Erasmus in Poland. Student exchange semester at the Technical University of Lodz (3 rd semester)

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1 Erasmus in Poland Student exchange semester at the Technical University of Lodz (3 rd semester) International Business Information Technology University of Cooperative Education Mannheim web.de

2 Contents Page 1 Preamble Two questions My answers 3 2 Application Application & Learning Agreement Insurance Accommodation 4 3 Studying in Lodz Getting to Lodz European Youth Exchange Student Life at TUL Lectures & Laboratories Contacts Travelling & University-Organized Trips Links 6 4 Resume 7 Page 2 of 8

3 1 Preamble 1.1 Two questions WHY go abroad to study? This is a very basic question for students who are at least considering studying abroad. Depending on the distance between their home and their host country, this implies being separated from your family, from your friends and from your partner (boyfriend / girlfriend) for quite a while. But it also means getting to know a different country, a different culture and new people! As soon as you have answered the first question, the next one automatically arises: WHERE do I want to study abroad? There are places with very nice weather; there are places with very famous universities and other places not so attractive (at first sight). 1.2 My answers Do it! Go abroad! Leave your comfortable home and take this great opportunity to meet new people and learn about different cultures. You will experience not only positive things, but when you look back; you will have had the chance to see great things that changed your attitudes. Taking the latest developments into consideration, part of the globalization process involves also working in international teams. A semester abroad definitely improves your intercultural competence. I chose to swim against the stream and went to the Technical University of Lodz (TUL). In fact, I was the only German student at TUL. My friends called me crazy to go to a country which is only known for Vodka and snow. Of course, all hearsay! Lodz and the Technical University are a treasure of Poland. People from Krakow or Wroclaw would laugh about this, because these cities have old and very beautiful inner cities and a completely different history. Lodz is different. Lodz grew big with the textile industry in the 19 th century. So there are many old factory buildings, most of them are museums today. Imagine, just 150 years ago, Poles, Germans, Russians and Jews were living peacefully together in one city The beauty and advantages of Lodz cannot be discovered at first sight. It is yours to discover. Page 3 of 8

4 2 Application 2.1 Application & Learning Agreement Do not give up! It is a long way until you finally get the confirmation, but it is worth the effort fighting around with bureaucracy and the official procedures. You have to find information about the host institution and whether you can attend the lectures offered in order to know if this is even the appropriate university to attend. Compare those lectures to the lectures you would have to attend at your home university during your absence and fill out the learning agreement. 2.2 Insurance For the duration of your stay at the TUL you are obliged to provide yourself with proper health, liability and accident insurance. 2.3 Accommodation The student dormitories are located on campus, so it is always only a short walk (5-10 min) to the lectures. As accommodation in dormitories is limited, it is necessary to notify the International Office in advance that you intend to stay at the student housing. I recommend staying at the all-purpose dormitories. It is cheap (less than 300 PLN, circa 75 Euros), and it is on campus, so everything is very close and it is only four tram stations to the city centre. There are student pubs and clubs in and around the dormitory buildings. A typical Polish market, supermarkets, 24h shops and restaurants are all nearby. Page 4 of 8

5 3 Studying in Lodz 3.1 Getting to Lodz The easiest and cheapest way is to fly to Warsaw and then take the bus (Polski Express) or get a connecting flight to Lodz. Some airlines already fly directly to Lodz, just check on the internet. 3.2 European Youth Exchange The University is strongly supported by the students from the European Youth Exchange (EYE) organization as far as assistance to international students is concerned. The EYE students will help you to find your way around the university. If you wish, they will also pick you up when you arrive in Lodz (please see the arrival form). 3.3 Student Life at TUL You will receive a student card, which gives you discounts on public transport (even on trains & busses), museums, theatres, free entrance to student clubs, access to the University Library and computer laboratory (which is also open on the weekends). The canteen offers simple but good meals at a very reasonable price (less than 7 PLN, less than 2 Euros) every day. But there are also small restaurants around the campus offering meals at ca. 8 PLN (ca. 2 Euros). Now for the more interesting topics: I attended every lecture and laboratory and it is good to do so, because you will already be halfway prepared for the exams and avoid the need for hectic studying at the end. But as soon as the official part of the day was over, I continued to explore the city, visited pubs and clubs. Every night there are parties somewhere and there is always something going on. I also spent a lot of time on my corridor partying with my Polish friends from the dormitory. The international students were also invited to join an indoor football league. It was a weekly highlight to play football on Wednesdays against other student teams. Other than that, I went climbing in a climbing hall and jogging in nearby parks. 3.4 Lectures & Laboratories Most subjects are divided into a theoretical part (lecture) and a practical part (laboratory or tutorial). Only the practical part is mandatory, but without visiting lectures it would have been very hard to follow the laboratories in most cases. Moreover a free Polish language course is offered twice a week, which I recommend attending, because the faster and better you learn Polish, the more friends you will make in Poland. It is not an easy language, but showing that you try to learn and speak Polish will make everything much easier and your Polish friends will support you. Lecturers usually have a slight eastern European accent; some even a strong accent, but never mind! You will get used to it! Honestly, what person speaks clean and clear English? Not even native speakers! (Imagine a person from the southern part of the USA and a Scottish person trying to communicate in the same language). Speaking of languages, I also recommend attending the free Polish language course. English is mostly spoken by the younger people and even then you will encounter difficulty communicating. So learning Polish will be a real advantage. But I came to Poland only knowing a few sentences and it was not a problem, so do not be afraid of being unable to speak Polish in the beginning. Page 5 of 8

