What better way to add to your college resume than to spend high school abroad in Poland, in a country with such rich current history?
Poland is more than just the delicious pierogis and kielbasas, and the home of Pope John Paul II (although those are some pretty fun things!) It's also a country that has gone through a lot of hardships, yet is very proud of its heritage. The locals will give you a sense of what they've been through, and listening to the story of your new Polish friends and host family will be one of the best parts of your high school trip in Poland.
Poland is best for students who are interested in the history and politics of the World Wars and Cold War, and as a bonus, want to eat delicious food along the way!
Photo by Beata Ratuszniak.
Study abroad programs, such as ones for a semester or a year (like YFU), are a great option for dedicated high school students. These study abroad programs will either have a focus on a part of Polish history and culture -- potentially with ability to be applied towards college credits later on -- or will place high schoolers in a local Polish high school for a full immersion experience.
Either way, they'll challenge you to step out of the box and stand out from the rest of your peers while applying to college. How many people do you know who can say they have studied in a historical hub of Eastern Europe before they learned how to drive a car?
Teen travel programs are a fun option for students who are looking for diversity in the experiences they have in Poland. These programs offer the chance to explore more places within Poland and the surrounding areas (such as Germany and the Czech Republic) while still maintaining a strong academic focus. Because of this, you will receive a well-rounded understanding of Central/Eastern Europe, and be able to compare and contrast a variety of locations and sub-cultures.
Planning Your Trip
As the capital city, Warsaw is known for its somewhat somber past in the wars, but this gives it its grit, as well as education for visitors to learn all about its history. Krakow, also called the “new Prague,” is a great destination for students as it has a large student population and has many museums, restaurants, and nightlife attractions.
Similarly, Wroclaw also has around 120,000 students and is a center for music festivals. You won't be lacking things to do while in Poland.
For shorter programs (under 90 days), you'll be able to enter on a tourist visa that you receive on arrival in Poland.
All students studying in Poland for longer than 90 days are required to have a residence visa. As certain requirements may change and vary, make sure to keep up to date with your local embassy and on the Ministry of Science and Education website. This website also lists the steps to obtaining a visa, which you should do as soon as possible, and not stall!
The most common options for students who are staying in one place in Poland and for an extended amount of time (think semester or year, NOT a teen tour) will be in homestays. This is an excellent way to further immerse yourself in Polish culture and perhaps even adopt a second family while there! If you are doing a shorter stay and visiting numerous places, your program will be the decider if you are in hotels, hostels, etc.
Poland is a fairly affordable country, especially if you have certain things included in your program fee (such as housing and meals). Depending on how much is included in the program fee, students should be able to study or travel comfortably in Poland for $20 - 35 per day.
Standard tipping in restaurants is around 10%. No need to tip with taxis, however.
If you're staying with a host family, it's good to have at least some understanding of what's polite / not polite in Polish culture. For example, you'll be expected to take off your shoes when entering the house, and being late is considered bad manners. All in all, though, Polish are incredibly hospitable and your host family will understand that you're still learning and, therefore, be a bit more forgiving of your blunders.
If you are going to Poland for a semester or a full year, make sure to pack for all four seasons. The winters can be quite cold and you want to be prepared. Bring a heavy coat, like a full-length down coat, wool socks, and lots of layers. Summers are much more similar to other northern hemisphere countries and are a great chance to explore the beautiful areas outside of the big cities. You’ll definitely want to bring some good walking shoes and your camera!
Health & Safety
The CDC recommends having all routine vaccinations before visiting Poland, as well as Hepatitis A, as there's a risk of it in Poland.
Poland is generally a safe country. However, just like other European countries, pickpocketing is a common occurrence and you should stay as vigilant as you can to avoid it. A common annoyance if you're living near a popular square, is a chance that it gets loud at night due to the bustling nightlife.