Jerry - Warsaw School of Economics

B. Civil Engineering / Commerce
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

In Warsaw School of Economics, a full load equates to around 10 subjects, each worth around 3 ECTS. Don't let that scare you, however, as each subject only requires a 2-hour lecture each week, so the total amount of contact hours should be quite similar to a full-time load at UQ. Furthermore, the subjects themselves are tailored to students of Erasmus and exchange programs, which means that the examinations and assessments are at an easier level than those that regular students have to do. The professors are mostly quite approachable, and most have practical real-world experience that extends beyond their field of expertise and are quite willing to exchange stories and experiences with you. 

However, the university itself is not very organized in terms of subjects, as the subjects offered in the information material will not all be offered during the semester. UQ recommends having around double the ECTS approved, but for this particular university, I'd recommend getting as many approved as possible (3x-4x the required). There is also no online lecture recordings and the IT system used by the university could be a relic straight out of Soviet times.

Personal experience

I didn't travel much beyond Poland during the semester, but I did go on several trips organized by Erasmus Student Network. If I could make a recommendation, make friends with the locals and visit their hometowns. Most of them are very eager to introduce their homes and towns to visitors, and also show you their homemade vodkas. It's not always easy to make friends, and most people settle into groups divided by language and culture, but it's worth it to try and get to know everyone throughout the semester. 

Polish is hard, and trying to pronounce things usually ends up with you insulting someone or saying something stupid, but that's a part of the exchange. I'd soon come to learn that most people are very forgiving and understand that their language is difficult, and will actually embrace you for even trying.

Accommodation

I lived in the student dorm Sabinki. The rooms given to us was twin shared rooms, and quite different to the single rooms in UQ dormitories. Most of the people who stayed in the dorm are Ukrainians or Belorussians and tend to be a little cold at the start. Don't worry, they become much more friendly once you've had a few drinks with them. I thoroughly recommend staying on campus, as you end up much closer to people if you can randomly go into their rooms at 3 in the morning and chat all night with them. Another positive about staying in Sabinki is that each week, there is almost always a party organized inside the building, and that is a great way to meet people both on exchange and the locals. 

Sharing a room with someone does have its difficulties, however. Personal space? Forget about it, and there are some people who did not even know the names of the people they stayed with throughout the entire semester. Who is in your room is a complete luck of the draw, and if you get someone difficult, staying with them for an entire semester could be a struggle.

Budget

The dormitory cost $500 for the entire semester, and in total, including travelling in Europe (but excluding the initial airfares), I spent around $5500. I only cooked once a week, and the rest of the time, it's usually going out for lunch and dinner, and the limiting factor on alcohol consumption was my liver and not my wallet. I'd recommend Poland for your exchange, if simply for the fact that you can do whatever you want and not have to worry about the budget as you would in Western Europe. If you receive Centrelink allowance, the money supplied by the government is more than enough for you to live very comfortably on your exchange.

Professional development and employability

I lived in the student dorm Sabinki. The rooms given to us was twin shared rooms, and quite different to the single rooms in UQ dormitories. Most of the people who stayed in the dorm are Ukrainians or Belorussians and tend to be a little cold at the start. Don't worry, they become much more friendly once you've had a few drinks with them. I thoroughly recommend staying on campus, as you end up much closer to people if you can randomly go into their rooms at 3 in the morning and chat all night with them. Another positive about staying in Sabinki is that each week, there is almost always a party organized inside the building, and that is a great way to meet people both on exchange and the locals. 

Sharing a room with someone does have its difficulties, however. Personal space? Forget about it, and there are some people who did not even know the names of the people they stayed with throughout the entire semester. Who is in your room is a complete luck of the draw, and if you get someone difficult, staying with them for an entire semester could be a struggle.

Highlight

Traditional Polish dress!
Traditional Polish dress!

There were so many highlights to the trip, but if you are in Warsaw, there's a bar called Czupito, where you can attempt to drink 10 shots as quickly as you can, and if you do it within around 20 seconds, they will put your name on a board. 

The ESN trips they organize for you are great, you get to visit old cities and truly get to know your colleagues with a bottle of vodka on the side. Do visit Northern Finland or Iceland in the winter, auroras are a breathtaking sight, and all of the Erasmus organized events are fantastic. 

Top tips

  • Just do it! 
  • Whether Warsaw is for you depends on what you want out of your exchange. If you'd like to go to a world-renowned institution to study, then Warsaw is probably not for you. If you'd like to get to know a severely underrated culture, meet the most fantastic exchange people and locals, do everything without breaking the bank and be a short plane ride away from the beautiful Baltic countries, Balkans, Western Europe, Arctic circle and the Mediterranean, then you won't regret going to Warsaw.
  • You'll learn to live and love Club Park on Wednesdays. $3.50 all you can drink beer.
Jerry - Warsaw School of Economics