Hello, my name is Heather Stopp. I graduated from Parkland High School and decided for financial reasons to live at home and go to the local Penn State campus. I am a Junior Schryer Honors Scholar at the Lehigh Valley Campus majoring in Applied Psychology and minoring in Global studies. After going on various abroad honors trips, I decided to not only minor in Global studies, but to experience studying abroad.
Currently, I am studying at the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland. I came to Poland because I am interested in the impact of the government change on Polish society. Poland gave me the opportunity to pursue this interest as well as work on my honors thesis which involves study abroad students. While I am here, I learning the Polish language as well as taking history, politics, literature and sociology classes at the school.
Besides being my first extended period abroad, this is my first time living on my own which is only made more difficult by not knowing the language. One of the first things that I learned was that it's amazing how little things that we don't think about are important. I'm currently learning Polish, but in the meantime I have to rely on the aid of two American students who know Polish, Polish students and some helpful people who know English which I had assumed before coming here would be greater in number than I have found to exist. Unfortunately, these people cannot remain with me twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week.
Attempting to go through everyday life at times can be difficult as well as interesting at the same time. For instance, my roommate and I went grocery shopping which proved to be an experience to say the least. Imagine going into a large grocery store where everything is in a language that you do not understand. Not only do you not understand the language, but for some reason most of these objects do not have pictures on them to give you some sort of clue as to their identity.
Grocery shopping has never taken so long in my life. I thought that going grocery shopping with my mother was bad, but this took so much longer because the location of items were even different. For example, trying to find a hot pad took fifteen minutes. It ended up being with bathroom towels and robes. However, this is definitely a good way to learn the language of the country. I came out of the store knowing at least ten new Polish words. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid the grocery store is to go out to restaurants for meal. However, this gets expensive after a while and most of the menus are in Polish.
On a more academic note, it's interesting to be taught by people who were put in jail by the government or had to get around the government to continue their work. The professors have a lot of stories about how their work was taken out of the country to be published and even one professor who fought as a fourteen year old boy during World War II.
The difference between reading about people who accomplished these feats and actually hearing the stories firsthand are completely different. Although it makes me sound sappy, I was actually glad to be born in the United States.
Although I have only been in Poland a couple of weeks, I know that the experience will change my life.