Travelling and getting a taste of the country’s culture for a few days as a tourist is a wonderful experience, but it doesn’t even start to compare with the experience you gain working and living like a local. The IAESTE exchange was the perfect opportunity for me to work in a foreign country, travel and get paid at the same time. After my Erasmus experience from the previous year, I knew that this internship was an opportunity which I could not miss.
At first, the prospect of travelling all alone in a different country for 6 weeks was a bit daunting, especially due to the fact that I had never heard of Łódź before as well as not being able to speak Polish. However, I do not regret my choice to embark on this journey.
Upon my arrival in Łódź, Poland, I immediately felt welcome. An IAESTE member from the local committee greeted me at the bus station and took me to the university dormitories where I lived for the six weeks of my internship. There, I met my lovely roommate from Kenya, Doreen, together with many other trainees from all over the world. At first, I was hesitant to live in a dormitory with a random person I had never met before, but now, I wouldn’t change this for the world. The other trainees became my second family in Łódź. We cooked, shopped, hung out and travelled together during the weekends. We organised trips on our own and also attended some of the IAESTE weekends which the local committees of different cities in Poland organised.
During weekdays I worked at an architecture firm in a satellite city, Zgierz, which is close to Łódź. The workload was adequate for us students and the colleagues were also helpful and very inviting. Although sometimes there was a language barrier, we have always managed to communicate well together (sometimes with the help of Google Translate). I was involved in the company’s ongoing design projects, on which I worked together with the other trainee who was focusing on design in architecture. The other trainees ranging from countries such as Lebanon, Slovakia, Brazil, Hong Kong and Spain were the best colleagues I could have wished for. Working with them was very interesting since it exposed me to different approaches towards architecture.
It was also very interesting living in Łódź, which is an industrial city in the centre of Poland. I felt that I got the full Polish experience, since it is not a touristic city. However, once I got the hang of where the different amenities such as supermarkets are, and how the public transport works, I felt that I could go around the city with little to no trouble. Shopping was a little tricky due to the fact that many people did not speak English, but I always managed to communicate with them either by using a translation app on my phone or else through sign language.
Finally, I want to thank IAESTE for the traineeship since I can confidently say it was one of my best summers. Although it was for a short period of 6 weeks, this internship allowed me to further expose myself to new ideas, made me more independent and helped me form friendships with people from all over the globe.