Life

A Town Called Radom

 

I thought I would talk about this town I have been living in for the past nine months: Radom. Since last September, I have been teaching English to children and adults in this small city of about 200,000 inhabitants. Radom is located 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Warsaw. To be honest, it is nothing to look at in terms of touristic appeal. It is considered a working class town where a lot of locals actually commute to Warsaw for work. In fact, my Polish friends in Warsaw – and other Poles I’ve met in my travels – ask me, “Why are you in Radom?” “Well, I know it’s not the prettiest place,” says I, “but what’s the big deal?”

“The city is cursed,” they tell me. Cursed? At first, I had no idea what they were talking about, but later I learned that Radom staged a revolution against the communist government in 1976. As a result, the government stopped supporting the city, leaving most Poles believing the city is cursed.

But in all honesty, Radom isn’t all that bad. The cost of living is much cheaper than that of the bigger Polish cities, it has a lovely high street full of cafes, restaurants and bars. There is also a huge shopping center where most of the locals congregate on weekends. It has a bus and train station where I can be in Warsaw or Krakow in under three hours.

So how did you end up in Radom?

It all started over a year ago when I was living in Ottawa. I was unhappy with my current situation and looking for a new job. I had a mutual friend who was teaching English in Radom, and suggested that I apply to the school, which he was teaching at. I did a little research on the city, mainly relying on Wikipedia. My friend was blunt. He told me the city wasn’t much to look at, and that life there can get boring really quickly. Nonetheless, I applied for a job, had an interview with the director a week later. Another week later, I was offered the job, and promptly accepted it.

What do you do there in your spare time?

Wind down from a long week, walk around town, work on my novel in a café, and go to the gym. Most weekends, I travel around Poland and during the holidays I travel around Europe.

Anything you particularly don’t like?

At the time of writing, the city doesn’t have an airport (well it does but there are no flights in operation). So if I need to fly somewhere, I have to use Warsaw Chopin Airport, which means carefully timing logistics so I can make my flight. The city is beautiful in the summer months, but during the winter it’s a ghost town where many bars and restaurants close early. What really irks me is that during the winter months it gets dark at 3pm! It’s also not great looking at the many apartment blocks in the city.

How do the locals perceive foreigners?

Some are genuinely curious about them, others wonder why I am even there. I have even be told once, “We don’t want you in our town!” I simply took that with a grain of salt. I have come to accept these negative opinions, but I also remember that I am here providing an invaluable service.

What do you like best about it?

I can walk everywhere. In fact, it only takes me five minutes to walk from my apartment to work. I wouldn’t have this if I lived in Warsaw or Krakow.

Would you recommend other foreigners to follow your path?

Radom, for me, will challenge even the most seasoned of travelers. One must be fully independent and able to entertain themselves. They will also have to be able to sacrifice certain creature comforts like Starbucks. At the time of writing, there isn’t one in the city. However, there is McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

One thing that foreigners would find interesting is that Pope John Paull II once visited Radom and prayed at the intersection of the place where the revolution took place. Kind of nice if you are a history buff. And Pope John Paul II is revered here (he was Polish himself).

Just to be clear, I am not criticizing Radom. I am simply sharing my reflections on my time here. I am glad I came because it has made me stronger professionally and personally. I now feel a greater sense of gratitude for my own country and community. This is something that so many of my countrymen take for granted. Perhaps Radom will grow and maybe become a booming metropolis like Krakow or Warsaw.

 

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Your First 30 Days at College

Graduation girl holding diploma

 

By now you’ve likely settled into your new college home. Either you are stressed out, or having a ball (maybe you’re both). If you are stressed out, don’t worry because it will get better in time.

So whether you’ve gone away, or living at home and commuting, there are certain things you should have accomplished by now, which would be 30 days! I look back on my time as an undergrad, and there are somethings I wish I had done after the first month of my freshman year. So after reflecting, I’ve decided that you probably should have done the following:

  • connected with your professors (I’m talking about visiting them during their office hours)
  • made at least one good, reliable friend
  • networked with at least one classmate from all your classes whom you can rely on for notes in case you have to miss a class. You should return the favor, of course!
  • found your ideal study place (mine was the library). FYI, it should not be your bed!
  • played tourist in your new home (this applies to those who’ve left home for college)
  • joined at least two clubs
  • found a cool restaurant to go to on a weekly basis
  • know your way around campus, especially where all the important offices are
  • picked out one day of the week that is a “you day”, in other words a day dedicated to you, free from school work of any kind. Mine was Sunday!
  • checked out the Greek scene (no worries if you haven’t joined one)

 

If you haven’t completed all of the above, that’s okay. But you should have achieved at least five – I did! The purpose of this checklist is to make things easier on yourself when the demands of college increase – and they will! College is supposed to be one of the most memorable experiences of your life, so it’s important to learn from those that have already been down this road. So all the best the rest of the way! Learn lots but at the same time enjoy the ride!

 

 

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Farewell Ottawa!

For some of you this may come as a surprise: for the past 11 months, I was living in the Canadian capital. But now in less than a week, I will be leaving her for my new life in Poland. But I guess you’re wondering what brought me here in the first place. Why didn’t I blog about my experiences here? The truth is…I just didn’t have the time.

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I came to Ottawa to pursue a second masters degree in Applied Linguistics. It seemed like a good idea, and that it would open more doors for me. I had a full scholarship, including a TA position.

However, this seemingly good idea turned out to be a sour one. I soon discovered that I had gotten myself into something way over my head. The workload was very demanding, where I would be holed up either at home or at the library working on research papers and endless readings. Classmates were too busy to socialize, exacerbating the situation. As a result of this time consumption, my WIP got put on hold, my posts stopped appearing, and ultimately I witnessed an attrition of followers – both on social media and my blog. My TA deal wasn’t any better. The professor I was assigned to mistreated me to the point where I had to consult my union.

I began to realize that this quest for a second masters was doomed to failure. I had been in school long enough, and needed to return to the working world. And while I was at least enjoying Ottawa, my next adventure could not include her.

Despite the hardship of my university experience, I managed enjoy all that Ottawa had to offer. It’s truly a unique experience to spend an extended stay in the capital of one’s country. In Ottawa, it’s a big city with a small town feel, where outdoor activities are plentiful all year long! As I prepare to depart my nation’s capital, I reflect on some of the highlights of my time here:

  1. Skating on the Rideau – dubbed the longest outdoor skating rink in the world. I think every visitor to Ottawa should try it. Just remember it’s not like skating on a regular rink (pretty bumpy).
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  2. Attending Remembrance Day ceremony at National War Memorial – the best part is when I saw the prime minister’s wife from afar!
  3. Curling – I actually learned to curl last January, and glad I took lessons. Much harder than it seems!
  4. Bike trails – these I will miss the most! The best one is along the Rideau Canal, where you can bike downtown. I definitely recommend investing in a bike to those planning to live here for an extended period of time.

 

Many apologies for not sharing my Ottawa experiences with you. It was just burdensome to share something, which for awhile was causing great pain. However, I am definitely looking forward to Poland as I have dreamed of working abroad for many years now.

Until next time!

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