Poland: Experience Europe in a Unique and Incredible Way Past Review

By (Plan Ii Honors, The University of Texas at Austin) for

API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience changed my life in many ways. You can learn so much about yourself when you are placed in a foreign environment, especially as you observe your own reaction to the sudden change. In a situation where you are completely on your own without any familiar faces you are forced to express yourself to others in a whole new way. I was surprised at how much I grew as a person, not only through being suddenly on my own, but also through meeting so many incredible and different people. Everything I experienced abroad changed my perception of the world, of other cultures, of history, of my own country, and most significantly of my future. Regardless of where you go or what you study you will certainly gain some sense of direction, both in regard to academics and life itself.

Review Photos

API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University Photo API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University Photo API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University Photo API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University Photo API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

All of the classes besides my language course were taught in English. The subjects related to sociology and the general humanities and were all extremely interesting, although primarily lecture-based. Since the other students were primarily from other European countries, the material was always presented very clearly. Classes were small and I always saw a lot of the same people so it was really easy to meet other students. The workload was NOTHING compared to classes at UT--we had hardly any assignments until the last week of school (except for the Polish classes, which were demanding but so much fun), and instead of taking exams at the end of the semester we had to write essays or give presentations to earn our final grades. Living without the constant pressure of schoolwork allowed me to experience so many other things, mainly through traveling. At the same time, the classes were all really worth going to, and overall my academic experience there was really rewarding. I gained a sense of direction in regard to my thesis and general fields of interest, and constantly refer to things I learned in class. All of our classes were held either in the main square (20 min walk from our apartments) or just outside of it. Most of the classes were 2 hours long and generally there was little communication between professors and students outside of class.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our resident director was really helpful and always open to questions (although didn't always respond promptly). We saw him fairly often and there were lots of organized trips and activities so whenever we had issues that needed to be addressed they were taken care of in person. He was really knowledgeable about our expectations and generally everything was well organized. I felt like the program was really great.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Everything was arranged for us before we arrived. I moved into an apartment where my roommate, another American student, was already living. I had a huge bedroom to myself which was already furnished. The apartment came with everything we needed, including Internet (I bought bedding and bathroom supplies--that was about it). We had everything we needed already there. Beautiful bathroom and kitchen with nice views over a street. The neighborhood was great. There was a huge daily farmer's market across the street that had everything--clothes, candy, fresh produce, meat, fish, bread, etc. There was also a 24 hour store just a block away. It took us 20 minutes to walk to the main square, or a five minute bike ride. Unfortunately during my time abroad our street was under major construction, but if it hadn't been we would have also had perfect access to tram lines.

* Food:

The food in Poland is amazing. My grandparents are Polish and all of the food I ate there just reminded me of childhood. Because of the exchange rate, I could get a full, 3 course meal for about $2. I'd definitely recommend student cafeteria places and "Milk Bars" which are Communist style eat-ins. But even at the fanciest restaurants, the food was abundant and cheap. I ate more than I've ever eaten in my life even though I hardly cooked. It would have definitely been a bit difficult to delve into traditional food if I were vegetarian--but then again, there are some delicious dishes without meat as well as fresh veggies readily available at markets.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program trips were always fun because we had things planned for us and free accommodations. We went to Zakopane and went hiking in the mountains during the winter and later in the semester went to Prague, which was amazing. We were always given a lot of freedom and even the arranged events were always fun. The laser tag at the end of the semester was even amazing. But aside from the program I was also able to find the time and money to do a lot of traveling. I went to Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Germany, Holland, and Greece while I was abroad. Not to mention Poland itself, which is really large compared to other European countries. Even just staying in Krakow was a blast, because there were always new places to see and things to do, like going to music festivals or coffee shops or historic sites.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I felt extremely safe in Krakow. The population of the city is around 800,000 but 200,000 of its residents are students, so even at 5 a.m. there are people partying in the main square and lots of security. Health care seemed pretty simple-- we paid up front and were reimbursed later. But I didn't get sick at all and don't think there were any real health issues to worry about.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

There was a language mentor/tandem partner program through which I met with Polish students who also wanted to learn some English. These were held weekly and always fun. But mainly I practiced my Polish in everyday interactions (stores, restaurants, etc.) because not many people spoke English (unless we were at a place where a lot of tourists would go or where the employees were younger). In the city it wasn't too important to speak fluent Polish but I always avoided speaking English when I could. I made sure to surround myself with locals a lot and most of my closest friends there either were Polish or spoke Polish fluently--however, they all spoke English really well too.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? A student who is enthusiastic about learning to speak Polish would probably benefit most, because it's fairly easy to go to Poland and not learn any of the language. Other than that, any students who are interested in living in an amazing place would love it. Krakow is a city where you are guaranteed to be immersed in history, culture, art, and music while at the same time learning one of the most difficult languages in the world, eating cheap and delicious food, drinking a lot (potentially), and meeting some of the best people you'll ever meet.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Polish Language

Course Department: Level A2.2
Instructor: Klimek
Instruction Language: Polish
Comments: Our language classes were definitely my favorite though--lots of assignments, but an exceptional teacher and a class of 6 other students (we all got pretty close).
Credit Transfer Issues: I will not be receiving credit for this class because I already took all of the Polish courses offered by my university.
Course Name/Rating:

Polish Modern Visual Arts

Course Department: Department of Art History
Instructor: Maria Hussakowska
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course had a lot of interesting material, but the professor struggled so much to speak English that if one were to record her two hour lecture and remove all of the pauses/speed it up to normal, it would probably be 30 minutes long. I would still recommend the course for someone who is interested in art history though, because I definitely learned a lot.
Credit Transfer Issues: I will be receiving an Art History credit for this course.