I had spent weeks mentally preparing for the beginning of my program in Wrocław, Poland to begin. I watched as my friends returned to the Nebraska Wesleyan, my home university, campus and begin their school years anew. I couldn’t help but feel a little left behind seeing the world march on as a I awaited the start of my Polish language courses at the University of Wrocław in early September. I had said my goodbyes countless times when I finished my summer internship in Lincoln, Nebraska and moved back home to my rural community in the southwestern region of the state to spend time with my family. I counted the days with anticipation until I would step foot on a plane, take a 20-hour journey, and arrive in a country I had never seen, on a continent I had never visited, and be welcomed in a language that I was far from fluent in. The gravity of this, however, did not strike me until my mother stopped at the departure gate of Denver International Airport. It was hard to grasp that the day that I’d been anticipating for nearly a year had finally arrived and, with it, the bittersweet farewell I was now faced with. In retrospect, I was prepared in nearly every way that one could be before taking a leap of faith such as this. I had done my research, gotten my visa, debated on what to pack for days, and attended every pre-departure session offered by my university but nothing prepared me for the weight of actually saying goodbye.
I carried this feeling with me for the majority of my journey to Wrocław. My initial arrival was rough to say the least. When I arrived at my dormitory I was greeted by a sweet Polish woman at the front desk with a list in hand verifying the students that were to be living there for the year. The catch, though, was that she did not speak English nor I Polish. To make matters worse, my name was nowhere to be found on the list that we repeatedly combed through to verify my housing placement. At this point, I was near my breaking point. Here I was, thousands of miles away from home and I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find a place in the dormitory. Luckily, after multiple attempts of pantomiming to one another what we were trying to say (at one point even crudely drawing pictures to convey our thoughts), I was given a key to what will be my home for the next ten months.
In the moment, these obstacles seem incredibly frustrating and can even serve to be a bit demoralizing, but the remedy to my adjustment blues has come to me in a two-fold solution. Firstly, trying to stay positive is a major asset. Sure, there may be plenty of frustrations and sometimes my expectations may fall short of reality, but that’s not to say that there aren’t dozens of silver linings to be grateful for. I may have said goodbye to my family and friends, but this only makes saying “hello” that much sweeter when I return. My name may have been left off of a housing list, but I shared an exchange with a kind individual that I would otherwise have not have experienced, Pictionary and all. Secondly, and perhaps the most important for me, is being able to keep a sense of humor. There are inevitably going to be things that I do not know or have experience with but keeping a sense of humor, laughing at (and learning from) your mistakes, and moving forward is vital. This new outlook has made the passing days far more enjoyable and positive than my initial arrival and with the support of my new friends abroad and family back home, I’m completely confident and inspired to continue my journey into my new lifestyle. That being said, keeping a list of goals and aspirations during my time in Wrocław helps keep me on track. Something as simple as a list of restaurants or attractions to visit with my new friends is enough to make any worries drift away. The longer I am Wrocław, the more relaxed I feel and my excitement to get into the full swing of things only grows. I cannot predict exactly how the coming months will go, but with my new outlook on my time here and unique experiences daily, I’m confident they’ll be filled with new friends and adventures!