Hi there! My name is Yekta Deniz Işık and I’m a 21-years-old Turkish psychology student. In February, I came to Krakow, Poland with the Erasmus + program to study during the spring semester at the Pedagogical University of Krakow and I can say that I had an unexpected experience. Like everyone else, while I was studying in a different country, I thought that I could meet different cultures and travel to numerous countries, but there was one variable I could not predict: coronavirus.
In March, the virus had affected all of Europe, and Poland took strict measures. While it has been a few weeks since we arrived, many of the Turks we studied with here returned to their country with the last plane. But I and my two friends stayed here in Poland and tried to make the best of the experience as we could get.
In early March, we had the opportunity to visit Warsaw. One of the most beautiful old towns you can ever see. When we returned to Krakow, the tight measures I mentioned earlier came into effect and we went out only to go to the market or pharmacy. Frankly, I can say that these days we stayed in a dormitory that hasn’t been easy for me. I am an extrovert person who enjoys having fun, seeing places, learning new information, and I felt like I was trapped. Perhaps many of us felt that way and developed different ways of coping so that we could continue. For example, at the end of March, I started to cook many Turkish dishes. Cooking was a skill that I hadn’t developed before and I found myself trying to cook and I can say that I am getting increasingly better at it. I also had the opportunity to read books and started participating in courses offering online education, such as Coursera and EdX.
Of course, social isolation affected me a lot and I don’t want to romanticize the quarantine, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I started to exercise, which was something I had not practiced before and it helped me to deal with anxiety and depression. Often we forget to return to ourselves because of dealing with many things in daily life. Therefore, during this process, I focused on myself by improving my skills and myself, and my mental health and well-being.
Now we are at the end of May, and the measures are becoming more flexible. Me and my friends are taking care of our health but at least we decided to travel around the city we are in. Krakow is a city full of magic and beauty. I don’t think I can get enough of it here. Sometimes we go to the parks full of greenery and have a picnic, sometimes we visit the magical streets of the old town and admire the architecture. I also hope to visit (with caution) Warsaw and many of Poland’s beautiful cities before returning home. But of course, even if I cannot see more places, I am very happy to be able to live through this experience and giving a chance to live here. I managed to survive alone in a pandemic, without my family in a country, I knew nothing of before. This experience gave me the confidence and power that I could not have imagined to gain.
In addition to my education here, I’m taking six courses, one full module, and two different courses at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. My courses are quite different and interesting from my home university. Thanks to classes such as “Fairy Tales in Therapy and Education”, “Narrative Gerontology” and “The Psychology of Wisdom,” I can broaden my perspective and learn new things.
Poland uses its own currency, zloty (PLN); about 1 € = 4.45 PLN. It is an inexpensive, student-friendly country. If you want to study abroad, Poland is the country for you. There are also many places to see. Krakow, the city I live in, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. With its medieval structures and more than 30 parks, the city is a monument of beauty.
This Erasmus program was an experience I had never expected. While the whole world is dealing with pandemics, this exchange program cannot be expected to be normal. However, studying and living in another country is a great experience. I hope by sharing my experience with you here, I could represent the voice of my friends who were in the same conditions as me adequately. I greet you and wish you an exchange program with better conditions. We are never alone and we are actually very strong. And I am very happy having lived through this experience!
Author: Yekta Deniz Işık
Bachelors in Psychology at Çağ University