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Living in Poland - A Guide for Students

by Mark Bennett



What do the Bledów Desert, the High Tatra Mountains and the primeval Bialowieza Forest have in common? They're all in Poland! There aren't many other countries where you can go skiing, watch wild Bison in their natural habitat and explore the vast sand plains left behind by an ancient glacier.

As a Masters student in Poland you can do all of this whilst living and studying in some of Central Europe's oldest and most beautiful cities. You may be familiar with places like Kraków and Wroclaw as popular destinations for stag weekends and other short breaks, but with most Polish Masters programmes taking around two years you'll have plenty of time to gain a much deeper appreciation of the country's cities and their history.

On this page you can read all about living in Poland as an international postgraduate. If you'd like to learn more about the Polish university system, visa requirements and tuition fees, check out our separate guide to Masters study in Poland.

You can also get right down to searching for a Masters at a Polish university.

What’s it like to study abroad in Poland?

Poland's central European location and sometimes turbulent history have led it to develop a fusion of Eastern and Western European characteristics. Many aspects of Polish culture are proudly individual, but others draw upon the traditions of neighbouring countries along Poland's seven borders.

This means that study in Poland can offer a truly pan-European experience even if you don't travel beyond the country itself.

That isn't to say you won't have plenty of chances to explore neighbouring parts of Europe. Poland's membership of the borderless Schengen Area and the long summer vacation on most Polish Masters programmes make international travel for recreation or study purposes remarkably easy.

Polish holidays and customs

Poland's substantial Roman Catholic population means that many of its traditional customs are associated with religious festivals, but you can expect Polish celebrations to put a unique spin on more familiar holiday occasions.

Christmas (or Boze Narodzenie ) involves a range of activities throughout advent and a special Wigilia feast on Christmas Eve; Easter involves a traditional breakfast meal and the exchange of decorated eggs ( pisanki ).

Other Polish holidays are kept to mark events from different periods of the country's long history. One of the most important is the anniversary of the Constitution of May 3, 1791. This was one of the first codified national constitutions in the world, introducing democratic ideals that have remained as a rallying point for Poles during successive centuries of political struggle.

Polish food and drink

Polish cuisine is perhaps best known for its expertly prepared meats.

Forget the vacuum packed products sold as 'kielbasa' in international supermarkets though; real Polish sausages come in a diverse range of varieties, from plain pork kabanosy or smoked parówki (a frankfurter style) to more unusual varieties such as jalowcowa . (juniper sausage) or krupniok (a dark blood sausage).

Of course, there's more to Polish food than meat. Bread is another speciality, as are hearty soups and stews based on seasoned winter vegetables.

There's also a lot more to Polish drinking than the mass-produced vodka drunk with mixers in other countries. Real Polish wódka is prepared in many artisanal styles and is often designed to be appreciated neat.

If spirits aren't your preferred means of relaxing after a hard week of study, don't worry; Poland is one of Europe's largest producers of beer, specialising in craft varieties using native hops as well as popular export lagers.

Polish university cities

Most Polish universities (or uczelnia akademicka ) are located in and around the country's larger urban areas. All of these offer plenty to see and do alongside your studies.

  • Warsaw is the Polish capital and is home to a number of its major university institutions as well as extensive libraries and archives. part of the city, including its historic market square, has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Kraków is home to Poland's oldest university and was the nation's administrative and political centre in the early decades of its history. As such it features many historic buildings and monuments as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the city is also renowned for its vibrant nightlife.
  • Lódz is Poland's third largest city and another important education hub. It is home to the National Film School, whose alumni include the director Roman Polanski.
  • Wroclaw is near Poland's border with the Czech Republic. It is the country's third largest university region with a substantial student population. Conveniently, the city is also home to the international Festival of Good Beer ( Festiwal Dobrego Piwa ).

Search for a Masters in Poland

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Poland on FindAMasters.com

Accommodation

There are two main sources of accommodation for international Masters students in Poland: university residences (or dormitories) and private rentals.

  • University dormitories should be available at most institutions. Spaces will be limited, but international students may be prioritised if applying early enough. Prices will vary, but can be as little as zl400-600 ($104-156 USD) per month.
  • Private rentals will be available in all large university cities. You may be able to rent a solo apartment, but sharing with other students will usually be cheaper. Your university's international office may be able to help you find housemates and / or suitable accommodation. Prices will vary depending on the quality of housing and your rental arrangement, but expect to pay at least a little more than you would for a student dormitory.

