Discovering the City of Lodz (Poland). Spatial Experiences and Perceptions of Exchange Students
* Corresponding author
1 University of Lodz, Faculty of Geographical Sciences, Department of Regional and Social Geography, Lodz, POLAND
Abstract. This paper aims to reveal the process of adapting to a new environment and developing perceptions of the city of Lodz, Poland by its temporary users – exchange students, studying at the local university. The data analysed and interpreted here was collected during lectures and workshops on Mental Maps and Images in Geography conducted at the Faculty of Geographical Sciences, the University of Lodz, between 2021 and 2022, using sketch maps, photographic essays and digital story maps prepared by course participants. The study tests those tools’ usefulness in recognising the relationship between a person and the surrounding space. Results framed by the concept of three-folded spatiality show that during 3-4 months of their stay in Lodz, along everyday direct spatial experiences as well as indirect interactions with the city, when learning about it in the classroom, reading or talking to people, exchange students gain a wide understanding of Lodz, and the initial sense of alienation gives way to emotional reactions and place attachment. The research presented in this paper is framed by the cultural approach in urban geography making the concept of imagined and lived spaces central and in a wider perspective, using constructionist methodology in social sciences. It aims to follow patterns of transforming the new, undiscovered space into a set of individually experienced and defined places filled with the emotions of exchange students, evolving their new local identities and place attachment. The study can impact future local planning to maximise the exchange students’ satisfaction as agents of urban improvement.
K e y w o r d s: perceptions, place attachment, exchange students, urban geography, Lodz