My name is Romain Pimoulle. I’m 21 years old and I come from Le Havre, France. I’ve been studying for one semester in the Institute of English Studies, at Uniwersytet Warszawski.
When I first got involved in the Erasmus+ programme application, I was offered the opportunity to travel in countries belonging to the United Kingdom, and to Central Europe, for the most. As I live along the Channel, it wouldn’t be a tough task for me to travel to England or Ireland. It wouldn’t matter to fit in an English-speaking country either. I was eager to challenge myself and cross further boundaries, be they geographical and cultural. And Poland, as being located at the crossroad of Europe, appeared an obvious choice for me discovery-wise.
The Polish society is amazing, regarding the contradiction that characterizes it. The historical events that marked the country created a constant contrast between time and space. As you walk the streets of Warsaw’s downtown, you find yourself dominated by the giant skyscrapers of the business neighborhoods, symbols of the market economy’s triumph over the communistic era, whose remnants still survive in the architecture as well. If you take a careful look at some corners, some old dwellings from the soviet period are still holding their own indeed, in addition to some pieces of architectural works. Yet, on another scale, if Warsaw’s architectural patrimony is almost only reflecting the World War II aftermath, you can visit cities such as Krakow which, on the contrary, was spared by the bombs and can testify from an even more ancient age of Poland.
But it’s not only about architectures. I somehow noticed a generation gap between Polish people themselves, which is sharply marked by history as well. You will have no problem befriending with young people in their twenties-thirties, who almost all master the English language perfectly, and are usually opened on the world and the international community. However, some old people, especially those who are old enough to have witnessed the whole USSR occupation, and even the German occupation, might prove more reluctant to the idea of welcoming strangers, but this is understandable, if you take into account the trauma that Poland has underwent during the 20th century. I highly recommend to attend Polish classes, as a matter of integration and to feel more comfortable on a daily basis, in your interactions with the locals.
Did you have any expectations before coming to Poland for Erasmus Program?
This is reasonable and normal to have made-up ideas when you’re about to live in a foreign countries for six months or more. I had some expectations as for the ability to make friends pretty quickly. I thought that, being caught into the Erasmus phenomenon, it would have been automatic to meet the right people at the very beginning of the stay. Still, it took longer than expected, and at the beginning it made me very anxious, because you instinctively need to get attached to something, as you lose touch with your home country (at least physically). But I let time flow, and tried my best to take advantage of the events organized by the Erasmus Student Network, and after some time luck made its way, and I met the very friends I spent all the semester with on the same evening.
What are your food and drinks recommendations?
If you want to have a good insight of Polish beverages, I would like to recommend you to avoid the basic industrial beers that are proposed in a lot of bars in Poland (such as Zywiec and Tyskie) and try the numerous crafted beer pubs that are available in most cities and who are serving really good products. As for Warsaw, my top recommendation is Jabeerwocky and Beerokracja. Poland is also a traditional producer of Mead (which you can find in most shops under the name “Dwojniak” or “Trojniak”). This is a drink made out of honey, is strong as wine and is really pleasant. I also particularly appreciate the herbal vodkas, such as Zoladkowa or Zubrowka, easier to drink than the white ones.
You won’t avoid eating the various forms of pierogis (dumplings) proposed in Polish restaurants, as well as the traditional Polish sour soup, the Zyrek. Don’t miss an opportunity to taste Golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls) or Bigos (dish made out of cabbage, mushrooms and different sorts of sausages), especially if it’s home made.
Where did you stay?
My housing was really convenient, first of all thanks to the location. It’s not in the very center of the city, but it’s not far from the downtown either. There are really good connections to almost every district of the western part of the city, but the street is also bordering the river, so it’s also really easy to get on the other side, in Praga district. The neighbourhood in itself is really pleasant; it’s located in the greenest area of Warsaw’s city center (up the street is the entrance of Lazienki Park) and it’s also the ambassies’ neighbourhood, so it’s really safe.
My Erasmus term in Poland was a success. The classes given at the University of the Warsaw are good for the most, but this was not the most important point of my stay. I got absorbed by a wonderful social experience allowed by that concept of gathering people from all around the world in a zone that is on the first hand neutral for them, and on the other hand an open-gate to explore together a unknown cultural landscape. Something really interesting with befriending with Erasmus people is that the necessity of speaking English most of the time places everyone on an equal status, you can hardly assert your cultural identity because you can’t use the nuances of your mother tongue for that, so you end up having a total free and open relationship with all those people. And I also had the chance to relate closely to a couple of Poles who allowed me to have a clear and realistic perception of the Polish spirit and culture. This was really important for me to manage to integrate more thoroughly into the Polish society, and I think it’s the minimum you can do when you are welcomed in a foreign country. This time here in Poland has deeply changed me, and allowed to evolve as a person.