Ethan McLaughlin, Study Abroad in Warsaw

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE:

I studied at the University of Warsaw which is one of about five universities based in the Polish capital.  As an International Politics and Conflict studies student I was attracted to the university’s political science department, but one of the best things about the Erasmus programme is that it gave me the freedom to select courses across the university. 

I selected classes that were taught in English and I was able to take classes that were both designated to Erasmus students and classes with fellow Polish students, which allowed me to have the true experience of being at a Polish university. It also allowed me to be part of multicultural, multinational discussions on topics like nationalism. 

I managed to meet friends and get to know people through events and trips organised by the European Student Network.  Through Facebook, I found a discussion group which met once a week at local coffee shops. That was a great way of meeting people with very interesting stories and I started to contribute to discussions.  I was able to attend lots of events through my internship at the European Centre for Diplomacy and Peace.  I travelled and visited five major cities in Poland. I also went to Prague and Oslo. 

How did you cope with having no prior knowledge of the Polish language? 

Many of my classmates on Erasmus where also non-Polish speakers, so I didn’t feel like I was on my own. The European student network ran classes on Polish, which really helped me to not only learn some basics but to get to know Polish students in the society. It was great to meet Polish students, because for many of them it was the first time they had met a British student. 

How has your time abroad benefitted you:

It has definitely made more employable, as I now have experience of working for an international organisation like the European Centre for Diplomacy and Peace. It also provided me with the opportunity to make friends with people from Kazakhstan to Belgium and many more. Through these friendships, I will have the opportunity to visit new countries, to see if I could see myself living there in the future.  

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Whilst it was often extremely difficult, it is definitely something I would happily do again. It made me a lot more confident because it showed me that I can move to a new country where I didn’t know anyone and thrive. 

My Erasmus experience was amazing for so many reasons. Not only does it help you to grow up as a young adult living in a different country,  it also gives you the opportunity to grow as a person, make friends, and become more cultural aware of the amazingly diverse continent Europe is. 

What are your top tips for anyone else considering studying abroad with Erasmus?

  • When choosing a place, don’t be put off by not knowing the language. If your university encourages you to go, then they believe you will be able to do well. 
  • Be adaptable – there will be times when things will go wrong and you need to prepared for that
  • Do as much research as you can before you leave – it can help to you feel more settled when you arrive if you already know what student clubs you would like to join or where the cheap bookstore is, etc.
  • If possible, sign up to be a part of a mentoring scheme with local students. It really helped me gain an understanding of my new home and provided me with a possible base of friends.