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My Experience of Studying in Poland


ChineseCanadian 4 | 1
9 Apr 2019 #1
Hello everyone, I moved to Warsaw 6 months ago to pursue a MSc degree in engineering at the Politechnika Warszawska. A brief overview about me, I'm Chinese Canadian and I did my undergrad in engineering at a public Canadian university. When I moved here for the first time, I could not speak any Polish. I decided to take some extra free lessons and practice is as much as possible and my Polish level is A2 and it's good enough to survive.

Quality of Education in Poland



My experience has been pretty good so far. I am doing my MSc program in English in the field of electrical engineering. Generally speaking, the courses in Poland are easier than the one in Canada. When it comes to theoretical mathematics and physics, calculating and solving complex equations, Canadian universities definitely win. However, the Politechnika Warszawska offers some really good courses that I think are practical and applicable in real life. They have really useful courses such as Data Analysis that covers tons of case studies, a specific course about transport system that would be very useful if you want to design trains of railways, course in renewable energy. I also had the opportunity to take numerous programming classes.

In Canada, I spent 4 years to finish my bachelor degree in engineering. I became really good at solving theoretical questions, I knew how to apply formulas and work with complex equations. However, in real life I was completely clueless about real engineering work until I got my first job in electronics manufacturing where I had to learn more things. In Poland, they put more emphasize on real life applications compared to formulas. For instance they have a course in Electric Power Quality that talks about how to maintain the power quality, what would cause the problems such as under or overvoltage, maintenance, cost analysis, etc. Of course, the course itself also covers mathematical formulas needed to calculate the frequency or voltage, etc.

There are downsides of studying in Poland as well. Some professors speak limited English, some don't teach seriously, but I realised that there are also professors like that in all countries. Overall, I gained more perspectives in engineering due to my educational background in North America and Europe and I am very content with it.

Getting a Part Time Job in Poland



In the beginning, I was worried about not having enough money in Poland. If you want to work at a restaurant, cafe, or at a retail store, unfortunately you would have to be fluent in Polish. Therefore, I had to find a job that would utilize my language skill. Fortunately, international students have an advantage over local Polish students when it comes to applying jobs that require foreign language skill especially at international companies. I'm personally fluent in both English and Spanish and I have some work experience in tutoring, operations management, manufacturing. I managed to get several job offers including a Spanish speaking sales engineering job, engineering technologist job, English teaching job, etc. I got a part time job in less than 3 months that pays 65 Zloty per hour after tax in the field of sales engineering. I just work 15 hours a week but I can pay for my rent, bills, groceries and still able to save few hundred zloty every month. The cost of living in Warsaw is cheap, even with 3000 Zloty you get to eat outside every weekend and have some entertainments.

I am not worried about getting a full time job in Poland. I personally find the job market in Poland to be so much better in Canada as long as you have the proper educational background and experience. In Canada, sometimes even if you have a MSc degree from the best university in the whole country, you still do not get an employment offer just because there are too many competitions in the country even in the field of engineering. However, there are so many opportunities in Poland to work and the salary is also pretty good.

Lastly, my social life has improved significantly. I made more friends in Poland than Canada. I find the local people to be warm and welcoming toward foreigners. I also got my first girlfriend in Poland and we have been together for 3 months.

Feel free to ask me any question!
Nathans
9 Apr 2019 #2
Excellent reviews. I wonder - do you also speak Chinese? If so, is it a big competitive advantage to know Chinese in Poland; is there a need for educated Chinese professionals as far as good jobs are concerned?
shrub
10 Apr 2019 #3
Thanks for the post. I am an American considering a Msc. Telecommunications at Politechnika Warszawska. I believe it's in the same department as your degree. Do you know anything about that program which you'd like to share? Overall impressions or something of that sort.

Thanks!
OP ChineseCanadian 4 | 1
12 Apr 2019 #4
Sorry for the late reply, I was busy with work and exams.

First Answer

I speak very limited Chinese, at level HSK4. However, I am fluent in Spanish and English. In my opinion, knowing Chinese is not that important in Poland. There are some universities such as Uniwersytet SWPS that offers Asian language courses including Chinese and Korean. There are many Local Poles who major in a specific Asian language, but every single one of them continues to do their Masters in either Poland or East Asia. The most interesting thing that I have found about Asian faculties in Poland is that, the Professors who teach Asian languages are White Poles. You read that correctly, so you have a Native European who teaches Asian languages at the University. I met lots of Poles who are very fluent in Chinese.

When it comes to job hunting, English and German are in higher demand compared to Chinese. Being completely fluent in English and Chinese, in my opinion, is not enough to land you a good paying job. You still need other set of skills in order to make a living in Poland with your Chinese language skill, perhaps a sales experience, project management, or even a software development skill and land your job at Huawei. There are lots of Chinese expats in Poland doing corporate jobs in finance, marketing, IT, etc.

