Why Warsaw?

 This is a question I get asked by pretty much everyone I meet.

When I was home in Australia and telling people about my exchange, some didn’t even know where it was! When they found out they were so confused by my choice.

Here, in Warsaw, when people find out I am Australian their first reaction is; “WOW!” and that statement is always followed by, “WHY WARSAW?”

Because of this question being so frequently asked in my life, I realised that anyone who happens to read my blog will be thinking the exact same thing; ‘Why Warsaw’.

I will explain.

To be honest… it’s CHEAP!

Although the Australian dollar is totally epic right now, the rest of Europe is still incredibly expensive, and that’s just to visit, imagine living there! This way, I have based myself in a cheap country and can still travel to all the expensive ones in my spare time (and spare money).

Every thing in Warsaw is amazingly priced. It’s something like 3pln to 1aud. so my accommodation is 380pln a month… that’s 150aud!! Also in the supermarkets, pretty much everything is priced how you would see at home, but in reality it’s a third of that price! My transportation is even better, on my student card; I have 3 months unlimited travel for 98pln!!!

So that is the main reason.

Second, it’s Warsaw! What could be more different than home! The country is COLD, and it SNOWS at Christmas! Also, everyone goes on holiday to France or Italy, but who goes on holiday to Warsaw? So I figured that my chances of ever going to Poland were slim.

And here I am!

So if anyone was wondering what on earth I am doing in Warsaw, there is your answer! 

Until next time!

The wonderful life of leo

What a week!

You wouldn’t know it… but Warsaw is actually a very cultural city! Not only does it have all its history and beauty, but it has events all the time. These past two weeks I have been to an international music festival, where there were workshops for beat boxing, DJ mixing and more.

I have also been to the international film festival, where I saw two epic movies. The first one, a French documentary called ‘The game of death’ (look it up), it was a sociology experiment looking into how people react to authority. The results were really scary! 

The other was the winner of the festival; called ‘The sounds of noise’ it was awesome! It was a Swedish comedy about musical geniuses who are making music out of everything. At one point they are hanging off the electricity wires, with chainsaws for bows and playing it like a huge violin! Very creative! 

Also, I have experienced my first real autumn!! The star shaped leaves ACTUALLY fall from the trees and are all different colours, lots and lots of yellow!

So yes, very awesome.

I should probably mention university… So the most awesome thing is the classrooms! In the main building, they are so totally old school! like with real old wooden desks and a black board! So cool!

I am also planning a few trips. Next weekend I will be going to Gdansk (a small polish town north or warsaw) and prague in early december.

So I have a lot to look forward to!

Hmm – I don’t actually know anyone here…

Pretty much one of my biggest! concerns about going on exchange was just that – am I going to meet anyone, or am I going to be in my room crying for the next four months? Back in Brisbane things for me were nice and safe – I have an amazing partner, awesome friends and a whole city of people and places I know. Going on exchange meant changing that, going to a new place not knowing anyone… at least in the beginning.

I’ve been here nearly 2 months now, so I’m quite settled in but I still remember getting here and feeling so lost. I’d just traveled 12hrs from Bangkok to Amsterdam, then (somehow) managed to find my way to Maastricht (thanks to a lovely elderly couple who helped me find my train). Here though the real work began, because it is literally a case where I was on the complete and utter other side of the world, not knowing a soul.

The thing is though, and I’m sure every exchange student (including myself) will agree – it doesn’t stay like that! I arrived on Sunday night, was so tired (add a 5hr train journey onto the above travel time :/) and I asked the security guards to help me order take-away food** and then slept. The next day after exploring Maastricht for a little bit, others started moving in and there I met some of the people in my corridor. Many have all different kinds of things to say about Americans, but the ones I met that night were lovely! and not having any plans for dinner (the whole not knowing anyone didn’t help!), they invited me out with them all and sure as anything I’d just made my first friends on exchange. It was seriously that easy.

