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Erasmus Project, Trip to Leszno

We all met up- Elizabeth, Santine, Wojciech and Jakub- with Mr Hesketh and Mrs Vincent at Stansted airport excited about the forthcoming trip to Poland which for Wojciech and Jakub was their place of birth. The two hour journey by plane flew by and when we arrived at Poznan on a cold but sunny afternoon our taxi took us to Leszno through the Polish countryside which resembled to some extent Lincolnshire due to its flatness and agricultural prominence. When we arrived at the school in Leszno we meet up with our exchange partners and spent the first night in Poland tired but looking forward to the rest of the exchange.

The next day we walked to school with a temperature of -3c accompanying us. It was also unfortunately very foggy and it remained so all day. At the Polish school we met up with all the other participants who came from schools in Sicily, Rovigo, Italy, The Basque Country, Aquilar in Spain, the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia. The sound of different languages echoing around the school really did confirm that this was an exchange between many countries and gradually we all began to get to know each other.  First we watched a shadow drama performance given by the Polish students which is a feature of Polish culture. We then got to break the ice with the other students by playing a game with fellow participant’s whilst Mr Hesketh and Mrs Vincent met with the other teachers accompanying their students in order to discuss the project aims for the week. They then toured the school and met teachers and students. When they re-joined us we were preparing to play the city game in which all 4 of us were split into different groups so now we had to get to know our group partners better. We then we had to go round Leszno to 8 different points of the city finding clues. There was also a time trial we had to take part in with questions. The winning group which unfortunately didn’t include any of us was the group with the most points and least amount of time in the trial. After presentations to the winner we had some free time before we went to an outdoor centre where there was a bbq organized for us and the students got to know each other even more as we sung karaoke together which was followed by some traditional Polish dancing which we joined in.

Day two started off with an early start meeting at school at 6.50 in order to go to Poznan. Despite fog we got there and then visited the Adam Mickiewicz University where we went to the Department of Chemistry. We were introduced to its Dean who welcomed us to the campus and he then handed over to one of his professors who told us about the history of the university. This was followed by a demonstration by a number of chemistry students who showed us the benefits of studying chemistry with experiments that went whiz and bang. We then proceeded to the Old Town of Poznan where we were given some free time to explore the fascinating architecture of the city. Next we went to the city cathedral where we had a guided tour before returning home in the pouring rain. Poznan is one of Poland’s major cities and is growing in size and statue since the European football championships were held there in 2012. Poland which is a former communist country is changing greatly and these changes can be seen in the growing infrastructure of the country. We even saw a Tesco distribution centre in Poznan and a large Tesco superstore in Leszno.

On the16th Nov we went to the town hall where the deputy mayor warmly welcomed us. The groups were then split up with one group going to the Leszno Pump Factory whilst we all went to the Spinko Company which makes parts for car manufactures which includes Volvo, Mercedes, Renault and VW. After a presentation which informed us about the company we toured the factory floor and saw how some of the parts were manufactured. In the afternoon there was a seminar in which presentations were given. These involved learning about the education system in Poland which was given by teachers and students. There then followed a presentation by Pawel Grzeskowiak from ELESTT Electronics who talked about renewable energy and how this Polish company was growing in Poland and Europe. Monika Lewandowska then spoke about the work of the Greater Poland Chamber of Crafts and its involvement with schools and how they assist students with vocational training in schools in the region. Finally a representative of the Leszno Pump Company told the audience about the growth of his company and how it is now one of the most modern companies in Poland with 85% of its production being exported overseas. He also informed us he once went to the high school in Leszno and that he was a product of the vocational schemes the country had to offer for its young workers.

On Thursday we went to Wroclaw where Wojciech’s grandmother lives. When we arrived there after a journey of 1½ hours we had a guided tour around the city and learned it was previously a German city. However, following the end of the Second World War its German citizens were expelled from the city as new borders were drawn up by the allies-Britain, USA and Russia-and Bresslau the name of the German city now became Wroclaw. As we walked around the city the guide pointed out to us places where Adolf Hitler stayed and showed us the remnants of the fighting that occurred during the war with bullet marks that peppered the walls of buildings. All over the city of Wroclaw there were also over 400 gnomes which have been placed around the city by its people to commemorate the Orange Revolution against communist rule in the 1980s. Whilst we were there the city was also preparing for Christmas with workmen getting the large Christmas tree ready and erecting stalls for the big Christmas market that attracts tens of thousands of visitors. After the tour which we all agreed was really good we went to see the panorama of the Battle of Raclawice which was truly breathtaking. The city authorities had built a round building to house a large painting 15 meters high by 114 meters long. With the painting in the background the foreground was built to merge with the painting which tells the story of a battle between Polish and Russian forces in 1794. Our final destination on this day trip was to the water Hydropolis a new museum dedicated to the earth’s use of water. With over 1.3m visitors in its first year the story of water and its use was fascinating and educational especially with the interactive elements of the exhibition.

On our final day we met at school to say our goodbyes as some parties left for home before us. Before we left for the airport we went to the Practical Training Centre in Leszno which is the equivalent of Cambridge Regional College in that students get vocational training at this institute. We then went to the Speedway stadium in Leszno which is a popular sport in Poland. There we saw the speedway bikes and watched some of the town’s riders practice for their next event. When we got back it was time to say goodbye and after some more pictures were taken with us our exchange partners and the Polish staff we waved goodbye to Leszno and headed for the airport at Poznan. Arriving home we were met by our families with great memories of an exchange that has shown us all what a lovely place Poland is and how friendly its inhabitants are. Thank you Mr Hesketh for organizing this trip and giving us the opportunity to participate in this exchange and to Mrs Vincent in accompanying us on our travels, to a country which is rapidly changing and becoming more westernized following its communist years.

Elizabeth Kesterton, Santine Alexander, Wojciech Widuch, Jakub Ochmanski


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