A CHALLENGING YEAR IN POLAND by Safae El Ouadifi, Morocco

It was the 1st of August in 2013 and it began as any other ordinary sunny morning in my beloved city Casablanca. I was checking my email inbox and it was full to the brim. I was about to logout of my inbox and go back to my unfinished morning nap, an email caught my attention.  ”Is it real?” I thought to myself, ”Yeah it is, it must be!” The email was an  answer from Lublin Politechnika University. I opened it with hesitation. . At the first glimpse the word “Acceptance to the Master degree of Management” dominated my visual field.I was thrilled like a child in front of a Christmas tree, jumping around like a hippie with excitement….
Though at some level of my joy dance, a thought hit me like a train on the face “How could you live for a year in a country as Poland, has a completely different culture than yours,with freezing cold temperatures and, a language that sounds like a broken record…. How could I leave my family and mostly my newlywed husband….”
All of these questions were popping in my head like a fire bowl of popcorn, I was really at loss at what I needed to do next.
In the middle of these tangled thoughts, I was going to entirely reject the offer and simply stay at in my comfort zone, and finish sipping my morning cup of tea and my morning nap.
I took another sip of my scolding hot tea, and it burned me. I realized that this was a childhood dream of mine. I have always dreamed to live in an exotic country, to live overseas and to discover new insights in this glob. My fears should not stop me.
Based on this, I made my decision.  I set my visa papers and began packing my luggage almost immediately.
During this  journey I couldn’t help it to have an array of feelings. They ranged from a mixture of blissfulness mixed  with gut feelings of anxiety and dreadfulness.

It was the 30th of September 2013, I landed in Warsaw a city. It was raining cats and dogs. I was standing at the train station with a ticket in hand, which I did not understand anything apart from the date and the price of the ticket. 
There I was, sitting, waiting, and looking around for a train. I sat there impatiently, fidgeting, looking left and right, it seemed like I was waiting forever.  “When would my train be here” I kept thinking. The night would be falling soon and I would have no place to stay for the night. “It better come soon” I remember repeating to myself.  I let out a disheartened long sigh, sat up straight, and continued to fidget while still waiting for the train. 
After a while, I started to wonder why my train wasn’t here yet. I was so perplexed, I was staring at the passersby getting along with a panda eyes. I was approached by a polish lady who was coming towards me with a matching pink skirt and blouse, hair blowing in the air, and a dog wagging his tail following behind. She had to be in her sixties. She stopped me and naturally I gave her my ticket as a lonely, desperate young lady seeking answers to where my train was! At my surprise she just grab my hand abruptly and moved me to the direction of the the first floor of the train station. She did not speak any English and I didn’t understand any of her Polish language, but deep inside me I felt a level with trust with her and thought it was okay to follow her. She stopped brusquely, grasped for breath, when she saw the train standing there on the platform. The door was surrounded by passengers, who were saying  farewell to their loved ones. She waited patiently as I was getting on the train, I dropped my luggage inside, I froze when my eyes met hers, and I saw right to the depths of her soul. I had no time to thank the lady in pink so I waved very hardly, with a huge smile on my face. Time seemed to slow down and as the train began to move, the edges of her vision blurred. Our eyes were focused only on each other, she stood on the platform just watching me.  An aura of acceptance and warm hospitably in her country just radiated from her pale skin. She made me feel safe, she made me feel like I made a good decision to stay.

Along my stay in Poland I had only been in situation on one other previous occasion However, I did have some difficulties abroad. I was lost in the streets at some point, and I couldn’t always find the correct bus. The airport even t lost my luggage. At some point I couldn’t even do my grocery shopping because I couldn’t understand the labels on the products properly. 
Likewise I was unable to apprehend the words of the phone’s lady when I needed technical assistance. I have failed to file my polish administration paper properly, I couldn’t describe my destination to the taxi driver …I have been to many many problematic and embarrassing situations. They were learning situations.
But truth to be told, in hindsight I discovered that in the middle of this chaotic year I learned a dozens of precious life lessons.
I encountered many  people from all over the world, I gained a number of long lasting friendships, I developed an immunity system towards hatred and criticism, I have been challenged and discovered some amazing hidden sides in my personality, in addition i have developed an outstanding openness of mind tolerance and understanding, I was so impressed about the diversity in our universal community.
In two words one year abroad taught me that a SMILE and an OPEN MIND are the best universal languages in this world.

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