The True Story Of My Transformation

11. November 2022   |   Kosma Zalewski

The True Story Of My Transformation

Seriously, I can’t remember a time when my personality shifted so drastically. When I first arrived in Berlin, I worried that the cultural divide in Europe was too wide for me to make any lasting friends there.
First, I’ll give you a little overview of my life before I go into the reasons for my drastic transformation.
Being raised by farmers instilled in me a healthy skepticism of free borders. As a consequence of globalization and European integration, little farms like mine are in direct competition with large corporations. I was of the opinion that the gap between national cultures was too wide to build something worthwhile in a multiethnic setting. Since I can remember, I’ve had this belief.
I didn’t expect anything to change as a result of this program. To be honest, I signed up for it because I wanted to enhance my language abilities.
When it came time for me to go, I was filled with anxiety. Even I was curious about what would happen if I decided not to go. In my head, I was telling myself that even if they sue me for not showing up, I’ll have a good excuse ready.

My arrival

After arriving at the Happy Hotel in Berlin at 10 p.m., I went to the correct doors and knocked, knocked, knocked. I met my first international person, an Italian lady named Chiara, who kindly pushed open the door for me. Then I got the idea that I would be living in a flat with four other girls.
But, thanks to my tidal wave of extroversion and Tony Bennett’s instruction from „Put on a Happy Face,“ I ended up having a lovely conversation with the Italian woman. We talked about everything, from our favorite foods and movies to our backgrounds and travels. The fact that she didn’t care about the same movies I loved was the first shocking aspect of her to me.
During the conversation, Pia from Germany, Juliette from France, and Rachel from Spain came into the room.
Before I could finally fall asleep, I had to overcome a challenging mental battle. The first thing I thought was that „everything looks bizarrely nice,“ which was the farthest thing from what I had planned for. What kind of Pole am I if I can have a lovely time with an Italian? If this is true, then it’s possible that language barriers are the most significant factor. Rare.

The temptation of sleep eventually won out, and I woke up the following day to find myself a member of the project.

The program

Throughout the program, we engaged in a number of activities with refugees, whom we referred to as „participants“ so as not to place them in a position of opposition to the team. I thought that was a very progressive and politically correct idea. I realized I needed a dose of cultural shock therapy!
Friendships with individuals from a wide variety of European countries have grown over time.
Having common interests is essential for socializing, in my view. Because of this, I wind up spending the most time on the project working with a Romanian gentleman called David. Our shared enthusiasm for politics and history opened up a variety of potential ventures for us to act on together. We were having fun at a communist bar during our downtime when we came up with a brilliant plan. Moscow vodka opened our eyes to how empty our lives as history geeks really are. We decided to start a history blog, and I can’t remember who proposed it initially. I urged for writing about our shared Eastern European background. David’s endorsement did not take long to come. Now that everything is set in stone, I play the role of „general“ of the political department, and he plays the role of an „ancient man” writing about events before World War II in Europe. I feel like a different person as I sit here in my nerdy room in Poland. I’m a historian as well as a Pole. I am not restricted to forming relationships with people just inside my own country but am open to friendships everywhere in the world. Every interaction with David serves as a gentle reminder that he is just like the rest of us regular Joes back in Poland. Given this insight, I think the world would be a better place if more people were immersed in diverse communities.

This is the link to our evolving project: