My time spent based out of Warsaw will be remembered as many things. I found happiness in the Mountains of Zakopane, excitement on the streets of Berlin, and introspection at my placement at Collegium Civitas in the center of Warsaw. Reflecting on the overall experience I had, I feel as though it was a very necessary stint living outside of my comfort zone and challenging myself. I spent a lot of time working and thinking, which I believe built my character, but I also found time to relax and enjoy myself.
Part of the abroad experience is leaving what one knows and is comfortable with at home and becoming vulnerable. I love this aspect of travel and seek out the discomfort because I believe it is integral to the nurturing of one’s mind and spirit. Warsaw was my destination because I sought a challenge. At the time of my choosing and enrolling in the program, I was living in Croatia and not yet ready to go home. I decided I would take a month to travel across Europe by train and then fly from Lisbon to Warsaw for a challenging program entailing a class on terrorism and hybrid warfare and a research internship. So that is what I did.
By the time I reached Warsaw, I had seen and done so much. I built many life skills and had a new-found confidence based on my love of travel and skill in getting around. Warsaw was not the most beautiful city, and in fact much of its tragic history is displayed in monuments marking death, destruction, and oppression. I was stunned by the sadness and guilt the city seemed to harboring in all corners. I studied the events and conditions that Poland’s history is categorized by, and through this I learned a lot about collective tragedy, justice, and rebuilding.
Although it was not what I expected, Warsaw was a very important time of reflection. I got to see the more complex concept of my political science studies first hand. I worked very hard in my classes and at my internship everyday. It never felt like enough, but I was staying very busy. Unlike my time in Croatia, I rarely went out for socializing and other events. I still made time for enjoyment at restaurants, parks, cafes, and other places. One of the most enjoyable of these being a trip into Poland’s southern mountains. I made friends with locals as well as fellow Americans.
Overall, I benefited greatly from my time in Poland. I will say it was a more difficult time than I expected. Despite this, I value my time spent there. It was amazing to get home and feel like I had completed something big over the course of my time in Europe. I will always be grateful for all that I got to see and do because of my decision to study abroad.
Kayla Ritchie is majoring in Political Science (Public Policy) and studied abroad in Summer 2019 in Warsaw, Poland with SRAS. Kayla had the following to say about studying abroad, “The experience of studying abroad proved to be well worth any hardship I might have faced. The value of the things it enabled me to see and do will never leave me.” Kayla also studied abroad in Croatia during the Spring 2019 semester (read that blog here).
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