Pa pa, Polska!
It’s the night before I leave Krakow and finish up my exchange experience. Obviously it’s time for a quick reflection.
I didn’t enjoy the university aspect of exchange much, I’ll be honest. I got through two subjects without reading a single academic article or piece of writing – I managed to write entire presentations and exams using Wikipedia and lecture notes alone. And to me, that is a complete joke and should never happen. Other classes I didn’t even bother turning up to because they were boring, because no one did the readings, because no one took attendance and it wasn’t mandatory and I didn’t feel obliged to sit through two hours of an old, fat jolly man enjoying the sound of his own voice while really teaching nothing we couldn’t really in a Norman Davies book.
And because I didn’t get the classes I’d organised to enrol in before I left Australia, my timetable ended up being five days a week, with the one class that attendance was taken for – Polish – being on Mondays and Fridays. No weekends away for me, really, I just skipped a couple of classes here and there but at the end of the day, I had to study and I had to pass. And again, it wasn’t terribly fun and sometimes I feel like I almost wasted my time here because I’ve only been to 6 countries, including Poland.
But 6 countries is still a lot more than a lot of other 20-year-olds I know at home have seen. How many 20-year-old Aussies can say they’ve hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, have best friends in Hungary and Slovenia, touched the Berlin Wall, seen Manchester United play at Old Trafford, enjoyed the charm of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan or – more to the point – managed to stumble through four months of living in a still somewhat developing post-communist country where they didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and had never been to before?
Not a bad effort, in my books. I wouldn’t come back to Poland to study again, and I don’t know if I’d come here to work in anything other than an EU-sponsored or funded job because organisation and bureaucracy is terrible here. But I hope there’s an infinite amount of visits to this incredible city in my future.
Thank you for your honest reflection on your exchange experience. So in the balance- it seems it was more than worth doing even if the academic experience was frankly unexciting, in your book. I wonder how this will influence your approach to your studies when you go back. I hope you get the chance to share with fellow Oz students back home your perception of the value of the Oz uni way of doing things (death to Wikipeida and plagiarism!) and maybe to reflect on the differences. There has to be SOME point to the Polish way of teaching – why do you think they approach things as they do? Did you have any particular expectations about study in Poland before you went or was study a kind of ‘given’ and the experience itself more the focus? Sorry, this is turning into an inquisition – I am just really interested in your reflections on your academic experience
You are right – your experiences have made you a very different 20 year old to the person you were before you left. Let us know how that feels once you’re back home.
February 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm
I don’t think I really got the ‘Polish’ way of teaching – because all my subjects were in English, my subjects were basically entirely created for foreign students and not really for Polish students. There were one or two Poles in a couple of my classes, but by and large it was all masters degree students from other countries or Erasmus students.
I guess perhaps the rationale was just to make it easy for everyone involved – lecturers don’t have to spend too much time marking really dense and complex work from foreigners and can focus on their domestic students who are here for a whole degree, and students don’t have to put much effort in and can focus on going out drinking or travelling or whatever else they want to do, so they won’t really say a bad word about the university when they have a cruisy time.
I thought it would be at least a little bit similar to Australia – I thought all subjects would demand at least one piece of properly researched & cited work, because I thought that would be the case anywhere I went. I thought the idea of research and inquiry being integral to academia was a fairly universal thing. But again, maybe exchange students are treated a little bit differently.
February 13, 2011 at 5:11 am