Living costs

Poland is generally an affordable destination for postgraduate study, with moderate fees and a low cost of living. Of course, your own costs will depend on your lifestyle, interests and budgeting ability. Students who are determined to try every variety of wódka they can find should expect to pay a little more than those who are content to relax amidst local parks or explore museums.

Student living costs in Poland - official estimates

The Polish government recommends international students have access to around zl 1,200-2,500 ($312-649 USD) per month to cover the cost of accommodation, food, utilities and other routine expenses. This is obviously quite a wide range - reflecting the different expenses occurred in different cities (and by different student lifestyles).

Typical student prices in Poland

You can view prices for common student purchases in the tables below:


Groceries
Item Price (zl) Price ($)
Milk (1 litre) 2.40 0.60
Loaf of bread (500g) 2.70 0.65
Potatoes (1kg) 1.65 0.40
Chicken breasts (1kg) 15.50 3.70
Rice (1kg) 3.20 0.75

Entertainment & Leisure
Item Price (zl) Price ($)
Cinema ticket 25 6
Mid-price bottle of wine 20 5
Cup of coffee 7.40 1.75
Draught beer (0.5 litre) 7 1.70
Inexpensive restaurant meal 20 5

Monthly Utilities
Item Price (zl) Price ($)
Monthly travel pass 100 24
Broadband internet (10mbps, uncapped) 44.55 10.65
Domestic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water and Waste) 630.80 150.80

Note Information in the above tables is based on crowd-sourced data collected by Numbeo. Figures are approximate and provided for comparative purposes only. They do not take account of student discounts and may vary over time or between cities.

Learn more about studying in Poland

Looking for more information about Masters study in Poland? Our detailed guide covers everything from university rankings and courses to fees, funding and applications.

Working whilst studying

If you are a citizen of a country within the EU or the EEA you will be able to work in Poland without a permit. Employers in university regions will often be used to hiring a student workforce and you should be able to find opportunities that fit around your study.

Learning some Polish may help you acquire work, though in popular tourist regions (such as Kraków or Warsaw) you may actually find that the ability to speak a foreign language is its own advantage.

If you'd like to see what opportunities might be available before you arrive, you can try searching websites such as the European Jobs Network.

Non EU/EEA nationals will usually be able to work during the summer (July to September) but will need a permit for the rest of the year. This is awarded dependent on holding a valid residence permit.

You can also use PostgraduateFunding.com to search a comprehensive database of small grants available to all postgraduate students. These can help top up your funding if you have any difficulty finding work alongside your studies.

Further information

Hopefully you now have all the information you need to begin preparing for your study abroad experience in Poland. You should be able to find accommodation, budget for living costs and perhaps find a part-time job.

With that done, you'll have a bit of time left to experience some of the country's beautiful heritage sites and perhaps try some of the excellent local food and drink before getting ready to begin studying your Masters.

There are a few other details you may find helpful before you go though.

Travel and transportation

Polish cities are served by regular tram, rail and bus services and students may receive substantial discounts (up to 50%!) on some routes.

International travel can also be undertaken by rail or by plane. The country's main airport is Warsaw-Chopin, but international airports are also available in or near to other major cities.

Ferry routes are also available to ports on Poland's northern Baltic coastline.

Money and banking

Poland has not yet adopted the Euro (€) though there are plans to do so in the future. Because of this you will probably need to exchange currency to Polish Zloty (PLN / zl) before or after arrival.

Private currency exchange counters called kantors are common in Poland and will not usually charge commission (though the exchange rates they offer may vary). Kantors usually accept major international currencies, but others may need to be taken to a bank or converted into travellers' cheques before you arrive.

Banks are usually open during the week and ATMs are common in towns and cities. Opening an account will usually require you to show your passport; some knowledge of Polish may also be helpful, though your university's international office may be able to assist you if you have problems communicating.

Communications

Post offices are located in towns and cities (opening between Monday and Friday) and post boxes are also available (use red boxes for international mail).

Public phones do not usually accept cash or tokens - instead you will probably need to purchase a pre-paid telephone card (you can do this from most post offices and newsagents).

Search for a Masters in Poland

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Poland on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 21/11/2016

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