Act now, think after. That’s my (unintentional) life pattern, and choosing to do an Erasmus semester in Krakow, followed almost instantly by studying for a year in California arose from this exact philosophy. I study American Literature with Creative Writing (a 13-syllable degree which makes it tedious to introduce yourself at fresher’s parties), so my year in America was always the focal point of my department’s talks. But on hearing about the opportunity to study somewhere in Europe for an Erasmus semester, I wondered whether I could finally live out my ‘girl flees England’ fantasy. A few meetings and pleading letters later, I officially could.
The applications for both my placement in Poland and in California required the kind of time-management and overall life-control that I don’t usually possess, but the study abroad team were extremely helpful in tolerating my constant 4AM emails and incessant questions. Aside from the amount of paperwork involved which now has me apologetically avoiding eye contact with every tree I pass, the process was simple.
So here I am in Krakow, where a third of the population are students and cheap alcohol is bountiful. My university, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, is a 650 year-old Hogwarts, with numerous cathedral sized buildings and a monumental reputation. This was a little intimidating at first – some of my professors are from Columbia and Oxford, and use words like propinquity and inveterate. But for such a supposedly formal institution, the structure of courses are extremely open – they tell us not to care about grades, to think more about our work and academic interests than the exam. Some of my classes don’t even have a method of assessment. No one here checks that you have the right amount of credits, or the necessary pre-requisites for classes. You have to be the definition of independent, but I can’t think of any better experience to prepare me for my year in America.
My peers come from all over – Turkey, Tibet, Canada, Slovakia, everywhere and anywhere. Each party is an international affair with everyone fighting for control of the music to put on their nations’ equivalent of Diplo. The sheer volume of people you meet every night is overwhelming and incredible, and establishing links to all these places across the globe is perfect for the budget-conscious traveller.
Krakow is vibrant and beautiful and always awake – the unthinking act of going on Erasmus has truly paid off.