Just the way things… change

Paulina Coimbra A story by: Paulina

Country of origin: Poland

Destination: Portugal


Next to Praca de Republika there is a small bar where I used to spend time during my stay in Coimbra. While I was drinking my little, dark, always double sugar espresso I was admiring the way white, sandstone paving reflected sun’s rays. I’d love to spent time there and talk with my new friends, sit and listen to the sound of Portuguese mixed with other European languages or just observe how people behave.

I went to Coimbra to study just for 4 months, I stayed in total for almost 2 years including Erasmus training and summer work on the south coast. Definitely I can say that the time I spent in Portugal has changed a lot of what I thought about myself, what was normal (I need to add here that I’ve considered myself as open and tolerant person before Erasmus), my image of how things should be done, but most of all it has changed or actually my way of thinking’.

Little details of the everyday life like … “being on time”, in mouth of Polish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch or Belgians started to have totally different meaning for me. I began to make my own patterns of trying to understand people in multicultural environment, being more patient for those unexpected misunderstandings, miscommunication going on between me and other people – started to develop empathy. Now in my work as a trainer it helps me a lot to understand the needs of workshops participants and to propose them activities tailored for them.

Holidays in sunny Portugal wasn’t that sunny and warm at the beginning. I needed to get used to winter life without central heating and sleeping under few, heavy blankets. After all it was not so difficult. It was just different of stereotypes and what I dreamed about – heat, palm trees, sunbathing after lectures etc. I experienced various emotions sometimes stronger then in Poland – I was alone without family and best friends – from being angry or upset when I couldn’t do or understand something/ someone ; to joy of spending time in a beautiful place in a nice company. It let me see myself in a way I haven’t looked before – broaden my self-awareness.

I consider this time as 3 good life lessons on how to change habits and way of thinking, to learn empathy, to broaden self-awareness and horizon and to confront dreams with reality which is just around the corner.

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