Stacey Mugambi is a 25-year-old Kenyan based in Warsaw, who has been living in Poland for 2 years. She studies international relations and works as a project coordinator for the European Academy of Diplomacy. Even though she hadn’t considered coming to Poland, it turned out to be a perfect step in her long-term plans.
How did Poland appear on your map?
I found myself here by chance really. I did my bachelor degree in law and international relations at London’s Middlesex University in Mauritius. Then I went back to Nairobi and kept thinking what to do next. I didn’t feel like pursuing law at that moment and I have always wanted a career in diplomacy and foreign service. I couldn’t really start working immediately because to get into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kenya you need to be experienced, demonstrate some level of specialization. So, I started to look for interesting opportunities and then I came across the European Academy of Diplomacy in Poland. It was perfect for me and also affordable. I got accepted and that was the start.
And now you also work for the Academy?
Yes. I graduated with the Executive Diploma in the Art of Diplomacy with a focus on foreign service, and I was also fortunate to find a great position there. First, I did an internship, and for the past year I have been working as a project coordinator. I also started my master’s degree studies at the Collegium Civitas’ faculty of International Relations and National Security Studies.
You are a very busy person…
I am! I’m also learning Polish, so there’s always a lot going on. I know what’s important to me, and I really like the opportunities I have here. Connecting work with education can be challenging sometimes, but I feel I’m surrounded by people who have similar priorities. The busyness seems to be very much in Polish blood. A few days ago, I bumped into a friend, and we decided to meet up later for a cup of coffee. We both had to schedule it with calendars in our hands. /laugh/
So luckily, you are still able to have a social life…
Not a crazy one. /laugh/ I am an introvert so I wouldn’t like to be out a lot anyway. Although I really did manage to build an amazing support system here. Of course, I really miss my family; they are literally everything to me. I miss the warmth they surround me with, as well as my friends back home. But here I’m also connected and safe — I call it my second family. /laugh/ I have friends, and I have my boyfriend. His mom is amazing, and she’s a fantastic cook! We visit often, and she’s always preparing something great.
Do you enjoy Polish cuisine?
Very much! I love that it’s all about the ingredients, not the spices. If you make potatoes, you make them properly. My favorites are żurek, kotlet schabowy, żeberka, mielone, pierogi. I actually cook myself. I even have a Polish cook-book.
What do you think about the Polish academic system?
Some differences from what I had experienced before certainly come from the fact that here I’m doing master’s degree studies. Other than that, I would say that student life in Poland is very individual in the sense that you only come together when you have a group assignment. You go to classes, and then you have your own life. Studying is not teamwork, and it’s not very social. But in terms of lectures, I think it’s really good. The methods used to teach are very different and very engaging.
How about people and their general approach to others and relationships?
It’s fascinating to observe the contrasting dynamics in people’s general approach to others and the relationships between my home country and here. Back home, there’s this immediate openness to meeting new people — a kind of inherent friendliness that permeates even the simplest encounters on the street or with someone you’re meeting for the first time. It creates an atmosphere of warmth right from the start. In Poland, it’s quite the opposite — that warmth tends to develop over time, after several meetings. I’ve found myself in some amusingly awkward situations adjusting to this cultural difference. However, I must say that this gradual process usually leads to great friendships; at least that is how it was with most of my Polish friends.
Have you had a chance to travel a little bit around Poland?
Yes, that’s actually my favorite way to relax. I’ve been to lots of cities, including Wrocław, Radom, and Sopot; of course, beautiful Masuria; and recently Bieszczady, which are my personal favorites. That was the first time I was hiking and climbed a mountain here in Poland. The views were incredible – such a beautiful experience! Although I was a little afraid of the bears with all the warning signs that kept reminding me of this danger. /laugh/
I would be more scared of vipers…
There are vipers there? Nobody warned me about that!
Did I just spoil Bieszczady for you?
Yeah… I don’t think I will be going there any time soon…
What would you say has been the biggest downside of life in Poland for you so far?
The approach of public offices to foreigners. It’s been a constant source of frustration for me. The personnel in these offices often exhibit impatience and a lack of helpfulness, which has proven to be a significant headache. There have been moments where the experience has been so disheartening that I found myself in tears afterward. Each time I have to engage with a public office, it requires mental preparation, adjusting my attitude, and a steeling of nerves. On a different note, the long and dark winters in Poland are another considerable challenge. Personally, I find myself grappling with the winter and summer time changes as they disrupt established routines, affecting everything from sleep and eating patterns to our general sense of time. My goodness! /laugh/
And the highlight?
Oh, the abundance of opportunities that have unfolded through both my work and university life. To think that I could meet certain types of people and find myself in particular spaces — it’s something I wouldn’t have dared to dream about even in a million years. The fact that Poland is a member of the EU opens up incredible prospects for networking and gaining valuable experience, especially for someone like me who is deeply passionate about foreign service and international relations. The environment here is nothing short of amazing for my career growth, and I’m genuinely thankful for every opportunity that comes my way
Have you thought about staying here indefinitely?
It did cross my mind, but there’s a lot to consider. Poland provides a conducive environment for personal and career development, offering the comfort and safety that I value. However, I’m aware that to truly thrive here, mastering the language is essential. So, first things first. /laugh/