Celia Whisler’s Travel Log
Learn about our programs from our own students! We have asked our participants to be “Travel Log Journalists.” As part of this unique internship program, students write about their experiences, feelings, thoughts, impressions – before, after, and during their study abroad program.
Here is our first Travel Log Journal from Celia Whisler. She attended our semester program at Collegium Civitas with an internship. Thank you Celia for submitting this!
Oct 6th My Arrival to Poland
I have arrived in Poland! The flights over were terrible. I was seated on both flights by people that needed assistance to move around so I arrived in Poland with black ankles. I hate De Gaulle! I had to stand in long hot lines to have my passport stamped and then I had the pleasure of being patted down when I went through security. I am going to say that it was due to the increased terrorist threats since I was flying through Paris right after they had to evacuate the Eiffel tower. Sarah (Program Director) met me at the airport. It was a relief to finally hear English again after a day straight of French. We got into a taxi and made our way to my apartment building. As I tripped my way out of the elevator due to my suitcase being really big, I was greeted by my roommate Amelie. We hit it off straight away. I was shown how to work the skeleton key, where my room was, how to get onto the internet, and where to wash clothes. Sarah also went over some paperwork, gave me a phone, a hair dryer, and programmed the number of a taxi service into my phone. All of us decided to go out to eat for dinner. We went to a restaurant in the mall called the Sphinx. It was pretty weird for me to be sitting in Warsaw, at a restaurant, when just a day ago I was in D.C. saying goodbye to my boyfriend. The inside of the restaurant was made to look like we were dinning in a forest under trees. They claimed to serve Turkish food but the Turkish food was nothing like what I had eaten in the states. They did not serve lamb, it was patted down patties of beef, and they did not have ketchup! Instead they brought out a variety of dipping sides. After dinner, we headed home and I was able to talk to my boyfriend for a little bit on Skype to let him know I had arrived safely. I feel like I could sleep forever.
Oct 23rd Leaving for Krakow
Today was a long day. I had to meet Sarah and Jerry at the train station at 7:30 in the morning. I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before due to the excitement of leaving for Krakow. When we were all at the meeting spot we went into the underground station to buy some snacks for the train ride. Vincennes and his friends met us there with a kiss on the head for the ladies and a hand shake for the guys. This I will admit was my first experience with the European way to great people. His friend instead of shaking my hand gave me a kiss on both cheeks. We headed for the train platform and it wasn’t too long after we boarded that the train departed the station. I was really amazed by how nice our cabin in the train was. I was thinking the train was going to be like Amtrak in the states but it was a really comfortable 6 seated compartment. As soon as we arrived in Krakow we headed for the hostel. This was also my first hostel experience. I was told I was lucky usually in a hostel you have to bunk with other people but we had an apartment all to ourselves. We then headed to a restaurant to eat. It was a cute place with amazing food. The inside was ecliptic and warming. After the restaurant we walked around the square and took photos. We even browsed the markets for gifts. We then watched a break dancing show in front of a church before going into the church to see the largest hand carved gothic alter in all of Europe. It was amazing! I don’t think I have ever seen anything in a church in America close to the beauty of this alter. Later we met the study abroad student in Krakow named Justyna. She went with jerry and I to the salt mines. The salt mines were pretty amazing! We had so much fun taking silly photos and seeing the awe inspiring underground chapel the miners built. I also found out while I was there that the Nazis actually over took the mines during the war and they were using this one room in the mines to build and hide airplane parts. They poured concrete over the floor so that it could hold the weight. I couldn’t believe it! I never knew the Nazis were in the mines and it was kind of an eerie feeling to be standing in the same room that Nazis once occupied. The tour was 3 hours long. It was nice to finally see the surface again. It took a 20 minute bus ride back to Krakow and we met up with the rest of the group. We went out to a traditional polish restaurant. We had to have been at this place for hours it was a blast just being with everyone and hearing about each other’s days. My coordinator had gone to the Jewish district all day and she was telling us about some of the facts she learned while on the tour. I had my first beer with syrup at this restaurant and my first polish ice cream!! It was better than cold stone! The chocolate ice cream tasted like I was really eating chocolate the strawberry tasted like real strawberries and the vanilla bean was out of this world! After the restaurant we walked around the town a little bit taking pictures here and there before stopping at a bar for some drinks and then headed back to our hostel.
Oct 24th Auschwitz, Back to Warsaw
Today was another long day. Jerry and I met Justyna at the bus stop around 9am to head to Auschwitz. Auschwitz was one of the things on my bucket list to do for sure at some point of my life. The bus trip was an hour and 30 minutes. While driving there you watch a video of film made during the weeks following the camps liberation. From the moment you arrive at Auschwitz you can feel the sadness. Nobody smiles; no body cracks jokes or talks over the tour guides. It was a totally different vibe from the salt mines. This tour was an all day tour. I didn’t take many pictures. I didn’t feel it was right. These were people that were put through literally hell on earth. Think of the worst thing that could happen to you and it actually happened to them. The whole time I was just trying to keep from crying. I think the part that got me the most was walking down the hallway of faces. Both sides from top to bottom were filled with faces of people who had died. You could tell family members had been there cause some photos had flowers hanging from them. I also couldn’t get over the fact that a lot of people were never even registered in the camp. As soon as they got there they were gassed. The only thing to ever tell they ever existed might be a comb or a suite case. It was very sad. I can’t believe a human being could do this. Whole towns in one day just wiped off the map never to be heard from again. The only picture I took was of me under the gates to Auschwitz that read work makes you free in German. (Albeit mach fret) The originally sign had actually been stolen a month before I arrived and they finally got it back but the people who stole it had cut it up and defaced it. Why would somebody do that? Auschwitz made a huge impression on me. It was originally a camp for Polish political prisoners, then for Soviet soldiers and then it turned into the most horrified palce on our Earth. My family actually escaped the horrors of the holocaust. My great grandfather came over to the states in 1920. His sons went back over there with the American army and helped to free Poland from Nazi occupation. I am so proud and yet so grateful at the same time. My life could have been totally different if my great grandfather had stayed in Poland. We got back to Krakow around 6 and went to a restaurant that had the slowest service in the world. We didn’t have time to go shopping like we wanted. We boarded our train and headed back to Warsaw. Krakow was a nice break but I was so happy to finally be coming home. I got home about 11pm. I talked to my boyfriend online for a little bit and then headed to bed.
Feb 29th The First Day Home
I would say the only culture shock I had at first was everyone speaking English again. I am so used to having to prepare what I am going to say in each situation in my head in Polish over in Poland that I would want to start talking in Polish here but would remember everyone speaks English. I suddenly missed things I actually didn’t like in Poland as much at the beginning. I did miss being able to go into a restaurant and hang up my jacket right next to my seat. I also missed the portion sizes and prices. I never realized how big the portions in America were until I went to Poland. They are huge! Everything in America is so expensive as well compared to Poland. In Poland I could get a 3 course meal for 12 American dollars. In the states it would cost me 30. Right now it is just the little things I miss but I am happy to be back home. I would like to recommend this program to all students to gain the experience of living and studying in a foreign country. I am very happy that I had such an opportunity.