“Dzien dobry!” This sentence has always made the atmosphere of my first month of exchange here. True expectations are not always reliable. My name is Farah Fattatin, a trimester program participant placed in a village called ‘Raczna’, a village about 13 km from the former capital of Poland, ‘Krakow’. Honestly I was a little disappointed with my placement, though all I could do was be grateful for anything that exists. I was placed in a host family faster than my friend, but I was placed in the village while she gets to live in the capital. My mind was blowing everywhere as what comes to mind with the word, ‘Capital’ are skyscrapers, trams, fast trains, cafes, malls, cinemas, international schools and many proficient English speakers. What about in the village? Ahh … you already know. Boring, unable to speak english, no mall, cinema, good food, those are my old perceptions.
I spent the time of my departure to convince myself that the placement was the best God had chosen for me, though until the day I set my feet in this country, the sense of disappointment was still hiding behind the hardness of the heart. My host father sent me an e-book to learn Polish a month before we would fly. With my curiosity, I immediately asked my mother to print the 600 page book. My mother always brought me 50 pages and several days later my mother finally gave up and immediately brought hard-disk containing soft file book to printing shop. Later that night, I went to the small press shop to get the sheet of paper weighing 1 kg and in the days that followed I decided to read a quarter of the total page. How was the result? Just seeing the thickness of the book had made my head dizzy… There are no Polish courses available in the area I live in. I even tried looking for a book to learn Polish on the website which is arguably Indonesia’s largest bookstore, however there were no results. Based on a website on the internet, I found that Polish is the second hardest language after Russian.
January 26, 2018, the building architecture I saw on the streets is no longer the same, the remnants of snow from 3 days before are still on the road, people walk by on the streets and there were no motorbikes. There were three girls who are AFS volunteers that picked me up from the airport said the temperature was not cold as it was only 3 degrees Celsius, ‘it’s not cold for you but for me it’s freezing cold!’. I thought that the feeling was natural as it was the first winter in my lifetime.
“Why did I choose Poland?” That’s the question I often get when I’m here. Honestly (again), no idea, the AFS picked it for me, but from three countries available, Poland, Hungary, and Italy, I prefer Poland, besides Italy has been positively destined for my other friend. “Lucky you, placed in Krakow” said the volunteer. I was puzzled by what she said and then I asked her why that was so. “I think Krakow is the most beautiful city here”. From that moment on, all my old perceptions were crossed out one by one and my regret lost little by little. The longer I stayed here, I encountered more people who said the same thing.
The thing that I realized to be very beneficial for me is that at Piekary, everyone is friendly, greeting each other and smiling when meeting. The most surprising thing I found was that the center of AFS in Poland is at my school, so when I am having a problem with my exchange, I just walked a few steps from my class to the AFS room. This advantage may not be accessible by my other friend. One week after arrival, we were required to meet again for a departure camp and since it is at the center of my school, in Piekary, other AFS members must come here and feel the atmosphere of Piekary for 3 days. When I met my friend who was placed in Warsaw, the capital city, she said that city life tends to be more individualistic and not the same as in the village, like the atmosphere that she was feeling in Piekary. What about those tall buildings?
Everyday my parents go to work where the tall buildings are, 13 km, not as far as I can imagine. Every week there is at least one chance to see the hustle and bustle of the city. The lesson I learned is “Never describe anything if you do not know enough or if you never experienced it yet. About my project, literally, in my first month I could not get any idea of what project will I do. I was trying to find a volunteering program here but it’s hard. As time passed, I tried to reflect on the difference between my home country and here. I followed my mother everytime my host mother goes to the shop and I realise that there is something different. I asked my host parents, my school friends, and my teacher about it. It was amazing when I met all my AFS friends around the world and I also asked them about something related to my project. I am so glad and now I am still strugling thinking about it. This is the story of my first month and I know that my story in the next months will be not the same. For this month I am allowed to explore more about my GC In You Project. I hope everything will go well and to meet new people from around the world and learn a lot.