Experiences in Wrocław, Poland, at the University of Economics

Jasmin B.

University: 
Study Period: 
Fall 2015/2016
Academic Level:  Master
   

The University

Water Games at the Multimedia Fountain

The University of Economics in Wrocław has a great amount of English courses available. Since this is an economic university, naturally, the courses are in that direction as well. Keep that in mind before your semester abroad so that you end up with courses you eventually need. Before the semester, you will have orientation days. I highly recommend participating in those. Not only does it make it easier for you to get to know new people, but you are provided important information there. This concerns the university itself, your timetable, how to handle necessary documents (such as the Learning Agreement), information on the city itself and sightseeing suggestions, among other useful hints. Unfortunately, the first two weeks at university were fairly chaotic. Personally, I was lucky and could keep all courses I intended to take, but most people had problems with their timetable.

It turned out that the schedules of some classes overlap or that other classes do not take place due to various reasons. Since some classes require your presence as a precondition for the exams, overlapping classes pose a problem. In order to prevent this situation, I suggest picking out more classes than you need in advance. When present in Wrocław, you can check the timetable and cross out courses that overlap. This will save you hectic communication with your own university and you can make changes to the Learning Agreement on time. What I highly recommend is enlisting for the Polish course, even if you are not interested in learning the language. By doing so you will be part of the Polish teacher’s mailing lists.

She is a highly motivated and involved woman who organizes many trips and events. This includes trips inside and outside of Wrocław. The trips she offers outside of Wroclaw can be especially difficult to organize by yourself, so I suggest taking the opportunity when you can. Concerning the exams at university, it differs for every course you take. Usually, passing a class requires either a written exam, a presentation, an essay, or a combination of those. My experiences with the lecturers were good, and the exams were all fair. Lecturers also consider your participation in the class, regarding the final grade. Also, if you have problems with the date of an exam, for instance because you need to be back home earlier, you can usually talk to the lecturer and arrange a solution with them. The lecturers are very obliging in this regard. While the end of the stay went smoothly for most people, I ran into trouble because I was supposed to receive more ECTS than I did. Fortunately, I immediately noticed the problem. Eventually, it turned out that my course existed two times with two different amounts of ECTS. I managed to prove that I indeed took course with more ECTS, but I really recommend keeping all your documents and emails concerning the semester abroad. Always collect information you received in the past and know where you got it from, because that is what helped me resolve the problem eventually.

Oratorium MarinariumThe City Itself

Next to studying, I used this semester to travel across Poland, but out of all cities I have seen, I think that Wrocław is indeed the best place to spend a semester abroad. The city itself is really beautiful and offers many sightseeing opportunities. There are many beautiful churches located all over the city, and some them offer the opportunity to climb stairs and take a view over the city. The Cathedral Island is the best place to visit and looks especially nice when it snows. If churches are not high enough for you, there is also the possibility to go to the viewing point on top of the Sky Tower, the highest building in Wrocław. There, I especially recommend the view during night or sundown, when you can see the city light up from above. A zoo is located in Wrocław as well. Inside the zoo I recommend the Africarium, which is worth seeing more than some Sea Lifes I have been to. If you are a fan of gardens, then the Japanese as well as the Botanical garden are really nice. The University of Wrocław has some really beautiful rooms, such as the Aula Leopoldina and the Oratorium Marianum. Close to the Centennial Hall, which is also enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage, are a Pergola and the Multimedia Fountain. In winter it is possible to do ice skating on the fountain, and during the rest of the year water games are displayed every hour. Especially when it is dark, the display is really nice to see. There are also several museums spread all over Wrocław. And there are more things to see in this city as well. During orientation days we received a pamphlet in which Wrocław and its many attractions are described, and the Polish teacher organized some trips to show us more of the city itself.

Apart from sightseeing, Wrocław also offers many other opportunities for activities. Throughout the whole city you can go to numerous different shopping centers. Especially in the old town (Rynek) there are many restaurants and clubs available. I have made great experiences with busses and trams that come regularly. At night, trams are not available anymore, but busses come on a regular basis. The app Jakdojade helps you get around Wrocław as well as a few other cities in Poland. All in all it is possible to get around without speaking Polish, though not many people speak English. You will have it much easier if you know at least a few basic words in advance, such as numbers when you want to buy something in the supermarket, or basic words for food to understand what you order in less touristic restaurants. This advice applies to all cities in Poland, though. If you expect to advance your Polish during your stay, the result might be a bit disappointing. Since Erasmus students usually communicate in English among each other, the best way to actually learn the language is by sharing a flat with Polish people.

