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【World · GDUFS】Yan Yunyun: Exchanging Is a Profound Journey

Time:April 21, 2019  Author:  Editor:  Source:   Photo:

Editor: This article is from the Faculty of Chinese Language and Culture. The author, Yan Yunyun, is a postgraduate of 2016 of the department of comparative literature and world culture and he began an exchange program in the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland in the spring of 2018.


Before studying abroad, I looked forward to the profoundity of Germany, the natural beauty of Switzerland and the romance of France—but I didn’t have any impression of Poland. However, living in Toruń , this city of amber near the Baltic Sea, has left me precious memories of my postgraduate study.


In Poland, I Never Feel Alienated from my Studies


It was snowing heavily when I first arrived in Toruń on February 23rd. This ancient city, dating to the middle-ages in Poland, is listed on the World Heritage List. It is one of the world’s cultural and natural heritage sites; the hometown of Copernicus; and the cradle of gingersnap. River Vistula, the mother river of Poland, stands opposite the ancient city, filled with red-bricked Gothic complex, and flows across the whole town.


The Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, divided into the new and old campuses, is the biggest comprehensive university in northern Poland and ranks Top 5 in the country. Our department is on the old campus, which is deeply steeped in history. There is only one required course for postgraduates but we can choose other cultural courses like language according to our own interests.


The historic campus


The required language course is a small class teaching using English. Students primarily come from Turkey and Russia. The atmosphere in foreign classes is relatively free and there are many interactions between teachers and students. Students can get their teachers’ feedback on homework through email. Unlike the parental attitudes common among Chinese teachers, in Europe Chinese students should take a more active attitude. When facing problems like life trifles, choosing what to study, or other study problems, they should leap out of the captivity of passively to listening to others. Instead, they should express their needs more boldly and solve problems.


The popularization of English in Poland is not very high and the levels of English vary. Therefore, it is necessary to learn some basic Polish before studying in Poland. The faculty will arrange some language training for exchange students.


In this country, I never feel alienated from my studies. All the books I read and all the classes I took at GDUFS are all going to be the nourishment for my further study. The comparative thinking towards the two cultures has been deeply rooted in my everyday life.


The Amber City has a Unique Charm


The school is located on the edge of Toruń, a five-minute walk from the dormitories. Along the way are the science museums; the old Torun Town Hall; old churches; museums; the statue of Copernicus; and the relics of Teutonic Knights. Roaming in the city, all this architecture represent the epitome of historical change, and right now I am witnessing historical change with this ancient town. Every weekend there is a busy fair in the town, where you can some flowers, fruits or special gadgets. Toruń is not very big and you can appreciate all the beauty of flagstone pavements within half a day of exploring the city. People usually take trams for going out or shopping, but in Poland, there is a very convenient rail network. Although its speed is not as fast as China’s, it’s also interesting to see the shaky carriages travel through the city. It is worth mentioning that Poland gives a great preference to students in terms of traffic. In the beginning of school, we got our student cards quickly with the help of the teachers. We can get a 50% discount whether you take trams or trains by this card.


The dormitory in school


Different from other popular European countries, the schools in Poland prepare student apartments for Chinese students in advance, and after registration, we can move in right away. My dormitory is a small single room. Each floor of the apartment has a public kitchen, and every building has an independent sports room, a laundry room and a self-study room. Comparing to the Eurozone, in Poland, the living cost for a month is only 800-1000, which is affordable for most people. There are also various types of food in Poland. Around the dormitories, there is usually a supermarket. The price of dairy products and meat products is relatively much lower than at home, while the price of vegetables is a little higher. Seasonal fruits like cherries and raspberries are tasty and cheap. Pierogi (Polish dumplings) are a local specialty. It looks like Chinese dumplings, and has all kinds of fillings like meat and all kinds of fruits and yogurt. Polish people often say the taste holds the deepest memories of their hometowns. Often while studying abroad we need to cook by ourselves. In the public kitchen, foreign students from different countries make food from their home country and it makes people miss the familiar tastes of their hometown more.


Life as an Exchange Student is a Profound Journey


For me, the experience of studying abroad is not only about the improvement of language and my major, but also, more importantly, about the study of culture and self-improvement. This observation pervades every detail of life and every footprint you make, every beautiful view you see and every stranger you ever talk to. There are few Asians in Poland and many people show great enthusiasm and curiosity towards China. In the supermarkets, when we were still bewildered about choosing what kind of cheese to buy, an old and warm-hearted granny who passed by waved her hands and showed us the best kind in her eyes. On the trains, an old grandpa showed me excitedly his photos of traveling around China on the phone after knowing I am a Chinese. On the streets, when I was staring at Google maps to look for directions, there was a college student that came up and asked whether I needed help, and then later, a flock of students all came to help recognize the small icons on the maps. European culture is a typical part of the Western cultural systems, and is different from oriental civilizations in customs, cultural backgrounds and even mindsets. Since studying Chinese, I have read a lot of researches about the contrast between China and western civilizations and have written essays about cultural comparison. This exchange is a beautiful journey, saying hello to Europe and the whole Western world.


The street views of the city


Words can’t express all my feelings. For me, the four-month exchange in Poland was not only a journey of sight-seeing, but also an exploration of knowledge, a pursuit of a rich life and a reflection on the world. This profound journey, like an amber stone polished in the Baltic Sea, dove into my heart in a secret way.