I am Ralitsa, and I am a PhD student at the Institute of Plant Physiology and Genetics at AS. During the academic year 2012-2013, I studied for three months at the Department of Genetics at the Faculty of Biology of Silesian University, Katowice, Poland.
I learned about the opportunities provided by the Erasmus Program from a colleague of mine, a PhD student, who explained to me the application procedures and the required documents in detail, and also enthusiastically inspired me to visit another European country and to see what was the academic, social and cultural life around the world.
My first impression of Poland in the face of Katowice and its inhabitants was amazement by the immense differences in architectural, cultural and traditional aspects such as numerous red buildings, the large, well-maintained green areas, well-organized public transport, clean streets and numerous churches and others.
For the three months of my training in Katowice, I was accommodated in a dormitory at Silesian University. The conditions were good. The only thing that surprised me was that even though the block I was housed was primarily designed for foreign students, janitors rarely spoke a language other than Polish which sometimes caused problems.
The local organization of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN Katowice) organized meetings of the Erasmus students from different universities in Katowice every two weeks. There I had the opportunity to meet with students who had come from different parts of Europe under the Program and exchange with them ideas and impressions on various topics. ESN Katowice also organized a fun and pleasant outing to Polish Beskid Mountains as well as a trip to one of the coal mines near Katowice. They were also the main coordinator of the traditional week of the Silesian Days where various opportunities for further development of Erasmus students were presented by local firms and institutions. Of course, the useful was combined with the pleasant in the form of different games, competitions and entertainments.
PhD students and scientists from the Department of Genetics at Silesian University were very kind and willing to help at any moment with whatever they can. Weekly seminars were held to discuss results obtained by different PhD students. Seminars were held in English not only so that I could understand them but also to train the very PhD students to deliver presentations in English by themselves. Besides, I had the opportunity to attend lectures given by visiting scientists. In general, the working atmosphere at the Biological Faculty of Silesian University was very creative.
Overall, these three months in Poland were an incredible experience. I made new friends, learned new methods to apply in my scientific work, I immersed myself in a different culture.
I would recommend for the Program to be more widely promoted and for everyone to take advantage of its potential.