Aashruti Tripathy is a 27-year-old student from Nepal, who came to Poland for an Erasmus Mundus master’s scholarship at the University of Łódź. She has been living here for four months, but her international student’s adventure started a year and a half ago.
Why did you choose Poland as one of your destinations for scholarship?
Well, it wasn’t really my conscious choice to be here. /laugh/ I applied for the scholarship to complete my master’s degree abroad and given the area I’m interested in, which is media, arts and culture, I was assigned to three different universities for three consecutive semesters – in Austria, Denmark and Poland. Now I am in my third semester and I’m going to write my thesis and get my master’s degree here, so I will stay until August.
How do you like it so far?
Łódź is filled with street art and I love to explore every corner of this city – it’s so interesting! I can find great Asian places to eat as well, and actually buy authentic Nepalese snacks, ingredients and spices. I also visited Warsaw, but only for two days. I couldn’t really explore it fully in just one weekend but I also liked it a lot – the streets, the variety of museums… And all the ruined buildings you come across among the proper ones – they give that raw post-war vibe.
And the people?
I haven’t really had many opportunities to meet and get to know Poles better yet. My study group is international, we travel for consecutive semesters together and mainly spend time with each other. Friends from my class are from over twenty different countries like Mexico, Ecuador, India, Pakistan, France, Turkey, Philippines… So, it’s already really interesting. But my Polish professors are truly incredible – very friendly and helpful, they really take care of us here, always make sure we are feeling ok and are well even in terms of health. You know, in different places people react differently to foreigners – some are very open, some less accepting. I can say that here in Łódź, I really haven’t felt the latter and whenever I get confused and need to ask someone for directions, people are always willing to help.
How does it feel to be here after experiencing Austria and Denmark?
Calm. Vienna was my first destination and that experience was really hard for me. It was the first time I was on my own and far away from home. I was used to living with my siblings, parents and grandparents, where my mom was doing pretty much everything for us, including the laundry. So, Austria for me meant a lot of personal growth in terms of doing basic things for myself, and the outside environment wasn’t helping. I was scared, really struggled with the language and barely navigated the city. Everything was in German and most people couldn’t speak English, especially in stores. I once spent 40 minutes trying to buy rice. I had to rely on Google translate all the time. In the subway, I couldn’t understand the communication, I got confused a lot. Many times, I ended up taking a taxi to make sure I will be alright, safe and on time.
And in Denmark?
It was completely different. I didn’t feel like an outsider, I could easily communicate with others and if I needed help, people were actually walking me to the right bus stop and waiting with me until the bus came. Extra nice. Then I went to India for an internship, visited home and after – back to Europe, to Poland. Even though I was coming here from my family home and kind of starting over this international experience, I felt differently – safer and calm. I like the paste of life in Łódź, the city and every-day life were also easier to learn. It’s just calm, no drama, no anxiety, no rush, but also exciting at the same time. I’m definitely in the exploration mode. /laugh/ It’s mostly possible to communicate in English here. I really like Poland in terms of food, dumplings in particular, but I had other amazing food experiences here like the Christmas dinner I was invited to.
The university has this exchange initiative, where international students can sign up for Christmas dinners. I was invited to the house of the German literature professor, who I had never met before. She is German and her husband, who is also a literature professor, is Polish. They made the entire experience of Christmas absolutely unforgettable for me. We started the dinner after seeing the first star in the sky, with 12 traditional dishes. The whole thing was so celebratory and they made me feel so good and at home! From 5 p.m. until 1 a.m.! We ate, we drank, we had all those beautiful conversations with their family, and then there was a gift opening! I didn’t just get a gift, there were multiple presents with my name on it and it completely took me by surprise. We have a one-day Christmas holiday in Nepal, but I usually spend it by going out for dinner with my family. So, I went there with a bottle of wine, I went out absolutely mesmerized and weighed down with presents. And now I will never forget this Christmas Eve, ever.
How about the challenges that you faced here?
When we came to Łódź for our final semester we had to register in the foreigner’s office and apply for our permits (we only had Danish resident cards allowing a 90-day legal stay in Poland). The process of applying turned out to be difficult, to say the least. Crowds in front of the counters (four but only two were open), no order, no lines, huge font but everything in Polish. /laugh/ Since we didn’t have any Polish friends, we were filling out forms for 45 minutes using Google translate. And then we found out that they will call us for the biometric but it will take up to three months… That actually reminded me of my own country, where any government office is just pure chaos. Nothing happens on time, people do whatever they want. /laugh/ Only here, it was also a very cold morning…
So, the Polish weather got to you…
Yeah. I really miss the warmth and the sunlight. In Kathmandu, where I come from, we get minimum 3-4 degrees in winter, but then in the afternoon there is this bright sun that gives a warm environment and it’s 12-14 degrees… I miss my friends too and the place we hang out at, with dumplings and cheap coffee – Everest Irish Pub.
What are your plans after completing your master’s?
I would like to stay in Europe for one more year and get some more experience here. I don’t know if it’s going to be in Poland, I’m kind of basing this decision on the best academic and practical experience available. I’m looking for opportunities right now, checking on grants and workshops in the area of audiovisual arts. But after that, I’m definitely heading home.