Maybe it's a bit stereotypical, but all Poles that I've met, who speak fluent Chinese, either work as language teachers, customer service, or translator. If you're lucky enough you can get a project management job, a Chinese friend of mine who speaks horrible English and does not know any Polish got a job in software localisation for Chinese speakers earning 40 Zloty per hour.

Second Answer

My major is Electrical Engineering, in Poland they refer to power systems, renewable energy, high voltage, motor design. So it's a different department with different curriculum.

students.pw.edu.pl/PDF/M.Sc.%20Telecommunications.pdf

Above is the curriculum for telecomminications engineering.

First, you need to know that applying this university is such a painful process because they require you to submit them tons of documents. I finished my high school and undergrad in Canada, and I had to submit them ridiculous documents including proof of English language proficiency and MSc eligibility statement. The problem is that my university in Canada, refused to issue such documents because they already have a list of documents that they can provide such as academic transcript, confirmation of graduation, etc. However, the Polish University does not care about it, although you have received an acceptance letter from the faculty of your choice, they still require you to submit all documents or they would not provide you with the final acceptance letter. Pretty much I had to contact the education minister in my local province and explained the situation, they contacted my university and fortunately I received all the required documents.

The International Student Office works very slow. It took them 2 months to verify my tuition payment. They're very understaffed, the system is outdated, and the bureaucracy in Poland is like the Soviet Union era. You have to wait for 2-3 hours to get your student card, you need to submit all paper documents in person. It applies to University and applying for Karta Pobytu. The administrators in this University are extremely rude unlike North America. If you want to study in this university, my suggestion is for you to submit all documents as soon as possible so that you have enough time to apply for VISA and everything. Once you get here, also submit application for Karta Pobytu because the process can take up to 8 months.

The level of difficulty depends merely on what electives you want to take. Many students take easy engineering electives where you can skip all classes with no exam, you just need to write a 20-30 pages essay and get an A in the course. Some electives are extremely hard such as data analysis, programming courses, and you need to put lots of efforts, coding, writing reports, and study from lectures to actually pass the course. Some electives are not related to engineering at all, but it's a business course teaching you about teamwork and it's easy to get an A. Some engineering electives have easy exams, only multiple choices, some engineering courses have complex calculations and you can take any textbook or paper or material you want but you still fail the exam just like North American universities.

So the overall quality really depends on which electives you want to take. If you want to learn something valuable in Poland, then you need to select courses based on the professor, take programming courses and technical engineering courses and apply those in real life. If you just want to party and get a MSc degree, then you can just take non-engineering electives, skip all classes and just write a 20 pages essay and pass the course. In some of my courses, I am in the only non-Polish student in the whole class, but these courses are in English.

You also have some options on doing a MSc project and thesis. You can do a thesis that is really easy just to get the degree, or you can do a difficult thesis such as power system protection. I'm doing a project for the application of AI in power systems and it's so much work and I have to read and code a lot.

Really, the overall impression would vary for each person depending on what electives he takes, his thesis, project, etc.
Nathans
12 Apr 2019 #5
Good for you, nice experience. But have you thought about the future / retirement? Does your company take money / ZUS for your retirement - even so, to take full advantage, you'd probably have to live / stay in Poland? IMO, working in Poland for, let's say, 10-20 years and then moving back to Canada would not put you in a good position as far as your social benefits are concerned..
shrub
13 Apr 2019 #6
Thanks the response. I have heard that the student office isn't very forgiving as well.

One of the professors at my current University actually referred me to Warszawa Politechnika since my research interests aligned with one of his former colleagues in Poland. Based on your response, I think it would be a good experience for me as well considering I'd have a thesis topic with a professor I'd like to work with.

Thanks again for taking the time to write about this!
bobsz
14 Apr 2019 #7
Meeting other half/studying/working in Poland in the short term is one thing. Numerical reality is another - If you plan to stay here 10/20 years then consider the opportunity cost of lost earnings and savings compared to Canada/USA/etc. You might as well apply for permanent residency. Look at the thread about the teacher's strike to see how people are divided over whether they deserve more or just complain too much and accuse them of being communist - for over 2000zl/$700 month. Remember that Poland needs to keep wage inflation under control, otherwise they'll lose their economic advantage as an outsourcing hub.

I'm sure when you meet a girl in Poland, obviously it's more than just your personality they are after. It's natural to seek a better life if afforded the opportunity to do so - think from her perspective. Just as a taxi driver told me in his broken English as he drove me to the airport - 'At least you get to go back home, here is all I've got'. Got the message alright.


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