March 8 is celebrated around the World as International Woman’s Day. Very few people seem to know that two days later International Man’s Day is also celebrated (or not, as is generally the case). So in the tradition of doing things differently, we decided that we would celebrate this special day by catching up with one of our Alumni who is now doing rather well for himself.
Today, on International Man’s Day, we are here in the City of Dreaming Spires to chat with Piotr Parzymies (you will get 100 points for your team if you can pronounce this correctly). Piotr comes from a small town called Warsaw, which is the occasional capital of Poland. Having completed his high-school studies, Piotr took the decision to come to Oxford to develop his passion for Biology. He is currently in the second year of a three-year course reading Biological Sciences, and seems to be rather enjoying himself. He has spent today (not only Man’s Day, but a Sunday) reading about cancer research (which he finds fascinating) and statistics (which he is far less passionate about, but apparently is important in saving the world).
We start with a couple of easy questions about why he chose to study at Oxford, and what he enjoys most about it. “I chose Oxford because it’s the best University in Europe (I can hear cries of protest from students of Cambridge), although I never thought I would have the chance to study at such a prestigious institution.” However, he cast the die and look at him now. “Yes,” he says, “I am really enjoying it. The first few months were a heavy burden, but now I appreciate the independence. I never have more than 15 contact hours per week, but I’m expected to do a lot if independent work such as writing essays (of which I wrote 27 in the first year!!!!!) or preparing presentations for tutorials.”
But we haven’t come all the way to Oxford to talk about the present, because Piotr is one of those young people for whom Pilgrims was a permanent fixture in the holiday calendar. He first came in 2009, and then continued coming back, and back, and back for the following seven summers (it may be more, but his memory is playing tricks with him in his old age!!!!). During his epic ‘career’, Piotr went to Cranbrook, Kent College and Harrow. Of course, this begs the question as to which was his favourite. He begins diplomatically, “Of course, I really enjoyed my time at Cranbrook and Kent,” which is nice to hear as I was the Director, although I can hear a delicate let down approaching, “but Harrow is my favourite. I absolutely loved the place and the people I met. I was there at least four times, and I’m still in touch with many of my friends. I visited Alejandro in Almeria and travelled several times to Lisbon to see my Portuguese friends.” (Isn’t it amazing that nobody ever travels to see their friends in Siberia). “I still talk with Mariana F. from Portugal on a regular basis.”
So what was it about Pilgrims that made him come back every year? “Because its superb (one of the first words he learnt at Cranbrook). Not only did it help me improve my English, but it also allowed me to develop as a person and broaden my horizons. Indeed, I don’t think I would have applied to Oxford if it hadn’t been for Pilgrims – we even went there on a couple of trips from Harrow. Being in such a multicultural environment also helped me to appreciate the wider world. Most importantly, however, I don’t think I would have survived the interview process to get into Oxford without that feeling of self confidence which I picked up from spending my summers at Pilgrims.”
I can see that Piotr is becoming restless, possibly something about the sportsman in him, I comment that he is looking remarkably thin for someone who lives in College, and has meals served three times per day. He smiles, and starts to complain about the fact that the only thing he ever seems to eat is the Full English Breakfast, which he gets every day of the week. “Polish cuisine is one of the things I miss most about home”, he says, “Polish food is 10 times better than British!!!!” I start to object but, at that moment, we are interrupted by Piotr’s phone, and he is off.
We would like to thank Piotr for taking the time to talk to us, and wish him the best of luck (but would like to point out the factual error contained in his answer about British food, which everybody knows is the best in the world). If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.