Poland: My Home Away from Home Past Review

By (Wilkes University) - abroad from 09/14/2018 to 12/21/2018 with

API (Academic Programs International): Krakow - Jagiellonian University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This has been a life changing experience. My views have changed, my study habits have changed, and the way I interact with people has adjusted (although because of my introvert nature, this kicked in very recently). About a month before leaving, I began preparing myself to return home. I have enjoyed Poland and have developed deep emotional connections with this place that I recognized that early emotional self-preparations for returning home would be necessary. I would advise people to study in a place that they have a connection to personally. I think this is why I thrived in a foreign environment. I traveled independently, learned new social skills, and developed my learning skills. Being in a foreign environment brought out the best of my resiliency towards difference. There was no hiding from the social, environmental, educational, or cultural differences so I embraced all that Poland had to offer.

Review Photos

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

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I was able to take six courses while abroad. I could travel almost every weekend and still complete my assignments. Normally I would only take 4-5 courses at Wilkes. I will say that I am very grateful for all of my courses. I think a combination of good and bad is useful to understand the education system and the culture. However, I particularly favored Analyzing Polish Cinema. It was was a course I worried about due to the fact that we would mostly watch films. I am highly pleased that this professor was very up to date in his knowledge, and if not he would fact check himself in front of the class. He also possessed excitement for his course; this is very important. For me, I value what my professors say, so if they are not humble and honest in teaching this can be detrimental. This is a wonderful example of teaching and I highly recommend students to take his course and to take it seriously. It is not just about watching films, it builds up your cultural knowledge of Poland. This professor is highly efficient with his time, which I appreciate greatly, and provides information promptly (and ahead of time) to allow students to properly prepare for exams or upcoming course events. High-quality course. I also recommend Poland in Europe in the 20th Century. My professor is a researcher and he is fully aware of the dynamics that occurred between countries for this time period. Although the course was three hours, he kept my attention throughout its entirety. (One problem I did have was that the syllabus had noted this as a two-hour course, and it instantly became a three-hour course on the first day. Later in the semester, two sessions were cut. The professor may have been aware of this and hence had adjusted the length of each session, however, students should be included in this decision since it could have caused conflicts with other courses). He also was honest in his teachings. If he did not know something 100%, he would admit it. This professor taught the most information of all my courses. Timelines, maps, and images were shown in his powerpoints and he told us which text many of them came from. I wish that his website had been a little more informative. I visited it a number of times (in case it had been updated) for supplemental material, but there were only older syllabi. Overall, this course is very good quality and these are just a few adjustments that could be made. My language course was the most challenging because of the language barrier. I feel that it is necessary to teach Polish mainly in the Polish language. I did struggle with understanding concepts and I wonder if I would have picked them up more efficiently if English was applied. However, based on my experience with learning Spanish by a teacher who mostly taught in English, I was not able to retain the language skills I had learned. I feel that learning Polish without English has caused me to learn the material more deeply. It takes more time, but it impacts for a longer period of time. My professor was very enthusiastic and engaged with all students. There was little favoritism and students were not left out due to different skill levels. Assignments were fair and majorly helped. I have a few complaints for the semester-long course. Although it may not have been avoidable due to the size of the class, our meeting times were very late and on back to back nights. On quite a few occasions we were given a good deal of homework which was due the next day. Although it might seem that we would have the next day free, most of us had at least one course and had homework for our other courses to complete that "free" day. On one occasion, a test was announced the night before. Having the course back to back also lead to many students forgetting information from the prior class because almost a week would pass before our next meeting. Of course, homework was helpful and studying was done, but if a student had questions they could not easily be asked. Our class had no way of contacting this professor (i.e. email) until about mid-way through the course so instruction could truly only be given before, during, or after class (normally it was too late at night to stay longer than ten minutes). My instructor was aware of how unproductive this back to back schedule was and tried to re-arrange, but it was not possible. I suggest having at least one more professor who may be available to teach this course on days that are not back to back or substitute on a different day of the week. Again, I understand that this is circumstantial and may not always happen, but it is not an efficient way to teach. Finally, my Tropical Ecology course in the Biology and Environmental Science department. I love this course material and the helpfulness of my professors. It is a master level course, which I was not aware of until I was a month through the course. There was no indication of it being a masters course on the syllabus nor in the classroom. I found out about its level when I overheard my colleagues discuss their undergraduate courses. It is a lot of material, but very doable even for an undergraduate. In all of my academic career, I cannot remember being this excited to study for a course. The course content is as it says on the syllabus and materials are readily available in the department library, although they are not always in English. Online materials an supplements are provided by the professors through USOS. My professors themselves are easy to contact through email. It is difficult to arrange to meet them during office hours due to my undergraduate courses and the distance between departments.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

My RD was wonderful. I could always contact him about anything (i.e. registering for non-program courses, figuring out the fuse box at 10 pm, activating my data for my SIM card, travel advice for friends or relatives who were visiting, even helping me to get an item mailed from an excursion city when I had run out of time to buy the item). I was impressed by his diligence to help me with even some of the most bizarre requests. I do know that some of my colleagues had some troubles, but I think that if you have patience, plan accordingly (a.k.a. work ahead), and maintain an attitude of acceptance for what can be done then acquiring help is no problem. In the instances where I could not get a problem solved the way I would have liked my RD worked with me to find a new solution. For instance, my non-program science course was canceled and I had to find a new course the same day. It was extremely stressful and I was unsure about how accepting my RD would be about this registration change. He was empathetic, understanding that I could not have helped this situation, and he helped me register promptly for a different course.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My only complaint is not having an oven, but I think it adds to the cultural living experience so it was not a big deal. For students who are not familiar with Poland, there are typically no dryers in an attempt to save money. Dryers require the most energy to operate and people prefer to hang their clothing. I didn't mind.

