Representing your country in front of hundreds of strangers, singing your national anthem in front of foreign students. Yes, that’s what pride feels like to me. I consider myself fortunate that I got to experience this during my last trip to Kielce, Poland.
Poland -One of the most fascinating places to be in Europe. A country with magnificent snow-capped mountains, colourful buildings, and rich culture. Poland, one of the most populous members of the European Union, has the most spectacular scenic wonders to offer.
I stayed in Poland from October 2022 to November 2022. Did I mention that I stayed there with almost zero expenses? Yes, you heard it right; I visited a small town in Poland called Kielce through WorkAway.
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How Can You Travel The World For Free?
For people who look forward to travelling the world with minimum to no expenses, WorkAway is an excellent start. It is a platform and leading community offering cultural exchanges, paid holidays, and endless volunteering opportunities in more than 160 countries.
I did the same too. I applied for a cultural exchange program that involved teaching English and showcasing our country’s culture and traditions to Polish students. I was invited by Zespół Szkoły Podstawowej Przedszkola i Gimnazjum im. Jana Pawła II w Samsonowie in Poland (a Polish elementary school in Samsonów).
Applying for projects through WorkAway comes with a lot of perks and sometimes challenges as well. Most of the projects offer free accommodation and 2-3 meals a day. If you get lucky enough, you might even find opportunities that offer minimum wages for 15-20 hours of work on a weekly basis.
How Was My Experience In Kielce, Poland?
Having been to Poland before, I was less scared this time. I took a direct flight to Warsaw, Poland. LOT Polish Airlines offers a direct flight from Mumbai to Warsaw. This 8 hours non-stop flight operates 2-3 times a week.
After a long and tiring 8-hour flight, I landed at Chopin Airport, Warsaw. Surprisingly, I had a fast-track pass for Immigration and customs, and I could clear the process in less than 10-15 mins.
From the airport, I had to travel to Kielce. It takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes from Warsaw Central Railway Station to Kielce Railway Station. I cannot express how beautiful Polish trains are. Some scenic routes during winter offer breathtaking views of the Polish countryside.
PKP Intercity is the official website to book your train tickets in advance. I would personally recommend that you book your tickets in advance to get a reserved seat for yourself.
ISIC Student Discounts On Trains In Poland
Most European countries offer a bunch of student discounts or travel concessions for ISIC card holders but there is a downside to it. You can use ISIC Student Discount on Polish trains only if you are a permanent resident or have a long-term visa. Sadly, students who are travelling on a short-term visa are not entitled to avail of the student discounts.
Singing The Indian National Anthem To Students In Poland – Best Feeling Ever
After reaching Kielce, I was greeted by my host family at the station. Yes, I stayed with one of the English teachers and his family at their home. Staying with a host family teaches you so many things. It’s one of the most efficient and best ways to explore a foreign country’s local culture.
Thanks to my host family, they took me on trips with the scouts, showed me some beautiful forests, and even taught me how to pick up good quality mushrooms from the forests.
My project was about teaching English to Polish students, along with showcasing to them the difference between European and Indian cultures. I bonded with these little 10-13-year-old kids in no time. The first few classes were a bit difficult and awkward, yes, but the excitement and joy I saw in these kids is something that I cannot express.
My host told me that these kids had never met someone from Asia. Kindness, innocence, and honesty are the qualities that I always saw in them. Teaching them, spending time with them, and playing games reminded me of my old school days.
Here’s a short glimpse of how my journey was with one of the sections I taught in the school –
My project lasted for around two weeks, and I didn’t realise how time flew. We did multiple activities with the kids, such as dancing, cooking Indian food, hiking, trekking, playing, singing, and much more. The list is, of course, endless.
Can you believe I taught Polish students Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa? And trust me, it sounded so magnificent to do so.
Language Is Never A Barrier
Most of the kids that I taught only had a basic level of English understanding. Let’s say almost every kid that I interacted with did not speak English. But in the end, they are kids. The language was never a barrier for me to explore myself in their world.
I kept myself wholly open and became a kid while interacting and playing with them. Trust me; these 12-year-old kids were the first ones to hug and cry when they got the news that I was not here permanently and would be leaving Poland someday soon. Goodbyes are difficult, and it was for me too at the end of this journey.
What I can proudly say is that I was able to impact more than 200 Polish students by breaking stereotypes about my country and showcasing my country’s culture and tradition to them. I do believe that cultural exchanges like these not only help you to grow personally but also to create a difference.
The local news magazine also published a small article dedicated to this cultural project in Kielce.
If you, too, wish to experience a cultural travel exchange in the near future, do check out the opportunities available on WorkAway. You can click the link here and get an extra month added to your membership.
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