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Study Abroad: Experience

Daniel Fernandez (USA)

CES alumnus Daniel Fernandez (USA)The experience I’ve had studying at the Center for European Studies at Jagiellonian University is one that I will forever cherish. It’s amazing to learn both in and out of the school environment. While indulging myself in so many European books and learning about European society, politics, and culture in the classroom setting, I also learned many great things about Poland, their people and heritage by walking the vibrant streets of Rynek Głowny every day and night. I think one of the most valuable things about Kraków is the people who always have many different ideas but most importantly the opportunity to always have a sophisticated debate about almost everything!

Regarding the impact it’s had on my life, I’ve met many new people and made many new friends these past two years. It’s been an honor to study at the most prestigious university in Poland for two semesters. I cannot thank enough the professors, staff and advisors - they are truly amazing people, and I can never thank them enough for the excellent job they do week in-week out. I hope to return once again to Jagiellonian University and maybe even take on another role other than just an everyday student. CES is my European family, and they will always be in my heart!

Samantha French (USA)

CES alumna Samantha FrenchI would like to tell you all about my experience in Poland at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. First, the city is lovely and perfect for walking or biking in. There is a lot to do in Old Town, from shopping to eating, and there’s almost always something going on around the Square. Coming from a small town in the United States, I was pleasantly surprised with how quiet the city is and the kind of night life that keeps you busy. I have personally enjoyed many nights with my fellow colleagues singing karaoke!

Poland and the Kraków airport offer many areas to travel to. If you’re studying abroad from the States like myself, and you want to travel on the weekends, look no further than here. The airport offers inexpensive flights all around Europe, perfect for that wunderlust I’m sure you have. There’s also plenty of buses and trains that offer trips in and around Poland. Don’t forget the guided tours to the Salt Mines and Auschwitz that are great to do. I myself traveled to various areas in Poland and Europe to see more of what the continent has to offer.

As for the school, and the Center for European Studies (CES), I couldn’t have been happier. My semester started with a get together of all different students at CES. Some of them were MA students, others were undergrad study abroad students like myself. Everyone was kind and welcoming and I soon found a group to hang out with on the weekends and after class. The classes as well were nice. The awesome thing about CES is that you can also take English classes offered in other centers and work them into your schedule. The range of classes was nice and I found myself enjoying them all, even the ones I found to be difficult.

Coming to CES has been life changing and I will never forget my time here. I’ve made many friends and got to experience something that will stay with me for life. To experience a culture so different from my own opened my eyes to how the world differs, even when you’re only crossing an ocean. It has given me a greater appreciation for my fellow humans and it has helped me grow in so many ways.

Brittany Missall (USA)

CES alumna Brittany Missall (USA)

Studying at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland has been one of the best experiences in my life. Krakow is a beautiful city and is always full of stuff to do. The main square puts on festivals for many occasions with live music, food, and much more. The night life here is amazing and I have had many unforgettable nights going out with my friends to the bars, clubs, and karaoke! Even when there is no festivals going on in the square, there is still plenty of stuff to do in town. My friends and I have had picnics by the castle, walks by the river, and bike rides through the city. There are tons of museums and other attractions here to keep you busy, including virtual reality game rooms and mirror mazes.

As for Jagiellonian, I have loved my experience with the University. I had classmates from all over the world and was able to learn about their different cultures. The classes I took were all very informative and interesting, and the professors are great. I also took a Polish Language class and learned some Polish!  The student dorms here are nice and I would suggest to live with an international roommate! My roommate is Polish and I have learned a lot from her, and she is an awesome person to be roommates with. 

If you are looking for somewhere to study abroad but also travel while you’re doing your studies, Krakow is the place for you! Poland offers very affordable flights, bus rides, and train rides to countless other countries! I have traveled to many different countries throughout my time here, and its very easy to travel back and forth from Krakow.

The friends I have made here will be friends for a lifetime. I will never forget all the adventures we went on and all the fun times we had together! I will for sure miss the city of Krakow when I leave, and hope to come back at some point!

