I’ve been putting off this last post because writing about the end makes everything feel too real. By ignoring this I’ve been trying to ignore everything that has changed, even though I can’t.
My semester abroad actually ended a few weeks ago, but it feels like I’ve just been on a long trip and I’ll go back. I’ve taken all of my exams, handed in my papers, received my grades from my university and even moved out of my flat and into my family’s home, but I’m still holding onto the memories because they were too amazing. Even though I am spending the rest of my summer in Europe and meeting my parents in a few weeks, there’s so much that I already miss and that I know I will miss even more when I return to the U.S.
I’m going to miss the public transportation in Kraków—the buses and trams are so convenient that they make getting around the city so easy, even though it is small enough to walk just about everywhere. Because I had an unlimited pass, I could get on any bus or tram and on my laziest days I am not ashamed to admit that I would occasionally take the tram one short stop just because I could. And especially with phone and internet apps like jakdojade.pl, navigating the city is so easy and because of that I was able to explore so much more than I would have been able to otherwise.
I’m going to miss living in a city—my flat was so much more spacious and conveniently located than I could have imagined! I lived right across the street from a market called Nowy Kleparz (New Market) which had everything from fruits and vegetables to meat, flowers, and even clothes. There was also a bakery next door along with a few other shops and even a doctor across the street when I was sick. Sometimes it did take a bit of planning because there aren’t as many 24-hour stores, but I could usually find something—everything I needed was just outside my doorstep. Living in a city also meant that there was always something going on like concerts and festivals, so I was never bored. I can’t even count the amount of times that I walked into the main square and they were setting up a stage for a concert or putting up booths for a fair.
I’m going to miss traveling—I didn’t go somewhere every weekend because I loved exploring Kraków so much, but I was still able to see so much at a really affordable price. I’m used to riding Megabus to and from school in the U.S., but Polskibus offers even better prices all across the country! And with cheap airlines like Wizzair and Ryanair along with rideshare sites like BlaBlaCar, there were so many different ways to travel in a way that didn’t break the bank. Hostels have also been so reasonable and I haven’t yet had a bad experience, but I’ve actually met a lot of interesting and helpful people along the way. While I hope to travel more in the U.S. now that I’ve done so in Europe, I know it won’t be as easy or as cheap.
I’m going to miss the culture—even though both of my parents are Polish and I live in a very Polish city (love you, Chicago!) it’s still very different. While learning Polish has been extremely difficult, even with my familiarity with the language, I love trying to speak with shopkeepers and servers, especially when they are so patient and encourage me. I will admit that sometimes I get too frustrated or embarrassed because I know that I’m not saying something correctly or I can’t think of the right word, but that has just helped me to be more patient with myself and with others. Now I even get excited when I am in another country and I hear people speaking Polish because I feel like I share some secret with them.
I love all of the Polish food that I consume in shocking quantities, from obwarzanki sold by little old women on the street, to the best zapiekanki in the Jewish district of Kazimierz, to the cheapest and most delicious Polish food sold at Bar Mleczny (Milk Bars). There’s still so much I’m not used to, but that always keeps me curious because I’m constantly learning and adjusting everyday. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been exciting, and I am so grateful for that.
I’m going to miss the people—I have met so many amazing individuals from around the world who have introduced me to their cultures and practices and have given me a new perspective on life. I’ve learned how to properly cheers in German (exclaim “Prost” while making good eye contact—otherwise seven years of bad luck!) and how to properly address individuals in Polish with Pan or Pani, plus so much more. I’m also going to miss my family, which has welcomed me with open arms and been willing to help me every step along the way. And all of this has helped me better understand and appreciate the new cultures and practices that I’ve come into contact with along with my own. I’ve met some of the most amazing people who have changed me for the better and who I wish I could thank a thousand times over for the experiences they have given me.
When I was initially deciding where to go for study abroad, I thought about India and Italy and countless other places because I didn’t want to be somewhere that I knew anything about. Quite honestly, I thought that Poland would be too familiar, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I came to realize that every city is full of so many different experiences and adventures if you take the initiative. I know that this whole post may sound too sentimental or cheesy, but I’ve had amazing experiences in every town that I’ve visited, and Kraków has still been my favorite because of a combination of everything, from it’s beautiful architecture to its long history, from the people I’ve met here and the adventures I’ve had. I will carry these amazing experiences with me for the rest of my life. It’s not do widzenia, but na razie.