Let our Warsaw students let you know what to expect when arriving to Warsaw! Heading abroad is always a big step and can feel exciting or overwhelming – or both. Learn from the experience of others and hit the ground running!
How did you feel when you first arrived?
Eric Nesbitt (Fall, 2019): Eric Nesbitt: I remember when the pilot said we are beginning our descent into Warsaw and can see the city to our left my eyes shot out the window. With my first glimpse at the city, I noticed straight away the Palace of Culture and Science – my home for the next five months. When my flight from Paris to Warsaw touched down at Chopin airport I was excited to be in a brand new place and start my study abroad program. On the intercom over the plane though, I heard my first native Polish and got this wide eyed stare and felt completely lost. It was a language I had never before heard and couldn’t tell when one word ended and another one started. Luckily it was repeated in english and all the signage throughout the airport was both in Polish and English.
Meghan Lovett (Summer, 2019): I was nervous because my original plan had fallen through. I had a day layover in Chicago. Which was a great bonus trip, but moved around my plans. Once I got my baggage, I went to get a taxi. As soon as I walked out I was asked if I needed one and was then shuffled to a car. The hotel room provided by the program was extremely nice. My room had two twin beds and a little terrace. I was very nervous that no one would understand me and that English wasn’t very well known here, but everyone I’ve spoken to knows at least a little English so that worked out super well!
Allie Schauer (Summer, 2019): Any exhaustion I felt immediately left me as Warsaw came into view from the plane. I was excited for all the people and places I’m going to meet and see, all the history and cultural pieces I’m going to learn about. I was nervous about my language skills, even though I’ve been studying Polish for the past three years. Overall, my general mood was one of readiness: readiness to get off the plane and explore what will be my home for the next couple months.
How did things go at the airport?
Eric Nesbitt (Fall, 2019): The airport process for landing in Warsaw was fairly easy compared to some other major airports in Europe. After the plane landed I went straight to baggage and waited about 20 minutes for my luggage to come out. Once it did, I went through the ‘nothing to declare’ line and did not have to have my passport checked since I was coming from inside the Schengen Region. Once I exited, Damian, my contact from Collegium Civitas was waiting right there for me and greeted me.
Meghan Lovett (Summer, 2019): Passport Control in Warsaw took all of five minutes. It was no problem at all. When in London, I was told they couldn’t find my luggage. So I was relieved when my bag made it to Warsaw. For new students, I would recommend using a luggage strap or purchasing a bright colored bag to distinguish your bag from all the others. I did not meet with an SRAS contact until the next day. Although a meeting was scheduled the day prior, my layover prevented me from attending. I met with an advisor from my school, Agnes. She gave me the orientation materials that I needed and the next day went with me to T-Mobile to get a SIM card for my phone.
Allie Schauer (Summer, 2019): I flew into Warsaw a couple days before SRAS began running pick ups, so I was on my own. While a little intimidating because of the language gap – I didn’t have all the vocabulary used in airports or in relation to transportation specifics readily available in my mind in either German or Polish – I was able to get through customs in Munich and the airport in Warsaw without a hitch.
How was the transfer to and arrival to the city?
Eric Nesbitt (Fall, 2019): My first impression of the city was that it was unlike any place I have been in the United States or anywhere in western Europe. My first nights accommodation was actually in an airbnb in communist block style living. I just needed to spend the night there until I could move into my apartment in the city centre the next day. Moving into the apartment was a little tricky because I had to explain to the portier (who only spoke Polish) who I was and what I was doing here. Google translate was my savior here! Although I could have called my landlord if I was not able to get in. It took a couple days to adjust to the new place but now I have really come to like it.
Meghan Lovett (Summer, 2019): I slept the entire flight from London to Warsaw, so I didn’t really see anything from the windows. The airport was quite empty so I assumed my flight came in at an uncommon time, so I didn’t see much until I got in the taxi. The city was much less foreign than I thought that it would be. Without the language difference this could be another big city in the states. It’s very comfortable, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by any differences. My roommate texted me while I was in Chicago and asked where I was, she said she would wait for me at the hotel. So I was comforted that I would have someone there when I arrived. She ended up being one of the best roommates I’ve had.