Beach in Gdansk

Other Cities

Wrocław has a wonderful location from which you can easily reach many other cities. This includes places throughout Poland, but also cities abroad such as Prague or Berlin. I wish I had more time to see more places, but there are a few I can recommend. For instance, Gdańsk is a wonderful place to stay at while it is still warm. There are a few spots to sightsee in Gdańsk, but the beach is its biggest plus. Kraków is also named as one of the most beautiful places in Poland and also easy to reach from Wrocław. Warsaw, as the capital of Poland, is naturally also a place I recommend, and Poznań made for a great one-day trip.

Walking across the beach in Gdańsk was really fun and relaxing and the weather was still great in October

Personally, I liked travelling by Polskibus and by train the most. Both are cheap and comfortable. I discovered the train a bit later, but in the end I might prefer that alternative. Due to a 50% student discount it is usually the same price as Polskibus if not cheaper, and I found it easier to relax. The only problem I had was that at the train station you rarely find personnel that speaks English, but if you look the desired connection up on the Internet in advance and then ask them to book that ticket for you (or if you simply book online) you can easily overcome communication problems. I never used the possibility myself, but planes are also available.

Statues in Poznan were decorated during Christmas

Finances

I have to be blunt here – a big plus of Poland is that it is an affordable country in comparison to many other options. And yet, while being affordable, it offers many opportunities to have a great time as mentioned before. But in order to do the Math yourself, I will offer some numbers from my own experiences. All numbers will be mentioned in the Polish currency złoty (PLN). One euro roughly translates to four złoty. Personally, I rented a room in a shared flat with other Polish people and paid 600 PLN per month, with additional costs such as water and heating not being higher than 200 PLN, making it a total of (less than) 800 PLN/month. I have to admit that this was a bit of a lucky strike, though. Usually it is difficult to find a single room, and often, you will find rooms that are offered to be shared with other people. The price also depends on the location. I know of people who stayed at the city center close to Rynek, and if I remember correctly, their costs were something between 1200-1500 PLN/month per person. Warsaw has some nice and beautiful, but hidden spots.If you research enough, though, it is definitely possibly to find cheaper places. There are also shared flats such as Windom House, Portugiese-House and Renoma flat which are known among students. In the dormitory, prices varied between 370 PLN/month up to 500 PLN/month, depending on the dormitory and the room. Unfortunately you cannot choose in which dormitory you want to be placed and the decision who receives a place is announced very late, so I recommend looking for different accommodation in advance. Be aware to have money during the orientation days with you, because you will have to pay for your student ID, which was 18 PLN during my stay. Tram and train prices come with a 50% discount with your student ID. For instance, a 4 month semester ticket for trams and busses in Wrocław costs 150 PLN. Using a taxi within the city rarely exceeds 40 PLN. As already mentioned, Polskibus is a wonderful alternative to travel. The prices I spotted were usually between 20 PLN up to 50 PLN. It really depends on the city of your choice. If you are enlisted in the Polish teacher’s mailing list as mentioned before, she (or the university) will cover the costs for the trips you take with her. At university, you can get a meal between 10-15 PLN. I often used Kuchnia Marché as an alternative, because the food tasted better than at the canteen, and one is located in the Sky Tower which is close to university. Kuchnia Marché offers a 20% discount for students, with which I usually ate between 10-15 PLN as well. On average I paid about 30-40 PLN for groceries per week, never exceeding 50 PLN, but it really depends on how much you eat and cook yourself. Personally I often ate at Kuchnia Marché, so I spent less money for groceries. Last but not least, you can get a good half liter beer for 8 PLN – since the boys here praised this a lot in the beginning, it feels noteworthy to mention :)

Conclusion

All in all, Wrocław was a wonderful experience for me. It felt like a hidden gem that was not popular at my university, but I think this is the best choice I have made for myself and that I was happier here than I would have been at other places. It is an affordable country, Wrocław itself is a beautiful city, and it offers many opportunities to travel. The classes at university were good and I met many wonderful people here. If I had another opportunity to choose a place to spend my semester abroad at, I would choose Wrocław again :).