remember any funny situations associated with being a man of a different nationality? Did you experience a language barrier? And did you pick up this widely commented Turkish temperament?
– Very funny experience was the pronunciation of their names in our food called "pizza". It turned out that the word pizza in Poland sounded offensive. To my surprise I heard it for the first time during a lecture at the university, spoken by a Professor. After some time the other students explained to me just what was going on. As for the Turkish temperament, they always have time for everything. So often you heard the statements "I do not know", "I have no time", "I’m very busy", "You will come tomorrow". In Turkey, there is nothing right away. The most irritating for me was the public transport. The driver drove the bus only when the bus was full. There are a lot of delays normality. Therefore, driving 15 minutes to the university, I could be late for class, starting at not two hours earlier.
Is the exchange conductive to any lasting international connections?
– Of course. I think they just remain friends for long. This week my colleague from Turkey came to Poland. Another semester he is coming to study in GWSH in the Erasmus program. Another announced coming in the fall semester. I have lots of contacts on facebook. My friend from China has already established contacts with the employer in Gdynia and come for vocational practice at the beginning of June. I think it is the best Erasmus chance to make friends and contacts. You can make them very freely, and for many years. This is in my opinion the greatest added value of this project. Moreover, struck up a friendship with Ozay more stable, a lecturer at the Academy, who helped me in all the problems that I was there. Definitely Murat visit me in Poland, with whom I lived for three months. Thanks to him I got to know real, true Turkish life. Traditional Turkish food, fun and leisure activities. I met a group of Kurds who were very friendly and helpful.
Do you want to go back?
– Yes. I am going now for the next semester. I'm tempted mostly by the warm climate. There, in December and January, the lowest temperature is +20° C. And the same with us, but it’s below zero. Besides, I miss my new friends I met there, our initiatives. Well, this calm, relaxing life. Everything going slowly. There is a chance to study and relax from the daily bustle and competition with which we encounter every day in Poland.
Talked: Kryspin Kichler.