Thanks to my friend Justyna, who once did an exchange program in Wageningen and now studies in Warsaw Agricultural University, I could experience dormitory life. I found it is something between the Dutch student flat and the dorm I had in China. Like the in China, many people live in one corridor or floor, and two or three students share one room. (In China this figure could be 4 or more.) But here every Polish floor is equipped with a kitchen, which resembles the Dutch situation. 'I pay about 70 euro per month, much cheaper than Hoevestein,' Justyna says, satisfied with the price of the dorm.
But not everyone agrees with her. By accident I bumped into Andy and Owen, Justyna's Asian next door neighbours. 'It's not convenient to cook here as there's nothing in the kitchen except eight stoves.' I felt so grateful that I'm studying in Wageningen not Warsaw.
Suit up for the exam
I visited the Warsaw University Library during my bicycle tour in the city. Rather than its famous façade, I was more curious about the student life inside. Though unfortunately I didn't have access to it, I found an entrance on the flank. Up along the stairs, I noticed many people waiting in the aisle of each floor, either sitting or pacing, they were in formal dress. I stopped a girl walking down stairs: 'Do you have an interview here? I've found all of you suited up.' 'No, there's an exam this afternoon, so we dress like this,' she said. 'But why?' I asked. 'It's a tradition, as an act of respect,' she said.
I really appreciate this tradition, and I think it's more than a formalistic gesture.
When I was strolling at night in Krakow, I noticed different types of girls holding flyers or cards in the square: some were dressed like...hookers...while others were simply in jeans and T-shirt. My eyes landed on a blonde girl in a white T-shirt. I decided to accost her. She told me she had just graduated from high school and got this job recently. 'How much do you get paid?' I asked. '10 zloty (around 2.5 euro) per hour, 3 or 5 hours per night.' She said it's quite a well-paid job for students of her age. She was busy flyering so that I had to round off the talk and say bye.
Yet I'm still impressed by her: to do moonlight flyering and talk to strangers in fluent English, this is something I never imagined that I could have done at 18. I envy for her getting independent at such a young age.
There's a Chinese saying: among any three people walking, I will find something to learn for sure. During this trip, I've also learned a lot from the Polish students. The only pity is that I no longer have any chance to suit up for an exam as I've finished my courses long time ago.