Niranjala Anjala Dissanayake from Sri Lanka, an Environmental Engineering and Management Program student from AIT School of Environment, Resources and Development, talks about her life-changing experience in a winter exchange program at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology (WUST), a University in Poland, Europe!. Here is her story:
“Why did you select Poland?”; this was the first question I heard from my family members and friends when I decided to take an exchange semester in the Central European country. Compared to its neighbors such as France and Spain, Poland is relatively lesser known in my hometown. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts, but looking back, I now feel it was the best decision I have ever taken, as I got to experience the rich history and culture of this amazing country and its people while undertaking “Polish History and Culture” as a credited subject in one of the best universities in the world.
Before stepping into my tremendous journey in Poland, I would like to thank Dr. Rafiul Ahad and Mrs. Frances Kasala Ahad for their profuse financial support, which has been a great honor. I would also like to thank AIT’s Environmental Engineering and Management family for inspiring me to pursue this exchange program, the International Affairs Unit of the Office of International and Public Affairs for providing me with this exchange opportunity at WUST, and also the guiding me throughout my application and selection processes and the Office of Advancement and Alumni Affairs for providing the exchange scholarship.
This exchange program counts under the list of miracles that happened in my life, as it came to me unexpectedly, both in time and manner. It was a blessing and a secure feeling to have a good friend Palacksone Vongxayalath from AIT on this journey, who also got selected for the same Winter Exchange Program 2022 at WUST.
Deciding to attend the exchange program and continue my thesis simultaneously wasn’t easy. After numerous sleepless nights and tight daytime schedules, I completed the first phase of my research and left for Poland on 25 September 2022. My first leg of travel placed me in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland which was wiped out during the Second World War. Now, there are no indications of its tragic past; instead, only friendly welcoming faces and supportive hands. From Warsaw to Wroclaw, we experienced the comfort and punctuality of public transport in Poland.
My ‘buddy’ Simon, who the Erasmus Student Network assigned, gave a fantastic first impression of Polish People. He took care of our first night’s accommodation and travel from the capital city to our destination. Although Wroclaw is the hottest city in Poland, it did not feel like such having arrived from Thailand. With little delay, I started exploring the city. Wroclaw has the biggest and one of the most diversified zoos in Europe, and it was situated only about 300m from my dormitory. It was the first place I chose to visit. As a catholic by birth and passionate about Byzantine and Gothic architecture, Wroclaw was a perfect place to explore countless churches and cathedrals with massive implausible creations.
In the first week of October, the new semester began at Politechnika Wroclawska, or Wroclaw University of Science and Technology (WUST). I was one of the many exchange students in the semester, representing different countries. It was a thoroughly international exposure in a vast and reputed university network. WUST is a fully facilitated university with 887 didactic laboratories, 175 research laboratories, and 13 accredited laboratories. These facilities exposed me to the practical experience of almost all the theoretical knowledge I gathered during my studies at AIT. In simple terms, the five-month stay as an exchange student in Poland was an extension of the things I learned at AIT. I also became familiar with the European education system and technologies.
Furthermore, I also got an opportunity to try my hands at numerous sports and activities such as swimming, horse-riding, rock-climbing, rowing, windsurfing, skiing, martial arts, archery, aerobics, body-building, mountain biking, rope climbing, paragliding, golf, volleyball, table tennis, basketball, football, and rugby through non credited subject under physical education.
The swimming class was my turning point in Poland, as I met my Polish bosom friend, “Matylda.” She introduced me to her lovely and amiable Polish family. I also got acquainted with her cute puppy, Luna, who became a perfect companion for my evening walks. My Polish family always treated me to authentic Polish food; “bigos”, “zurek” with bread, Oscypek, and special Christmas dinner with “borscht”,”uszka” and poppy seed roll which enhanced the joy of staying in Poland. It was an excellent experience as I had a family (mother, father, and three sisters) far away from my home country. I spent a lot of time with my new family and felt warmth and affection, which is the best thing I got apart from the academic achievements during the exchange program.
The most mesmerizing moment was my first snow experience in Krakow, the old capital of Poland. Although the cold was harsh, I enjoyed the snowfall. Hiking in the Sudeten Mountain region amidst heavy snow was another unforgettable memory. My dorm mate “Mayra” from Ecuador and I had a marvelous trip to Warsaw to explore its historical amazements. Present Warsaw owns huge historical designs with many incomparable modern skyscrapers.
My visit wouldn’t have been complete without meeting my cousin and relatives in Italy at Christmas. Meeting them after half a decade during the most joyful time of the year was very exciting. I also visited one of the world’s seven wonders, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Moreover, I fulfilled the great thirst of visiting the city where the great artist Leonardo Da Vinci grew up. The whole town is just like a painting on a canvas, which perfectly matches the colors. My Europe tour continued to Czech and Prague, which wiped out my regret of canceling the trip to Paris. The Astronomical clock, Charles Bridge, Castle, Old Town Square, and Petrin Tower shows skillful and detailed ancient European architecture.
For me, it is so hard to agglomerate this vital opportunity into a few words. It is a remarkable experience that everyone should have during academic life. I am very grateful to AIT and the WUST for this lifetime experience.