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My name is Dominik Heim. I am a 27 years old German student. My home town is Ingolstadt (Bavaria). Since October 2002 I am studying public administration at Hof in Fachhochschule für öffentliche Verwaltung und Rechtspflege in Bayern. This year (02.02.- 30.04.2004) I took part in a student exchange between my school and Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu w Tarnowie supported by the European Union with the SOKRATES/ERASMUS program.
Many colleagues, friends and relatives asked me before my departure why I chose Poland. Well, this question is justified because there were some destinations, in the view of the questioners more interesting, for example Italy, Iceland, Netherlands and Great Britain.
The main reason for me was, that I had never been in Poland before. I did not know anything about our direct neighbouring country. I never had thought about spending a vacation in Poland. Several countries of the offered destinations I knew from former visits. I would use this chance to get to know a unknown country. The next motive was the language. English was required for Poland. For the other countries good English or the national language was required. Except for my school English, I can not speak any foreign languages. I had supposed that my English was not good, only just sufficient. When my departure was closer and closer, I doubted that my English will be enough.
I was also very curious. Nobody wanted to go to Poland. Why - should it be so unattractive?
My person to turn to, Aleksandra Wazna, received me very warmly when I arrived on 02.02.2004. She was very helpful all the time. She booked my accommodation, she organized meetings with students, she proposed trips to very interesting destinations, got a mechanic when my car was broken down, made a appointment for a visit at the town hall administration and rather a lot more. She did more than her job required. I enjoyed the many conversations with her. It was a good way to improve my spoken English and I could learn a lot about Polish every day life.
I went to school on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and took part in German and English classes. At first I was disappointed, when I heard that there will be only English and German classes for me. I expected that I would took part in law and economic classes which were held in English. But unfortunately, they were only in Polish during my stay. Despite this going to the English and German classes I learned lot more than I thought. Not only to improve my English skills, but I learned some things which related directly to my studies at Hof. A big topic was how to make a speech. I learned something about it at my school last year. I did some practise speeches. It was difficult for me to do this exercises in English. But it was a good way to improve my speaking skills and I can use it for my job.
In German I could learn new things too. It was an experience for me to deal with my native language and it was very interesting to find out how other people learn my language and what they think about Germany.
I liked the atmosphere in the classes. The lecturers created a pleasant atmosphere. In comparison with my classes at home these are very small. At home, we are around 35 students a class. Here are between 5 and 10 students in a group.
I had many possibilities to spend my free time. There is a range of sport offered by the school, for example volleyball, soccer, basketball, aerobic and swimming. I chose swimming. I like swimming very much and the swimming lessons were for me at a convenient time. The members of the swimming team and the instructor were very friendly. I spent many pleasant, sometimes exhausting, hours at the swimming pool. I took part in a swimming competition and did the second place in breaststroke. It was an honour for me to be a member of the school swimming team.
I went to a lot of interesting places for sight-seeing, for example to Szczawnica (walking), Kraków (quite nice old town centre, some museums), Sandomierz (old town centre), Bochnia (salt mine), Nowy Sacz (old town centre), Oswiecim, Wieliczka (salt mine), Dębno (Gothic castle), Brzesko (town centre and German supermarket), Rożnów (lake and surroundings), Czchów (castle ruins), Ujazd (huge castle ruins) and Cieżkowice ('Stone City').
I and my girlfriend took part at a three-day trip to Prague, organized by school. We enjoyed it very well. Thank you to the organizers. Prague was really worth seeing. And I visited some nice and interesting places in Tarnów too. I went to the old town hall, market square, cathedral, Ethnographic Museum, St.-Martins-Mountain and Bimah. I did also long walks and cycling tours through the hole town.
I gave some private lessons in German. It was an great experience for me to meet the two girls. I spent some amusing hours with them and their parents.
Sometimes I wished to have more contact with students from my classes. But they had more lessons than I and after school they went home. The most students live in the surroundings of Tarnów, so it was not possible to meet them because they had to catch their trains and buses. But some of them took me on trips or to the pubs at the old market square. We spent some interesting times.
I was accommodated in the dormitory 'Dom Nauczyciela', ul. Słowackiego 7, 33-100 Tarnów. It is good situated. It is a short walk to the swimming pool or to the city centre. Also there are some supermarkets, kiosks, post office and a park in the vicinity. The park is very nice. I spent some relaxing hours there. The price-performance ratio was okay. The dormitory is a good place to get in contact with other students. I got to know some students at few parties. My first experience with Polish Vodka was interesting and hard! During this three month, I could intensify my knowledge and learned some new things and learned quite a bit about this country, the people and the lifestyle. I believe that these new skills will be very useful for my studies and for my job. I got to knew new friends and I hope we will stay in contact. And I know now, that Poland is not so unattractive as many people in Germany are thinking. I will come back again.
Report by Dominik Heim
Schillerstraße 38, 85055 Ingolstadt, Germany