Universities can be intimidating. Especially in a foreign country. And even more, when you’re on a scholarship. But don’t worry! With this university savoir-vivre in a nutshell, you should do just fine in an academic environment! You just need to follow a few rules:

Be formal

Professors may not be as chilled out as you think (or as they seem to be,) which is why it is always better to keep a proper distance and use titles of respect. Instead of starting an email with “Hello,” use the form “Dear Professor” and end it with “Kindest regards.” It will be appreciated. Generally, it is better to maintain a formal style – Polish professors expect that.

Be nice to the Ladies at the administration office.

Well, that’s a big deal. You may think that they are just secretaries – you couldn’t be more wrong. Although they work only 10.00-14.00, they are key-figures at the Dean’s office. Are you familiar with The Lord of the Rings? Yup, if Dean’s office would be a Mordor, they would be guards of the Black
Gate. You don’t want to mess with them. Remember that their position is strategic and be polite no matter what. If you have an important matter to discuss – it is advised to write an email asking for the appointment first. This rule applies also to Erasmus and Student Affairs coordinators!

Be punctual.

In Polish culture, we allow the “academic quarter” – which means, that if you are late up to 15 minutes, you can still enter. If you exceed this limit, it is rather risky to go inside. At least be prepared to hear some sarcastic comments. If the professor is old-fashioned and strict though, he may not let you in and participate in the class. Always apologize for being late, and if you are considerably late, it is better to approach the teacher after the class and apologize personally – it is a nice gesture. Your personal apology will be a sign of respect – and that will be noticed.

Greet people.

Maybe it’s obvious, maybe it’s not. Whenever you enter somewhere – the library, administration office, cloakroom – just say “dzień dobry.” Also, if you spot one of your professors outside of the class – or even outside of your faculty – it is in a good tone to say hello to them : )

Dress code for exams.

The first impression is particularly important at oral exams!

Even though it is okay to wear jeans and t-shirts while attending regular classes, you should wear something more formal for an exam. The appropriate outfit for a man would be a shirt and a jacket (along with long trousers of course,) whereas a woman can wear a knee-long skirt and a shirt (long sleeves for the winter and short sleeves for the summer) or a dress – but without a cleavage, covered shoulders, and of a suitable length (again, knee-long.) Remember that the first impression is particularly important at oral exams!

Keeping in mind these few simple rules should make your life at university much easier and less stressful! Keep your heads up and enjoy your Erasmus stay!

Check also : Savoir-vivre in Poland