Five years in Poland as a Chinese overseas student
I will never Forget the first day when I came to Poland and the last day when I leave Poland. I both burst out crying on these two days, but for different reasons, the first day out of happiness and excitement towards the newly coming life; while the leaving days is full of bittersweet unwillingness, and a thousands goodbye.
Starting from 2014, I came to Poland to study international relations. At that time, I was once a naive girl, dreamy, who firmly believed that I would discover gold in Poland.
The first Culture shock was always too excited. My first impression On Poland was a just “ Wow.” It was quite unlike other European cities in my impressions which was full of ancient architecture, such as Goethe and Baroque, but it was a city that made me sentimental, and gave me an urge of crying. Especially on the rainy days, the drizzles made the Warsaw gray color. People looked depressed, and unhappy. Winter also gave me such a impression. I would always feel that there must be many stories to tell in Warsaw. Not only the story of the city, but also story about my progress in Warsaw.
When I first came to Warsaw, I was timid, but ambitious. I wrote a book “The way in the front” before I came to Poland, and I have a plan to ask for help to publish the book in Europe. My professor gave me a hand by introducing a publisher in Poland to me. What was ironic was that it was the same professor that failed me in the his examine for three times, until I passed.
Warsaw gave me the first opportunity to fly and seek my dreams. As a new comer, with broken Polish, it was extremely hard for me to get used to the life abroad, though my study was quite okay out of my endless reading and improvement. Once I met another professor in the library, he joked with me, “I could never find a second student who is so keen on studies.” I knew professor was quite kind. In my impression, a lot of Polish people liked intelligent joking. I felt quite amused myself.
I am fully aware that there are many overseas students coming abroad, for different reasons. I have a goal myself. There were in fact a dozen of them. Now, I just counted how many goals that I have realized. No. One, to be a failed writer. 2, cultivate a hobby. No. 3 made new friends.
I realized that I needed to find a way to break through.
In order to overcome my loneliness, and helplessness, I started to make friends. I started to make friends with my classmates. One of them was from Japan, with whom we traveled together in 2015, when European suffered from migration crisis.The very place we visited was Athene, Greece. We climbed the ruins of the temple, traveled to the island by fast steam boat, and listened to the music by the seaside. It was one of the most remarkable experience in my life.
I also had a lot of Polish friends. One of them was a boy who taught me German language in the class. He was a very kind hearted young gentleman, with a chivalry spirit. I choose German class in Poland for two semesters, and he was my private tutors for two semesters.
During my spare time, in order to know more about Poland, I have traveled around almost every city and every corner of Poland with different friends. The nature craft beauty Leba amazed me, and impressed me most. At that journey, I met two German travelers, who told me that the reason why they came was because they happened to see a painting of Leba by a German artists. I visited the south, Zakopana, greatly impressed by the hospitality of the local people. I would never forget they roasted the whole lamp on the fire, and there was some musicians playing the music. Of course, Gadansk was also a city full of the history. The mark of the history was left on the architectures in Gadask….. I have also visited many places that was once under control of Teutonic knights…
My study improved a lot when I was used to the life in Poland. I have formed a healthy eating habit, so that I could keep my body in shape. I am not a student who easily gave up. In order to catch up with other students, before every class, I searched a lot of information on the internet. On the class, I could have the opportunity to represent China and debate with other students. When I recalled such a memory, it is quite fun and exciting to me.
Then I published my second book “Love in Warsaw”. It’s about my overseas student life at the university of Warsaw. In 2019, during my last year of PHD studies, I got a school interview for the three books that I have published, “The way in the front”,”Love in Warsaw” and “Roads seeking.”
I continued my PHD studies in 2016. at that time, I have already made a lot of friends. Some of them asked me whether I felt lonely?I always smiled and said “No, of course,not.”I have so much to learn and to do. I played Chinese chess when I was in China, so I decided to learn chess(International chess) from other classmates who could play it. So far, as I accounted,I have five teachers who taught me international chess. One was an American friend from a very famous University. He was my first teacher, and told me some basic rules of chess. The second friend was a Swiss friend, who always said, “Ping, you are becoming more and more evil! You are setting up traps for me!” I brought a chessboard in Kracow, and took it in the class. Whenever there was a break, I would ask my friend, who was quite good at chess to play with me. Professor recomneded us to read the “Big chess game” when he saw that I even dare to bring a chess board to the class!
As I mentioned before, I have written a novel “Roads seeking.” It was about the life story of Chinese businessman in Poland. He had lived in Poland for more than 28 years. On one Chinese products exhibition, I met a Polish friend, and gave the book to him.then the next few years, we were discussing of making a movie of it. The theme of the movie was to show the life and career of Chinese bushinessman in Poland, and showed the vicissitude of life. I met my friend almost every day, discussing about the movie details, but failed because of lacking of money. However, he had become one of my best friends in Poland, from whom I could seek advise.
A Polish friend once told me many interesting folk stories in Poland, such as Golden duck- the money couldn’t bring your happiness. We discussed that why Polish friend felt sometimes Chinese were too modest, and remote to make friends with. I told him with a mischievous smile, “sometimes, our modest comes from our nature. It is a thousands years of Confucianism that made us modest and kind to our friends, but it doesn’t mean we lacked of backbones.” he smiled and said, “what kind of backbones you have? I can punch you to the ground with my single fist.” I smiled, “there is once a saying in China by Mencius. It doesn’t matter his name. But he said if we wanted to be a useful man, we shouldn’t bend our neck towards the rich, nor we changed our mind because we are poor, nor would we give in by the threat.”
He smiled satisfingly,”I am just joking.”
I finished my PHD studies in three years, and met my defence. Every time I traveled from Bei Jing to Warsaw, I would watch the film of Maria Curie again and again. She was quite a brave and different woman in my impression. When I traveled to some places in Poland, I could find a Jewish painting on the wall.My friends told me it would bring them money. I have attended the “free walking tour in Warsaw”, and discovered Warsaw in a different prospective. I was right. Warsaw indeed had a story, and history. Even if the war had bombed 85% of Warsaw, it could still raise up from ashes.
I consciously sought for fun, funny things to do, and funny things to learn, in order to avoid feeling loneliness. Yes, to a foreign student, or a foreigner, sometimes, it was hard to find friends.I decided to make my chess movement. I walked around with Korea, Italian, Romania, Polish friends in the Warsaw city. I discussed Chinese culture with my Polish friends who were keen on Chinese culture. In turn, they told me some traditions and customers in Poland.
Writing here, my eyes were flashing with memories of the past. After finishing the defence, my parents urged me to go back to China and start a new life. I agreed, because I wanted to try something new and exciting. I remembered when I was an exchange student in Poland in 2012, I happened to pick up a note hidden inside the sugar when I attended a Christmas party in a Polish friends’ home. It said, “Take up your courage, and realize your dream.”
I remembered this quote. I believed that i would be too coward if I wanted a comfortable life, rather than to seek new adventures.
The days when I broad on the plane back to Bei Jing was quite different from what I wrote in Love in Warsaw. I once wrote,that the best time would be always ahead. In the book, it was quite sunny , and lovely weather, but the parting day was drizzling again, I sat down at my seat, trying to say a word,”excuse me”, but found myself a little speechless. I realized that there were many obstacle I would overcome again.
If using one sentence to summarize my memories in Poland, “I have left my best time in Poland, but I would walk towards a bigger world after finishing the study in Poland.” “Take up your courage, and realize your dream.”
Author: Feng Ping (PHD candidate at University of Warsaw, Published book,”The way in the front, Love in Warsaw” and Roads Seeking” in Poland)