* Food:

Polish food is mostly potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, kielbasa, various meats, pączki (donuts), cheesecake, and lots of carbs, margarine, and salt. There are variations regarding the spices or toppings. Overall, the food is rich and well worth the price!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This was one reason why I loved Poland. While I did have a language barrier, the personality of the people matched my own and they were usually open to communicating in creative ways. I studied with international students and Polish students. The international students seemed to transition better (i.e. Italy, Greece, Romania, Germany, Czech Republic, etc.) especially when learning the Polish language. When I studied at the Institute of Environmental Sciences I had a hard time blending in. Students all knew each other and recognized me as an outsider. They were still kind. I was also expected to know the Polish language due to my Polish last name, so professors would naturally call on me in Polish and I was easily exposed. I didn't mind this; it encouraged me to keep learning.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have any emergencies, but one person in my group had a broken arm entering the semester. She was cared for by a local hospital and midway through the program she could operate normally.

* Safety:

This was the safest city I have ever been in. I did not worry about thieves, car accidents, abuse or criticism of my nationality. People are very well-behaved in Poland.

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

I chose API because the organization provided excellent student reviews. I could contact former API alumni who kindly and thoroughly answered all questions I had concerning my time abroad. API was also one of the most (if not the most) affordable program(s) I found for the semester (and the full year) to study in Poland. Studying abroad in Poland was my overall goal because of my heritage. My grandfather is half Polish and had traveled to the country 20 years ago. As more years pass, he is remembering less of our family on the Polish side and of his time in Poland. After studying abroad and returning to share my experience with him, he started to remember more details which I could archive for the future generations in my family. Family history is important in understanding who a person is, so I was set on studying, traveling, and unearthing more of my family's history in Poland. When I spoke to both of my grandparents, I told them that this experience was the best of my life and that I would repeat it again without hesitation. API did commendable work to ensure my safety and success. It was my best semester and I felt the happiest in my life studying in a place to which I directly connected. Poland felt better than my "first home" even though I had never before traveled that far from my "first home".


* 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)

$100/week, but sometimes $150-360 if I was traveling far.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Maybe $50, but I am normally cautious of my spending.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Check out student discounts for the choice Institution. Being a student in Poland allowed me free transportation on short-route buses and trams, and I got 51% off of trains, long-route buses, and many museum exhibitions. Museums were free on Saturdays so I took advantage of this.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I was an amateur learner.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Try to practice with students that are native speakers. In my case, many people were happy to practice even though I had a decent American accent.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Excursions
  • Most of my classes, especially Tropical Ecology
  • Very good price
* What could be improved?
  • Longer orientation
  • Longer semester; I got a lot accomplished but I did feel rushed sometimes. A full year might be a better option.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I would have known about different academic clubs or public organizations that I could have interacted with more. I found out about them during the last two week so my stay.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Polish Literature in the 20th Century

Course Department: Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in the Humanities
Instructor: Andrzej Zawadzki
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Polish Literature in the 20th Century had its on and off days. In the beginning, our professor asked the class if we wanted to read texts before the 20th century as a lead-in. It was a great idea, but the execution was not so great. Most of my semester has been spent on literature before the 20th century. When I am asked about this course, I want to be able to speak knowledgeably about the subject(s) that was (were) noted in the syllabus and I do not feel I can. The texts that were discussed were done so either with redundant information that only covered a small portion of the text, or the full text was analyzed and the information was basic. There were few pieces where I felt the text was adequately interpreted, and being that all composition are of Polish origin it was difficult to find sources that would elaborate on the information my professor had given. I will also mention that assignments were very loose. They usually were not graded which did frustrate me since the same type of project would be graded in the US. I also found it hard to be prepared for class. Literature of up to 100 pages would be sent to us a day or two in advance. For me, this is too much to properly read and try to analyze a text before class. On other occasions, I would read and prepare myself for class, and then texts were hardly reviewed in the lecture. I would suggest sticking with the syllabus to maintain the structure of the course. A final paper was the main assessment, but participation in the class discussion was also counted.
Credit Transfer Issues: No credit transfer issues.
Course Name/Rating:

History of Polish Culture

Course Department: Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology Institute (Interdisciplinary Programme in the Humanities and Social Sciences)
Instructor: prof. dr hab. Janusz Barański
Instruction Language: English
Comments: History of Polish Culture was extremely hard to follow. I feel that the information given about important people and events was very basic. Although I am empathetic to the professor who I assume had at least one other course to instruct that day, I do not believe that coming to class too tired to properly teach is acceptable. There were many moments in class where the instructor had audibly started a great topic, but when closing the topic their voice would become inaudible and I would end up with incomplete notes. Only paintings of people and events with the occasional title were provided so it was quite impossible to know what this instructor had concluded on a topic. Classes were lecture style with few questions to the students. We did not travel outside of the classroom, but that would have improved the class.
Credit Transfer Issues: No credit transfer issues.