Photo: Palace of Culture and Science from Centrum Metro Station
While deciding on an exchange program destination, I realized many students would immediately consider countries that are typical “vacation” destinations. Cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Dublin are a few of the cities I heard my classmates consider first. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these amazing cities and if you have your heart set on a “vacation” city, by all means, go for it. However, I decided to go a different route and couldn’t be happier about the way it turned out. I’ll go through several of the advantages I experienced by spending my exchange in Warsaw, Poland, advantages that you may have not thought of.
Firstly, while Poland isn’t a popular destination for American exchange students, it is for European students. So, I ended up being surrounded by dozens of European cultures, and I met very few Americans while I was overseas. It made the cultural experience that much more amazing. Not only has it made me so excited to go back to Europe, but now I have friends to show me around in The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and even Australia! It gets really easy to stick with the classmates of your own nationality, so going somewhere with no other Americans does nothing but enhance the experience.
Secondly, the cost of living is ridiculously low compared to the “vacation” cities. I would constantly hear about students studying in more expensive parts of Europe and how they would run through their scholarship money and how tight their budget would be. By choosing Warsaw, I essentially had no budget and my Erasmus+ scholarship was enough to cover almost the entire exchange period. I never felt like had to miss out of anything for financial reasons, and I was never stressed about running out of money.
Third, because of the amount of money I was saving coupled with the location of Poland in central Europe, I was able to travel a lot! I was able to visit far more “vacation” cities because I wasn’t living in one. I went to Brussels, Bruges, Rome, Athens, Krakow, Prague, and Copenhagen. The only reason there was room in the budget for all of those adventures is because I spent next to nothing in my daily routine.
I was able to enjoy all of these advantages without sacrificing any of the fun or experiences. The nightlife was incredible in Warsaw and there were plenty of cultural and historical sights to see. And best of all, I had an incredible mixed bag of cultures to experience it all with.
If you are still undecided on where to spend your exchange, I urge you to consider these thoughts while looking through your options. If you’re still trying to decide on whether or not to study abroad, I whole-heartedly encourage you to do it, and to do it as soon as you can. It changed my life and I’ll hang on to the memories forever.
– Joshua Duffy, exchange program, Kozminski University, Fall 2017