Jeremy Swider (USA)

Coming to Poland was a lifelong dream of mine. I grew up in a Polish household and was never able to visit Poland. My father came to the United States from the Kurpie Region and I still have family that live there today. The opportunity the CES program and Jagiellonian University provided me with to be able to study in Poland at a prestigious university was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 

This program has opened doors for me and allowed me to build life long connections with colleagues from across the world. Krakow is a historical and vibrant city filled with endless adventure. There are so many opportunities to get involved and immerse yourself in the Polish culture while studying here.

Each day spent in this program and city has been memorable. I have grown culturally and academically during my time here. Krakow will always have a place in my heart and I would recommend this program to anyone!

Taylor Pehrson (USA)

CES alumna Taylor Pehrson (USA)I came to CES as a study abroad student from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the US. Far from my home state of Minnesota, I arrived in Poland having no knowledge of the Polish language or any idea of what to expect. Having now achieved undergraduate bachelor degrees in International Studies and History, along with a minor in Political Science and certificates in German Proficiency and International Relations, I can say that attending Jagiellonian University for my study abroad experience was the best choice I ever made. While at Jagiellonian, I took courses on the European Union, Transatlantic Relations, the Holocaust, and Polish Language and Culture. The combination of these courses and the amazing professors that taught them led me to feel a deeper appreciation for how various political systems operate and pushed me to want to pursue a career working with other political systems through the US Department of State. 

Now on the path towards that career, I was selected and have accepted an intern position for this summer in Washington D.C. working for the Bureau of Consular Affairs branch of the Department of State. However, the best way to prepare for a life working in foreign affairs is to continue my education. Thus, I have also been accepted into an ERASMUS program through the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and I will start my path towards an International Master's in Security, Intelligence, and Strategic Studies (IMSISS) this fall.

Lucy Opalka (USA)

CES alumna Lucy Oplaka (USA)Studying at CES has had a huge impact on my studies. It has been eye-opening to live, study, and travel in a place that I have studied extensively from the outside! As a student studying International Studies and focusing specifically on Central and Eastern Europe, Krakow was the perfect choice. 

Krakow is a beautiful city full of students. Both Jagiellonian University and CES hold events that cater to the students and their interests. It seems that almost every week there is an event with guest lecturers on various political and cultural topics. No matter what you are interested in, Jagiellonian University will have a debate, lecture, or event on it! I have found the lecturers to be fascinating, and I always leave with a more nuanced view of Europe. 

In addition, I have loved classes with my professors. They are all extremely knowledgeable on the subjects that they teach and extraordinarily kind. From Polish Language to Cultural and Social Construction of European Identities, I will not forget what I have learned in these classes, and I will certainly use what I have learned in both my classes at my home university and later in my career. I will cherish the relationships that I have formed with some of my professors forever. 

Overall I would say--immersion in Europe is truly the best way to learn about it!

Claudia Brozan (USA)

CES alumna Claudia Brozan (USA)Poland has been a very interesting experience. I have learned a lot and will continue to learn from what I experienced overseas. I am originally from a very large school in southern Illinois, so the small class sizes at the CES were a big change from the large lecture halls I was used to. I felt like I really got to know my professors and peers. I loved living in Krakow because everything was close to the Main Square, the city was incredibly fun to walk around and explore.

One of my favorite parts about my abroad experience was being able to travel very easily with an airport so nearby. The dorms were also very clean, and we never had any issues with safety while I was living there. I loved the feeling of being completely safe and knowing that if there were any issues, anyone was friendly and willing to help. I would definitely choose to go abroad to Krakow if given another opportunity and I can't wait to experience the Polish culture again sometime in the future! These have been a great few months. Some advice to future travelers in Krakow is to take advantage of all the fun events and activities that occur throughout the community because that is the best way to be immersed in the culture. From the Main Square to the Jewish Quarter, there is an endless amount of activities and new things to try. Also, take advantage of public transportation because it is super convenient, cheap, and easy to navigate!