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Poland


Welcome to Poland – the very heart of Europe, where West and East meet. The country of exceptional history, culture, cuisine and people. We look forward to meeting you. The exchange year programme in Poland starts in August and ends in July of the following year. There are three main seminars throughout the year, all of which are held in different regions of Poland, allowing students to visit and experience more of what Poland has to offer. The year begins with a 2-week language course. It takes place in the Imperial Castle of Poznań, where YFU Poland’s office is located. At that time students get to know the basics of Polish language and culture. It is also when they visit Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, during a one-day trip led by volunteers. In January, all exchange students and their host siblings meet in Cracow, the country’s second largest and the most loved city. During this three-day event they summarise their progress over the past six months and visit some of the most important parts of the city, learning about Poland’s rich history. Since 2015, students also get a chance to meet their counterparts spending exchange year in Poland’s neighbouring country – the Czech Republic. Last but not least, in springtime all students and their host siblings spend one of May weekends at the beautiful Polish seaside, where they get to know the, so called, tricity of the region: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot. This event wraps up the students’ exchange year in Poland and prepares them for their journey back home.

Let this year be the year you discover Poland.


Nature High mountains, sea, thick forests, green plains, crystal-clear lakes, rich flora and wildlife can all be found in Poland.

largest bison herd and many other wild animals. It is also known for its record-breaking trees, in terms of both age and size.

Surrounded by Carpathian Mountains and Sudetes in the South and the Baltic Sea in the North, Poland is located in the very centre of Europe. It lies in the temperate climate zone, which enables a large variety of the natural environment to coexist within its boarders.

In the North of Poland, the most unusual sands, can be found: monumental shifting dunes which move with the speed of 10 metres per year.

Poland is a haven for storks and eagles, and the mountain area is a home to many wolves and lynxes. Water is one of Poland’s greatest treasures, with over 9,000 lakes and the Vistula River, the last of the great European rivers not to have been completely regulated. Forests account for around 30% of Poland’s territory. In order to protect this natural wealth, Poland has 23 natural parks and over a hundred national heritage sites. The oldest national park in Poland is also the last primeval forest of Europe untouched by humans, dating back 10 000 years. This unique virgin land provides a habitat for the

The only desert-like area on the continent may also be found in Poland. Błędowska Desert, also called “Polish Sahara”, has been for years a research site for geologists and other scientists. Nowadays it is mainly used as a site for military trainings, sports and cultural events.


School & language In Poland school year begins on September 1st and is divided into two semesters, each lasting approximately 5 months. Apart from 2-month summer holiday, there are three longer breaks during the school year. The first one is during the Christmas and New Year season, the second one is a two-week winter holiday, which usually falls in January or February and the third break comes during the Easter season. Generally, classes are held five days a week, from Monday to Friday. They usually start at 8.00 am, although in some schools it may be a bit later. In upper secondary schools there is usually 7-8 classes a day, each lasting 45 minutes, with 5- or 10-minute breaks in between. Around midday there is usually one longer break for lunch. Subjects taught in secondary school are: Polish language, two modern foreign languages, Geography, History, Cultural studies, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Biology, Knowledge about society, Information Technology, Physical Education, Introduction to entrepreneurship, Safety

Education and Religion or Ethics. Pupils’ learning achievements are assessed using a grading scale from 1 to 6, where consecutive numbers stand for: 6 – excellent, 5 – very good, 4 – good, 3 – satisfactory, 2 – acceptable, 1 – unsatisfactory (fail). Pupils also receive marks for their behaviour in school. In most schools all classes are taught in Polish. It belongs to the group of Indo-European languages and the subgroup of West Slavic languages. Polish alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet and consists of 32 letters. It includes nine letters formed using special dots, slashes or tails (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż), seven digraphs (sz, rz, cz, ch, dz, dż, dź) and one trigraph (dzi). Polish is believed to be one of the most difficult languages in the world, but at the same time a very interesting one. Most of the exchange students manage to learn it very well during their year in Poland.

According to international research, Polish education is rated as 4th best in Europe and 10th best in the world.


Sport The variety and quality of geographical conditions in Poland make it possible for any kind of sport to be practised all year round. Water sports, skiing, cycling or horse-back riding are only some of the many options one might choose from.

rapidly gaining more and more enthusiasts. Other sports that enjoy a growing popularity are speedway, basketball, handball, track & field, tennis, boxing, ice hockey, swimming and weightlifting. Among these countless possibilities everyone should find something to suit their needs.

