Just one year ago, I studied abroad in Poland at the University of Arts in Poznań, where I learned one of life’s discreet, but vital, secrets.
In Poznań, there is a large city park called Cytadela. On sunny days, in April, I would walk with an assortment of my friends from the dormitory to this park. We never really needed a reason to go, except to sit on the green grass near a cluster of tall, lush trees, and enjoy the atmosphere. Sometimes we would bring sandwiches and drinks, or someone would take along their guitar. Crazy Oto and Chris would bring an new toy every time: a Frisbee, a golf set for putting on an open grassy areas, an eccentric bike complete with a horn, pin wheel, and a Bob Marley flag to ride on one of the meandering walkways. Perhaps my favorite thing to do was simply lie on a scarf with my face to the sky and watch specks particles float across my eyes. Upon reflection, the everyday challenges and inconspicuous moments are what stand out as remarkable to me.
When my friends invited me to go to Cytadela, I would think about all the work I was planning to do that day. But then a little cheerful voice inside of me would say, “Don’t worry, you can do it tomorrow. It’s okay.” And I would go. Every time I cleared my schedule to accommodate nice days, I felt granted a free pass to enjoy life.
This was possible because most of my art classes did not dictate specific due dates. Rather, we were expected to consult professors in the classroom regularly, interact with other students, and attend as many exhibitions as we could. It was not until the end of the semester that we were expected to hand in our art projects. I loved the freedom to set my own pace. Consequently, I spent a lot more time outside on beautiful days.
When I think about my semester in Poland, I long to go back to Cytadela days – days when time and work became an afterthought. By wiping my schedule clean to enjoy the day, I gained a new perspective on life.
Work and school remain important, but neither should be my top priority. In Canada, I tend to overwhelm my schedule with duties and study and I end up putting everything else last. Cytadela taught me to put friendship first. I became closer to people around me, especially my roommate, Mariana. We loved to share a chocolate bar (or a few) and talk for hours. We were like counselors for each other with a continuous session booked every day. Her Portuguese culture rubbed off on me as I began to kiss people on the cheeks upon meeting. And we usually ate dinner at nine or ten o’clock at night, a new habit that challenged my routine.
I also gained unexpected wisdom from my friends who smoked. I came to appreciate the act of pausing to do nothing except to inhale and look around. Instead of smoking, I would take a ‘breathe break’ with them. It was lovely – especially when I was able to avoid the second-hand smoke. All this aside, I find that it still very easy to overwhelm my schedule. However, I remain active in trying to find the balance between work and recreation.
I am very excited now because I’ll be returning to Poznań after my last exam. I plan on visiting the friends I left behind and I definitely plan on stopping by Cytadela at least once.
Want to change your perspective? Consider going abroad. If you are a student interested in starting your own Study Abroad experience, or a faculty member wishing to teach abroad, the first steps are to gather more information and apply!