From Nigeria to Poland to Obtain the PhD. How Does it Feel?

Meet Solomon, the PhD student from Nigeria studying Management at the University of Dąbrowa Górnicza. Solomon had his first degree in Economics and graduated with a Bachelor`s honors from the Lagos State University in Nigeria; after which he proceeded to obtain a Master's degree in Economics and Business Administration in Estonia.

 Then the life brought Solomon to Poland. What does Solomon think about Polish education and what he could recommend to the other students planning to obtain a PhD in Poland? Find out in our interview below.

Why did you choose Poland as your study destination for PhD?

Poland became a choice of destination for my PhD studies because of the size of the opportunity. The diverse international community also initiated my decision. The size of the research opportunity plus the consistent GDP growth at 4% recorded for the country indicated there were a lot of interesting things to cover. The opportunity to be part of the project team handling the Visegrad Smart Specialization where I was responsible for designing the common map summarizing the whole project. The opportunity to contribute to the diversity and the internationalization of education at my university, further also encouraged me to make Poland my destination. I am also a member of the research unit at my university and FISAT (Federal Institute of Science And Technology). I must say that I am indeed blessed with a wonderful supervisor who treats me like his colleague, friend, and brother. 

What was the first thing that surprised you when you arrived in Poland? 

The first thing that caught my interest was the language and the unusual warmth from people. I understood nothing of the language and for the first time in my life was completely helpless. I am the person that can find my way around a difficult situation. But the Language I must say is even harder than Russian. But the warmth and friendliness I received from the Poles whom I have never met won my heart completely. Despite not understanding my well-spoken English, they still went out of their way to figure out that I was new and needed help. Because you see where I came from, we are used to stopping people and it could be anyone to ask for directions or get information about something or somewhere. 

What are the main cultural differences between life in Nigeria and Poland?

Hmmm… There are lots of cultural differences. 

First is the language. The language was shocking to me and sometimes sounded funny as some words meant something very funny in the native language of my parents. For example, the first time I heard “Dzienkuje” which meant thank you in Polish, sounded like “Jeun ko ye” which meant eat and live (Funny right?). The other word was “No” which is a negative affirmative in English. So the first time I have heard all the poles around me saying “No, No, No” I became confused. If I have not asked what they meant I probably would have thought, they were saying “No” to everything. Also, some of the words are very difficult to pronounce and I think the primary reason is that I have used English all my life, which has a completely different alphabet from the Polish one.

The Second is Food. I have never been a fan of Irish potatoes because it had no taste. Aside there are the other types of potatoes in my culture which are sweet. Soon I have found Polish food to be healthier and less in calories compared to my Nigerian food. I fell in love with the beetroot soup. Always my best. And the sweet potatoes here, are not like the ones I am used to in Nigeria.

The third is the clothes. The only time I can put on my native clothes is during summer. Nigerian clothes are not designed for winter as we have summer almost all year round. 

And the last thing to tell is that in Nigeria, we look out for each other within the same neighborhood. Over here, it is the opposite. I was shocked the first time I was feeling bored and needed to speak with someone. So I called my Polish friend. After picking my call, he asked me why I was calling because he was not expecting me any call from me.

 

What has helped you to adapt to life in the new country?

Love from friends, determination, optimism, resilience, compassion is a few of the things that have helped me to adapt to life in this new country. And as the proverb tells “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. Even amid negative situations, standing shoulder tall and head held high, is key to winning. The ability to be flexible and resilient is also vital to adaptability. The ability to be able to see and spot opportunities and take advantage of them is also key to my adaption to this new country. Ruling a competitive mindset out of my thought process has worked for me. I am not in competition with anyone but myself, and this has seen me taking things easy and cool with myself while at the same time pushing for the best in all that I do. I do what I love and I love what I do. 

How do Polish people treat foreigners?

You know people are different and the treatment I have received has been largely very warm, hospitable, comforting, and supportive. I used to have a late colleague of mine which even though being physically challenged would always ask about my well-being. Her demise was a deep loss for me because I missed that one person who would call me, and send SMS just to know if I was doing okay. The support I have received from my university, makes me feel like a newborn baby. So in my opinion, and from my experience, Polish people treat foreigners well.

What kind of Polish traditions and habits has surprised you?

One habit that surprised me is the dedication and commitment given to the dead people. The way Polish people take care of the grave, clean It, and even spend time talking at the graveside. That habit is strange for me and still is. 

How is your progress with the Polish language?

Hmm… That is quite interesting. I am making progress. I have enrolled in Polish classes and doing quite well. At the moment I am progressing to the A2 level. I have decided to take on the language like a child who is just learning to speak. I listen, and it has worked. Sometimes I just keep hearing random Polish words in my head. When I say those words to my Polish colleagues, they tell me the meanings.

Are you planning to stay here for the next years or move abroad?

I consider Poland more or less my third home. So yes, my current plan is to stay for the foreseeable future.

What would you recommend to incoming foreign students which will experience cultural differences?

My recommendation for and to the incoming foreign students would be:

Roll up your sleeve and enjoy the ride
Be open-minded and don’t be judgmental
Ask question but be proactive
Stay in touch and always connect with your families and friends in your country.
Be focused, determined, resilient, empathic, kind, compassionate, and diligent.

The above highlight points and many more will help your weather the storm of cultural differences.

 

If you would like to read about the experience of foreign student from Peru of looking for a job in Poland follow this link https://go-poland.pl/news/job-search-poland-experience-peruvian-student