Coming here to Poland was a big step in my life, I was leaving my family, my friends, my home and my comfort zone. I applied for exchange in March last year and then I waited with a lot of excitement for August to arrive. Over the summer I lived at my grandmother’s home in Dalvík, working in a gas station. Summer passed fast, before I knew it was the middle of August and time to leave this island. After spending my last days with loved once and enjoying using my driving license I left.
Arriving to the camp in Kraków and finally being in Poland was a weird feeling. I knew I was going to be staying here for 10 months, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was really hot (for me) and then I met all the other amazing students and had a great time there. After the camp the big moment arrived and I was going to go to Warsaw, meet my family and then start school all in a span of two weeks. I had spoken a bit with my family before going on skype and knew what I was expecting. My family was really happy and excited to meet me and they gave me a great room and took really good care of me.
Coming from a town of 18.000 inhabitants to the big city of Warsaw was a big shock. Every bus was completely full and there were so many. One time I checked how long my bus would take to arrive, google maps said 8 minutes and I text my parents. But then traffic happened! It took me a few weeks to realize that from 15pm to 19pm you don’t make a tight schedule. That day I arrived 50 minutes later.
For the first month I went many times to the grocery store. In Iceland most people are going crazy when a new thing arrives in stores. When I worked in a grocery store I used to see these people rush in and try to get a hold of it, but I am also a part of these people… So, when I came here and everything in the store was completely different. I was in heaven. I had to try it all!! For the first weeks I really enjoyed going to the store. Also, just for looking at the prices and comparing it to Icelandic stores and thinking “wow that’s almost free”. But the smell… in the beginning there was this disgusting smell in every single store. And the closer to the back end of the store the worse it got. That’s because in all stores (even really small corner stores) there is always a meat table. There you can find like 40 types of hams and sausages, it’s really a big part of polish food culture. I will save the rest of what they eat for another day.
The first weeks at home you really feel more like a guest, with time that changes though and you feel more like home. The struggle of not knowing how the laundry system works and having to ask where they keep the bed sheets. And there are so many small and just stupid questions that you will face because of differences in culture. Do I eat the soup first? Can I drink water with meals? Can use the shampoo? And the simplest thing is just not be afraid of asking. They will most likely find it funny rather than annoying. But in my case I didn’t really do that. Even though my family was nice to me and I felt safe with them, I had a problem getting along with them like a family. All this takes time and for me quite long.
Anything can happen in exchange. For me the first weeks were hard because we had a family loss in my family in Iceland. I got sick many times and had a problem asking for the things I needed during this time. Also, the school wasn’t so great for me in the beginning (polish school system blog coming soon). So my polish life wasn’t all roses and wine at the start but, number one rule in exchange: Don’t give up!!!
I could talk all day about my first month and all the new thing I saw and the experience I gained. I learned about this new culture, for me some of these things were so interesting and funny. I met so many new people who are now my best friends. The month was really great and hard at the same time, it had it up’s and down’s. What I learned from this month is to not give up even though things get hard. Also to be thankful! If you plan on going on exchange thank your family for everything, for dinner, for allowing you to stay in their house and allowing you to be a part of their family.
Thank for reading
Júlíus Waage z Islandii (program roczny na Polsce 2017/18)