Allie Schauer (Summer, 2019): I took a taxi from the airport to the hostel I was staying at before connecting with SRAS. This was my first time to test out my Polish language skills in real time, and though I made plenty of mistakes, the driver was extremely patient with me and I felt comfortable enough to continue trying. The driver was playing 80s pop on the radio; there was something about the groovy tunes of Abba and Madonna that just felt right for my first drive through the city. The mixed architectural styles, from gothic to brutalist to neoclassical and everything in between, and bright street art immediately caught my eye. The hostel I was staying in was on the fifth floor of an apartment building just south of the downtown area. It was the perfect place for me to start exploring the city by foot – I walked a little over 25 miles my first two days just trying to take in everything in the area! When I connected with SRAS on my third day, getting settled and ready for the rest of the summer was extremely easy and stress-free.
How was your orientation?
Eric Nesbitt (Fall, 2019): Orientation was adequate. I say this because there were a couple pieces of information that were not well explained and are still a little confusing. Class schedule for example I’m still a little unsure about, and I do not know exactly who to ask at the university for help. The one group that has helped a TON is the main student club at Collegium Civitas. They have done a great job helping myself meet all the other international students and Polish students too. They also paired me up with a buddy to help me with any questions I have about Warsaw.
Meghan Lovett (Summer, 2019): So my orientation was rocky. No one really explained anything to me, so I was just winging it, to say the least. The basics were easy to figure out, most things are done the same in the states as they are here. However, I feel as though it should be mentioned that Warsaw has underground walkways. No one told me that, so on the first day of class, I ended up running across the street, and no one told me the room number of my class so I was wandering around the floors panicking because I was 20 minutes late. I finally found the reception desk, at which the lady behind the countered took me to my class. The professor was very forgiving as well.
Allie Schauer (Summer, 2019): Orientation went really well and left me feeling more comfortable about taking care of my business in Warsaw. We were given some tips and tricks about maneuvering around the city and given our full syllabus so that we could plan our own outings in unscheduled times.
How was registration and starting classes?
Eric Nesbitt (Summer, 2019): Registering for classes seemed daunting, especially because I was travelling around Europe when the window for registering for classes was taking place. The instructions they provided though were clear for me to register for the necessary classes. Registering was all in English which was extremely helpful and the people responsible for helping register for classes were very quick to respond to emails about how to register. Right now I have started about half of my classes and they are good. The most challenging part has been finding out when and where they are. Other than that they have been interesting and I am looking forward to the other ones.
Meghan Lovett (Summer, 2019): I applied for a Maymester through my university. Then I applied for an extension. The SRAS application and payment process was straightforward and I had completed it quickly. They are also kind enough to give out scholarships.
Allie Schauer (Summer, 2019): Class registration took place in the application process, so getting to the school and our proper classes was not difficult once in Warsaw. The classes are extremely engaging and interesting, and we have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and add to conversations. Our language abilities were not tested, but we were offered several “survival Polish” classes to make sure everyone had a base-level understanding of words and phrases commonly used in Poland.
Having gone through all this, how do you feel?
Eric Nesbitt (Fall, 2019): For the first couple days here in Warsaw, I felt like a fish out of water. As I said before, it was unlike any other place I have been in my life. So taking those first couple days to settle into my surroundings was quite important. After going through exploring the city, moving into my flat, figuring out class and adjusting to the culture, I feel like I have grown much more. I think initially I wanted to blend in with everyone, and because I couldn’t I spent a lot of time in my room. After meeting other students though and realizing that, while I will never be a local native, that does not mean I can’t embrace and enjoy the culture as much as possible while I am here.
Meghan Lovett (Summer, 2019): I feel much better after my first couple of days. The city is easy to get around, especially with the metro here. Everyone is nice here. Not just at the college but the whole city is very nice.
Allie Schauer (Summer, 2019): Now that classes have started and we are fully settled, I feel even more excited for the rest of the summer! I look forward to delving more into the Polish language and culture here in Warsaw and am excited for everything I’ll learn in the classes.