During my one month in Krakow, I have met people from so many different nationalities and backgrounds. This has been one of the most amazing and daunting parts of the whole experience. Often meeting and getting to know these people requires a considerable amount of effort. This is because you have to not only deal with the initial awkwardness of first meeting someone but you must also work through the language and cultural barriers to find a mutual understanding. However, being able to talk, learn and laugh with these people has been well and truly worth the effort.
I have also found great comfort in the friendships I have made with other Australians in the Border Crossings Program. Being able to talk and laugh with Peter and Liz has made the experience a lot less overwhelming and provides me a small slice of home. It is also rather nice to say something very clique Australian (i.e.- your acting like a pork chop or she be apples) and not have twenty pairs of eyes stare back at you as though you have grown a second head.
As well as this, I often feel that I have to be as well presented as possible when I am meeting people from other countries. This is not only because I am representing myself, but I am also representing Australia and the Border Crossings Program. This means that on many occassions I find it hard to be relaxed and as comfortable as I would like to be. However, sitting in my apartment eating pretzels and chocolate and drinking horrible red wine with Liz and Peter is probably the most relaxed I have been since I arrived in Krakow.
On the other hand, the more time I spend with people that have different homes, different lifestyles and different religions, the more comfortable I am becoming. It is one of the elements of the exchange experience which makes it so incredible. There is no other situation I have been in that compares to this. I have been placed in an unfamiliar environment away from the comforts of home with hundreds of other people. This has forced me to come out my shell (which by the way I am very comfortable in) and engage in social interactions. Although at first I did this begrudgingly, I am now incredibly thankful that I made the effort.
The opportunity to see the world through other people’s eyes is both exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time. It has given me the chance to analyse myself and the world I know and have grown up in. I have come out of this experience so far with lots of questions that I intend on getting answered.
Although all this self discovery and advancement in the journey of life is very monumental and important, it is wonderful to be able to cradle the familiar. During the rest of my time in Krakow and in Europe, I intend to dive out my comfort zone as often as possible but have the security blanket of home and all its associated familiarities to catch me.