And that is exactly what my AIESEC exchange experience gave me.
After almost 10 months of living on my own, teaching Polish kids and adults how to speak English, partying almost every night and meeting Erasmus exchange students from all over Europe, I can say that I am now a more independent person because of my AIESEC experience. I left on September 2008 without knowing anything about Poland, and came back with a foreign language in my mind.
I arrived in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, with a piece of paper including the instructions as to how to get to the train station to travel another 100 kms to the town of Radom ALONE. It was like travelling from Manila to Tarlac – but way different. Why? Because all the words around me were purely alien language. How can I be able to read words with only consonants such as barszcz? Or weird letters with lines and dots like ł ń ó ś ę ą . It was madness.
But everything paid off. I didn’t expect that in 10 months, I would make great friends who always got my back. I got myself friends from Turkey, France, Portugal, Spain and many others. I traveled to Kraków and all the way to Auschwitz and knew what really happened inside Hitler’s concentration camps. I went to Gdańsk to swim in the cold Baltic Sea, where the water was at least 16 degrees Celsius.
The Polish Hospitality
Perhaps one of the most memorable thing for me is when my boss, the owner of the language school where I had my internship, took me as their own daughter. Leaving them was very hard – trust me. I loved my students, and I loved my bosses. They never let me treat them as a boss because they were very kind and loving. They made Poland truly a second home for me.
I therefore conclude that the Poland is NOT all about vodka. Of course, Polish vodka is perhaps one of the best but their food is simply awesome. Pierogi (dumplings), Barszcz Czerwony (red beet soup), Kopytka (potato somethings) and my all-time favorite – KIEŁBASA (sausages). These are the things to blame as to why I gained so much weight when I went home in July 2009.
As an intern, I had to teach adults and kids how to speak English. It wasn’t very hard with the adults, but the kids and the teenagers required me to speak Polish in as little as 2 months. It was quite bothersome to bring a dictionary and translate everything right there and then. In additions, teenagers have this habit of translating different things whenever I make an activity for them to translate English sentences to Polish. Plus the little kids only know basic English, so I did my work and studied on my own.
The internship was very memorable. It’s quite touching to hear those kids ask me as to whether I’d be their teacher again. Or when they made this sad face when I said that I wouldn’t be able to be their teacher for the next coming years. They made sure that they added me in NK.pl, the Polish version of Facebook, so they can write to me from time to time.
Having a Polish roommate was a blessing. We conversed in Polish so I can say that I really learned hands-on and not by the books. My friends were very supportive, as well, because they sometimes quiz me on new words I have learned. My ultimate test was one time when we went out, and they didn’t want to speak in English – only in Polish. Nevertheless, I survived – and understood.
Jerick’s Visit to Poland
Meeting another intern in Europe was amazing. But if that Europe is your highschool friend whom you’ve known for the past 8 years, it just simply doubles the emotion.
My VP outgoing exchange back then was Jerick Parrone, who was also having his internship in Belgium. One long weekend in May 2009, he decided to fly to Poland to visit me. I took him to Kraków again, then to Auschwitz, where there was an AIESEC weekend for all interns in Poland. We both got to know new friends, and partied hard – a truly crazy experience for two Filipino interns in Europe.
AIESEC made me realize that there is a whole different world outside of our country, and that you too, can learn life’s lessons when you learn to be on your own without anybody to depend on. If people would ask me as to the greatest things that my AIESEC internship in Poland gave me, I would always tell them about my Polish family, my Polish friends and my rather good Polish language. It’s something that only an international internship can give you, and AIESEC is definitely there to bring it closer to you.
As the Polish loves to say it instead of cheers: Na zdrowie!
Kristine had her educational traineeship in Filadelfia Centrum Języków Obcych in Radom, Poland from September 2008 to July 2009. She graduated with a degree in AB Communication Arts from the University of Santo Tomas, and is currently taking up a Juris Doctor program in the Ateneo Law School. Should you wish to ask more questions about her internship and Poland, or if you want to learn some Polish words and phrases, kindly drop an email at babykrz[at]gmail[dot]com.