Be aware of where you are!

The first thing which shocked me the most when I was walking around Frankfurt (Oder) was that they don’t have many pedestrian crossings. I know Berlin like the back of my hand and I never noticed such a situation, sometimes I’d even say in Berlin there are too many of them and it takes a while to cross a big road because of the traffic lights which change very quickly and without any warning. By the way, Berlin’s pedestrian signals are quite unique because they’re different for each side of the city, East and West. I think it’s the same in the whole country but in Berlin it’s the most significant, especially near Reichstag where within a super-close distance you can see both of them. Germans call the East figure an Ampelmännchen and make funny souvenirs with him, you’ve probably seen some of them.

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West vs East

(source: https://bin.snmmd.nl/m/rn2ygemwc667.jpg)

But back to the topic, on my way to university there are many roads and zero zebra crossings so I was extremely confused about what to do. When I got there, I asked my friends about this and they told me that it’s OK to cross the street wherever you want but when you ignore the red light (if there’s one), you may be fined 5€ or 10€. The main rule is then that you have to give way to cars and wait for a good moment that won’t cause a dangerous situation.

In Poland it’s a bit different. There are many zebra crossings and you have to look for them when you want to get to the other side of the road, the only exception is when there is none of them within 100 meters distance. The fine for crossing the road not where you should do it is not big – 50zl (around 12€).

What’s important, in Poland when you enter a crosswalk, you have the right of way and all cars have to yield to you unless they want to get 10 penalty points and 500zl fine (120€). German drivers usually feel too comfortable on Polish roads what can lead to many serious accidents because Poles are used to not thinking about anything else when they’re on a crosswalk.

Every country has unique traffic law so my advice would be – check it before you go abroad and just know where you are.

(I’m still a bit nervous when I’m driving a car in a different country and I see police absolutely EVERYWHERE – now you know my biggest fear.) 😛

Let’s study!

Since I remember I always wanted to do something connected to languages and law, I just wasn’t sure how to combine these two things. In the beginning I thought about studying International Law in my country or a „regular” Law in a different country but it was almost impossible for me to choose only one option. And then, few years ago, my teacher told me about my current course and I fell for it almost immediately. I know it’s hard to imagine studying in two cities, two countries and two languages (I tried to explain it to so many people) but I hope that after this post you’ll get the idea of it a bit better.

As I wrote earlier, two universities from Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice – European University Viadrina and Adam Mickiewicz University (Collegium Polonicum) – offer their students few courses that are taught in a close cooperation. These are: German and Polish Law (Bachelor and Master, also known as Magister des Rechts, in Polish and German), German studies (Bachelor, in German and Polish), Cultural studies (Master, in German and Polish), English studies (Master, in English) and International Relations (Master, in English). There are also many different courses offered by these unis but they are an individual offer of each of them and can be considered as a normal course.

I study German and Polish Law and Magister des Rechts. The main reason why it’s officially divided into two courses (study programme is more or less the same) is that in Poland there’s no Bachelor of Law – Law is one of very few courses that can only be studied for 5 years and end with a Magister’s degree (Polish equivalent for Master’s degree) – so studying Magister des Rechts is necessary if you want to work in Poland as a lawyer without any further problems.

In order to enroll for the courses I mentioned above you have to prove that you’re able to speak fluently both Polish and German, C1 level is a minimum. Without any certificate the enrollment process takes ages (I didn’t have one and had to wait for the results of the language exam until October, few days before the start of the winter semester) so it’s better to think about it earlier, 1 year would be enough.

At the beginning it’s not easy to get used to the fact that in one place you’re considered as a German and in the other as a Pole but it’s one of the most important things here. When you attend a lecture in Frankfurt everyone thinks you understand 100% of what’s being said, likewise in Poland. You have to pass the same exams as people studying only German or only Polish Law but they have two great advantages – everything is in their native language and they have much more time to prepare because they have twice less exams. It’s like studying two degrees at once with that difference that it’s all in the same time very similar (it’s law after all) and various (every country has a unique law system).

One of the most important factors I haven’t written about yet is money. In Poland studying is basically free but in Germany every semester you have to pay a fee which is about 250€ and includes insurance and a semester ticket in the area of your university (in my case I can travel around Berlin/Brandenburg region for how many times and however I want). Being a Polish student gives you 50% discount for train and public transport tickets but you still have to pay for it. What’s great, when you study for example German and Polish Law you have two student IDs and may feel a bit more privileged than your peers who study only in one country.

One of our lecturers told us recently that the way of teaching in these two countries has changed significantly over the past years. From what I can say, there’s a slightly difference between Polish and German lecturers but I think it’s easily explicable. In Slubice the lecture is usually once in a few weeks and takes 5 hours so the teachers don’t have much time to ask questions or have a good contact with all the students and usually just talk for the few hours while in Frankfurt the lecture is every week and is much shorter what gives us the opportunity even to joke around with the lecturers and talk about things not strictly connected with law.

I tried my best but if you still have any questions regarding my studies, feel free to contact me, I’m sure there’s something I missed as it’s part of my everyday’s life and I’m totally used to it.

See you!