August

After the very long journey from Houston, Texas, USA, I was very happy to see my host family on the other end, in Warsaw, Poland. When I first caught sight of them, I saw my host mother holding the Polish flag, my host sister holding the USA flag, and my host father holding a very nicely decorated sign that said "Welcome Home Megan." That will be a sight that I will always remember. I have a rare host family situation because I became friends with my host sister, Ola while she was on an exchange in Houston, Texas 2012-2013. She was the main reason why I included Poland in my list of countries I was interested in, because she was such a great ambassador of Poland... even when I first met her I could tell what a great person she is. So, instead of meeting each other for the first time in the Warsaw airport, we hugged each other and she said, "Welcome to Poland, kruszynka!" I know that I should've been tired and jet-lagged but the excitement of being in a different country kept me awake during the car ride from Warsaw to Bydgoszcz. The day after I arrived, Ola showed me around Bydgoszcz and I said that I felt like I was in Disney World. We don't have public transportation in my town in Texas, so riding the bus and tram for the first time was very cool to me. I even kept my first bus ticket to keep as a souvenir. I was amazed by the beauty of the architecture in Bydgoszcz since I had never seen buildings that looked quite the same. A few days after my arrival in Poland, I went to Berlin with Ola, her friend Anna, and her uncle who works in Berlin. I had a great time doing touristic things around the city and seeing the famous and historic aspects of the city. A few days later, I went to the 2-week long language camp for all the exchange students in Poland, which was in Bydgoszcz. It was so much fun getting to know all of the other exchange students. There is something that separates exchange students from normal people... exchange students are always so open to new people, ideas and cultures. We had fun sharing a little of our cultures with each other, whether it was through language or dance moves. I was hoping that after this language camp I would be well off speaking Polish... haha! Polish is a very difficult language and although I learned the basics at the language camp I knew I still had so much to learn.

September

School started on the 1st of September. I started out in a class that focuses on math and physics. A girl named Dagna, who I knew because she helped out with the language camp, was in this class so I was glad that I knew at least one person. She was very nice and introduced me to the class which meant a lot to me! The next day, I was moved into a different class which the principal thought would be better for exchange students. Everyone in my new class was also very friendly. Polish school and American school are different in many ways... neither of them are better, just different. I have been going to school for almost 3 months now and I am enjoying it and getting to know my classmates. My host family and I took a trip to the mountains and castles of southern Poland and Prague, Czech Republic. Hiking through the Polish Mountains was very fun, I love nature and enjoy hiking. The view from the top was beautiful! I also really enjoyed seeing Prague. I have heard numerous times that it is one of the prettiest cities in Europe and in the world and I don't have any doubts that that is true. I think I took a total of 1000 photos just in these few days! Also in September, we had a district conference in Lublin. I was dreading the 7 hour train ride but it ended up being so fun, how could it be boring when you're traveling with 6 other exchange students? Lublin is a beautiful city and I loved touring it. In Lublin we were presented with numerous Rotary-organized trips which I am really excited about! My birthday was September 16th. All of my classmates sang Happy Birthday to me in Polish and my friend Dagna made me cupcakes that said "Happy 18th Birthday Megan" and also had the flags of the USA and Poland. I was so touched! My host family gave me a beautiful amber bracelet which I'll always treasure!

October

October started with a trip to Gdansk and Sopot with my host family. Since we live in a city, it was nice to go to the seaside for a couple of days. The Baltic Sea is beautiful, and although it was too cold to go in the water I enjoyed watching the waves and taking nice pictures. One of my classmates invited me and another exchange student for a day trip to Warsaw since his mother works there once a week. Visiting Warsaw was very interesting to me, especially its history. My favorite part was the beautiful Old Town and before we left Warsaw I had 2 bags full of Polish souvenirs. I had never experienced a true fall until I came to Poland, since the Texas weather is too hot for the leaves to change color before they fall. I mentioned to my friends that I've always wanted to jump into a pile of orange leaves but never have been able to. Then we decided to make a pile of leaves and spent the next 30 minutes taking turns jumping into the pile, and seeing who had the most interesting way to jump into it. Great memories! I am a member of the Bydgoszcz Rotaract Club and in October we had a Halloween party for the children in an orphanage in Bydgoszcz. We made all kinds of decorations for the party and planned games for the kids to play. Since Halloween isn't very popular in Poland, the kids had fun getting their faces painted and playing Halloween games since it was pretty new to them. I dressed up like a cat and the kids all never stopped pulling my fake tail- haha. Also during October, my host brother Adam was accepted into Rotary Youth Exchange 2014-2015, I'm so excited for him!

These are some of the things I've learned while in Poland:

1. If you think you're a fast eater, there will always be a Polish person who eats faster than you. Before I came to Poland, I thought I was a fast eater. Within my first week in Poland, I realized I was wrong when my whole host family would finish dinner while I was only half way done. I made one comment about how I thought I was a fast eater until I came to Poland and my host father jokingly said, "Eating is a competition in our family!" Now when we eat together the person who finishes first is the "winner."

2. A sandwich a day keeps the doctor away. Polish sandwiches are much different than American sandwiches and when I first arrived in Poland I was surprised at how often people eat them. Especially at language camp, when there would be a huge buffet at night, just with all the components of what you needed to make a good sandwich. I love Polish sandwiches!

3. Tea, tea and more tea. I think before I came to Poland, I had tea maybe once or twice in my whole life. In Poland, I sometimes drink 5 glasses of tea in one day!

4. "House shoes!" In Texas, I always walked around my house barefoot. Now, I always wear my house shoes and my host mom even bought me a pair for my own. At first, it seemed a little silly to me, but now it is normal for my house shoes to be the first things I put on in the morning.

5. The true meaning of "It's the little things that mean the most." I was so touched when my friend Dagna did such a nice thing for me on my Birthday, and also when my host parents hugged me and said "Sto Lat, Meggie!" and kissed me 3 times on the cheek. When you're in your comfort zone, you don't think much of things like this. But when you are pulled from everything that is normal to you and everything you are used to, you really appreciate the little things that people say and do... even the smallest of things, like a smile.

Megan Scofield

 
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