6 If lectures are cancelled, it is usually posted in the News section on I am studying International Business Information Technology and could choose from a wide range of lectures held in English in order to cover the required subjects from my home university. The educational level of the lectures is comparable to lectures in Germany. All my lectures and results were acknowledged and I could continue studying without having to make up for any exams. 3.5 Contacts International Faculty of Engineering (IFE) office: Telephone: English: Mrs. M. Swit ( ) French: Mrs. Lhomme ( ) EYE students: 3.6 Traveling & university organized trips Poland is a very beautiful country and you should use your weekends for traveling to the countryside, for example the Tatra Mountains or to the Masurian Lake District and its breathtaking scenery. Always worth a visit is also Krakow, Wroclaw/Breslau, Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk Moreover, the university offers organized trips which you should always consider taking part in. I especially recommend the Lodz city tour and the Tatra integration trip. Those trips are a great opportunity to get to know Poland and other (international) students at a very reasonable price. At one organized trip I took a scenic picture that later made the 4 th place at the photo contest Poland in the Erasmus Eyes hosted by the University of Lodz. 3.7 Links International Faculty of Engineering (IFE) (check the button International Relations / Guide for incoming students) information for incoming students, including city map official website of the Technical University of Lodz city of Lodz Lodz public transport TUL campus map Page 6 of 8

7 4 Resume Unfortunately my flight from Munich to Warsaw was delayed and in the end I was lucky that my flight from Warsaw to Lodz was even more delayed. Nevertheless I was picked up from the airport in Lodz by a patient and very nice TUL student, who gave me a warm welcome and helped me through the first rough hours as well as throughout my whole stay. After moving into my dormitory room with a French guy who was also on the plane to Lodz, we both made friends with the people on our corridor and were given another warm welcome and introduction to Polish (drinking) culture. For Poles, hospitality is very important and should also be treated with respect by the guest. The host s most feared scenario would be that there is not enough to eat and drink. So usually there is plenty of food and beverages. Comparing the parties between German and Polish student clubs, there is not really a difference simple furnishings, reasonable prices and the suitable student atmosphere. But as soon as you invite a girl to a better restaurant or café, you will feel as though you were in the days when the textile factories in Lodz were still running. You should be very polite and check the woman s coat first. The waiter will only ask the man what the two of you would like to order and you as the gentleman will be asked to pay the bill. Of course you can share the bill; however this should be discussed before you enter the restaurant or café. During the first few days, I spent them mostly walking around the city, discovering my new temporary home and getting to know the Polish culture and way of life. In general the Erasmus/Socrates student life is quite relaxed but the difficulty level of the exams should not be underestimated. The lecturers and other academic staff were always friendly, very cooperative and flexible. Due to the fact that I am studying at a cooperative university and had to get back to work, I could not stay the whole semester and left five weeks earlier. It was not a problem to do some extra project work in order to finish early. Some of my courses finished early anyway, so this came in quite handy. But in the end, it was a lot of work. I also received a lot of support from the students also attending my lectures concerning university issues as well as private issues. Once a year, an Erasmus Day is held at TUL. Most of the partner countries and universities are presented, former Polish Erasmus students give talks about their experience abroad and current foreign Erasmus students give talks about their home universities and their experience in Lodz. Of course I was presenting about the University of Cooperative Education in Mannheim and my adventures in Poland thus far. Just a few weeks later, I was asked to present some of my experiences to the student union of my university at an international student union conference. The aim of this conference was mainly to improve the situation for handicapped people at universities and the organization of other student unions. They were surprised, how democratic student unions are organized in Germany and how much influence they have at their university. So you can see, pretty quickly I became somewhat well known at the Technical University of Lodz. As time went on, I got to know the other students in my lectures and made great friends. I am very happy to say that I am still in close contact with my Polish friends and I am looking forward to my next trip to Poland to visit all my friends there. I was invited to private parties, which were very different from the parties in pubs, clubs and even the parties in the dormitory. At one private party suddenly all the people around the table started talking in English, just so I could take part in their discussion. I felt extraordinary respected and integrated. What I noticed first besides the warm welcoming was that things generally take longer, for example, driving in a car or taking a train to another city. Page 7 of 8

8 You might have noticed that my report states a very positive view on Lodz and Poland, but there were also some major difficulties I encountered during my journey. For example, I was transferring money from my German bank account to my newly opened Polish bank account. First of all, the money transfer was delayed by one week (for unknown reasons) at my home bank and then they sent 5500 Euros (ca PLN) instead of 5500 PLN. So I had some discussions with my bank in Lodz. Unfortunately only very few employees were able to speak English. Also my family had some discussions with my bank at home and they admitted it was their fault and solved the situation in a customer-friendly way for me. But the delay still caused me difficulty, in that I barely had enough money for food for about a week. The second crazy adventure involved the time when the regional train I was taking to catch an express train in another city broke down in the middle of nowhere. We were standing for two hours in the freezing cold without any heating or movement of the broken train and had to wait to be pulled to the next station some kilometers away. Of course I missed my connecting train and had to wait half a day for the evening train. Luckily I met some nice people, who were experiencing the same problem. Being lost in the countryside, where usually only Polish is spoken, can turn out be a big dilemma. In the end, I arrived safe and sound a day later. In the near future for Poland, investments into infrastructure will be necessary to continue the economic growth of the country and boost the wealth of the people. On the other hand, you can already see modern shopping malls not any different from Western Europe or the USA. You can buy the same products as in any other Western country. There are still many poor people, e.g. farmers who only produce enough to live on themselves. Nevertheless, there is an increasing number of people that can be counted among the middle class and you will notice that especially women are always clothed very neatly and men always wear a dress shirt. All in all, I think Poland is a country of great opportunities, but it will take many years until the prejudices between Germans and Poles (and vice versa) will be overcome. So this student exchange program is a good way for Europe to begin to take strides toward unification. Page 8 of 8

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