The undeniable highlight of Poland are its mountain ranges which offer innumerble opportunities for outdoor activities. The Polish mountains are a perfect place for hiking, skiing and mountain biking and attract tourists from all over the world. The heart of water sports is the sea region in the North and the lake district in the NorthEast, which are the most popular locations for sailing, fishing, canoeing and many other water-themed sports. As for indoor activities, the most admired sport is football. Co-hosting of the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament with Ukraine made almost every Pole a passionate football fan. Following the spectacular championship of the Polish team in 2014, also volleyball is

The second most-watched sport in Poland is ski-jumping, which gained its popularity years ago, thanks to Adam Małysz – the only ski-jumper to win the World Cup three times in a row and receive the most titles in the history of individual World Championships. Ever since, ski-jumping gathers thousands of Polish people in front of their TVs.


History Poland’s history is a fascinating tale. Forever stuck between two powerful and hostile neighbours, it has over the past thousand years struggled to defended its sovereignty and freedom on innumerable occasions – often to be invaded by foreign powers over and over again. It has gone from being the largest country in Europe to completely disappearing off the world map, and has seen its population destroyed in two world wars. However, it is testament to the extraordinary resilience of the Polish people that Poland has not only recovered from every crushing defeat but also had the strength to hold onto its own values, gradually becoming a modern Europe’s economic success story. Poland’s turbulent history may be traced through various cultural, architectural and religious monuments – breathtaking reminiscences of the past centuries, starting from numerous medieval castles and baroque palaces to industrial heritage sites. The origins of Poland, which found itself

in central Europe, where the North, South, East and West come together, resulted in a diverse and multicultural style of customs and traditions that are cherished within each of its regions. Throughout centuries the Roman Catholic Church has held a very strong position in Poland and nowadays its importance can be seen through a great number of monumental historical churches that can be found all around the country. Until today the Church remains an important social institution, especially in the rural areas and small towns, where many parish cultural and sport organizations function. Big and modern cities, however, represent a whole different story. After regaining its full sovereignty in 1989, Poland has began a fundamental process of political changes and economic recovery, becoming one of the fastest-developing countries in Europe. Many Poles enjoy historic re-enactments of great battles. The 15th century’s Battle of Grunwald is each year staged by as many as 1500 participants playing medieval knights.


Cuisine Typical Polish meals are very opulent. Just sampling them is enough to discover that they are absolutely delicious and worth having a try. Some of the most recommendable dishes are: pierogi – traditional Polish dumplings, which can be filled with all kinds of savoury or sweet and fruity fillings, bigos – spicy stew made out of sauerkraut, meat and mushrooms, placki ziemniaczane – deep fried potato pancakes or kotlet schabowy – breaded pork schnitzel. Typical Polish meals owe their unique taste to various herbs and spices used, such as ground pepper, marjoram, dill or parsley. Poland is also known for a number of traditional soups, which are an inseparable part of a typical dinner. When in Poland, the must-try soups are: żurek – a unique sour rye soup, often served in a loaf of bread, rosół – chicken broth with noodles, traditionally eaten on Sunday, kapuśniak – white cabbage or sauerkraut soup, krupnik – thick vegetable soup with potatoes and barley groats and barszcz czerwony – beetroot

soup, often served with boiled egg or small, tortelloni-like dumplings. While travelling around Poland, one must also try some of the regional foods only available in certain parts of the country, such as oscypek – Tatra mountains’ smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk, kluski śląskie – potato dumplings typical for the region of Silesia or rogal świętomarciński – sweet pastry with white poppy seeds, raisins and nuts, popular in the Greater Poland. From less traditional, yet highly popular foods, zapiekanka is undoubtedly the queen of Polish street food. Basic zapiekanka is a halved baguette roasted in the oven until crispy with a lot of melted cheese and mushrooms on top, often spiced up with ketchup. Its simplicity and number of variations available has made it one the most loved quick bites among young Poles and tourists alike.

Traditional Christmas Eve supper in Poland includes twelve dishes and desserts, some of which are only cooked and served during this time of year. It is customary for everyone to try a bit of each.


Office address: Youth For Understanding Poland Centrum Kultury „Zamek”, pok. 351 ul. Św. Marcin 80/82 61-809 Poznań T +48 (061) 64-65-213 | F +48 (061) 853-79-55 info@yfu.org.pl | www.yfu.org.pl Postal address: YFU Polska Skr. Poczt. 36, 60-972 Poznań

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Discover Poland with YFU!  

Ever thought of visiting Poland? Why not experience it as an exchange student? find out about all the amazing things that await you there!

Discover Poland with YFU!  

Ever thought of visiting Poland? Why not experience it as an exchange student? find out about all the amazing things that await you there!

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