It’s not something people talk about a lot, because I think to admit being scared isn’t the bravest thing around, but the thing to remember is everyone is in the same boat. Some are lucky to come over with friends, but most know no-one. The rest of the week I had orientation with domestic students, and then the following week orientation with the exchangers. If your experience is half of what mine was over those two weeks, you’re going to know too many people to keep track of! And so 6 (or 7) weeks down the track I can safely say those fears were completely unfounded. I’ve made really really cool friends here, and it’s that which has made exchange for me 🙂

Until next time guys! Andrew

** when you leave Brisbane, make sure you take at least 100 euros with you. I’d probably suggest 200-300 euros, if not more, for the first few days. Train fares, lunch and taxis are just the beginning, and you don’t want to find your accommodation, unpack, nearly fall asleep and realise your extremely hungry, with no money for dinner!


University

So it feels like everything I have been doing so far, has been working up to this point. University.

That is the reason I came isn’t it? Its hard to believe that with all the fun I have been having travelling around Europe!

But I am finally here, in my university dorm, writing about it. I arrived about a week ago, and was a bit confused as we just sat outside waiting for our ‘buddies’ to show up. It’s a great system, they organise another polish student to help you out, and get you adjusted to the university life here, in Warsaw. This is the main building of SGH

The student dorms they have you in are awesome! It’s pretty much just for exchange students, so more people speak English than polish! Though I have learnt to recognise the ‘glazed eyes’ look on the other students when they don’t understand me.

 My room mate is from Germany, and her name is Melanie. She is very nice and her English is so good! She is happy I am her room mate, and that she will have perfect English by the time she goes home. I say either that or she learns how to sleep with her eyes open, pretending to understand what I am saying.

We are the only Australian’s here. The first reaction we get is; “wow! That’s so cool!” the next is; “WHY are you in Warsaw!” They just don’t understand why we would want to leave our beautiful country for the cold. And let me tell you, it is certainly cold!

This morning, I was so happy because the sky is so blue! At home, blue sky means warm. So I just put on a light jacket and went to my class. By the time I got there, I thought my hand was going to fall off! It is that cold. I may as well dump that jacket right now.

Awesome news, while Poland may not seem like a very happening country to outsiders, it begs to differ. The other day, while shopping (the malls are huge!) with some new friends, we noticed a red carpet. Thinking it was just a minor polish celeb, we stuck around to check it out. After a while, my friend who speaks polish asks a girl who was coming. This young girl looks at us as if we are stupid and replies, “Its Halle Berry”. So awesome!!! We were very excited! So when Halle Berry walked past us, and heard me talking in English, she looked right at me and said “hello”. So that just made my week, that here, in Warsaw, Poland, I met Halle Berry!

So the weather is nice at the moment, it is, at least, not raining. Though it is cold, but I am sure I will manage. Forecast is that it will start snowing in 2 weeks time!!!

Wish me luck!

Macau – Serious Business

Like Hong Kong, Macau is an example of China’s One Country, Two Systems – a rather awkward endeavour in sovereignty – Macau remains autonomous for the next 50 years but under direct control of Beijing. This is shown as you check your way out of Hong Kong and through Macau customs – somehow you have left, but remained in the same country.

Crowded into 3 tiny islands (or 1 peninsular, 2 islands for the geographically-picky, there’s a slight connection to the mainland) Macau totaling less that 30km2 of area. A former Portuguese Colony (returned to China in 1999), Macau packs in a jumble of colonialism, Chinese culture and western ostentation.

A Mash of Culture -

Chinese, Portuguese and Western culture comes together

Oh and what ostentation, as if there is anything else. I’m sure you’re aware of the casinos .The largest in the world – Venice Themed The Venetian (complete with indoor canals, bridges and piazzas.); The Lisboa a monstrous vase of light and colour; its all a competition for bigger and better.

The Grand Lisboa

Bigger, better, gaudier

Ostentatious Ventian Casino

Luckily, Macau has been smart enough to keep their history. The stunning Ruins of St Paul remains the focal point of the city, while the fortress of Monte Fort watches over the city.

For all the gaudiness, Macau is serious gambling. There’s no Vegas-esque debauchery, no wild bar shows. Whether its billionaire high rollers or middle-class mainlanders keen to blow off some steam (and their wallets)- everyone is here to play. You can see in the intense glare, chain smoking and beaded sweat.