International Educator - January/February 2013 - 36
After the Curtain Fell
Giezynska, who is a Polish native, left Poland in 1990 with her family and settled in California. She graduated with a degree in cultural anthropology from University of California, Santa Cruz, before getting a master’s in political science from Georgetown University. She’s now working on her PhD in anthropology with a thesis on how international students influence the management of higher education for Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. During her university years in the United States, she spent a semester in Budapest in 1998 at the Budapest University of Economic Sciences (now called Eastern European studies, whereas today there is interest in subjects such as economics and law. The opportunity to study in the former Eastern bloc has had a major impact on students such as Hannah Bambrick, who is a junior majoring in nursing at the University of Maine. She studied for a semester at AUBG in the fall of 2010. “It’s a hidden gem of a place,” says Bambrick, who was surrounded by classmates from a wide range of countries. Her roommates were from Russia and Kazakhstan. While there she saw Roma—who still are subject to a great deal of prejudice—denied health care. Now she wants to go into the Peace Corps or work as a nurse overseas. Without her time at AUBG, “I don’t think I would have had this strong a desire.” Jacob Malsam, a fourth-year student at EmbryRiddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, is currently studying at the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. The two schools have an exchange program, and Malsam jumped at the chance to study in Brno because of its excellent computer science program and central location, which makes it easy to explore the region. He’s in classes taught in English with ERASMUS students from across Europe. “Everyone has their own backgrounds and it’s pretty neat to be able to learn from them and share my own perspectives and knowledge.” Embry-Riddle Professor Andrew Kornecki is a Polish native who was instrumental in setting up exchange programs with both the Brno University of Technology and AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland. “We want to provide an opportunity for students to realize we are living in a global world,” Kornecki says. While many exchanges between universities in the United States and Central and Eastern Europe are relatively recent, some date back decades. Remarkably, the University of Warsaw and Indiana University linked up back in the 1970s, when a University of Warsaw history professor began seeking a partner university in the United States. A contact at the U.S. State Department connected him with various U.S. universities, and ultimately an American Studies Center was created at the University of Warsaw, while IU formed a Polish Studies Center, recounts Padraic Kenney, director of the Russian and East European Institute at IU, as well as head of the Polish Studies Center. The two universities have done annual student and faculty exchanges since that time, Kenney says. “Indiana University has had an incredibly intense focus on
Jacob Malsam (far left) overlooking Schronbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, with Vytas from Lithuania, University of Illinois student Joe (far right), Vytas from Lithuania and Olga from the Ukraine and exchange students from the University in Bruno.
Corvinus University of Budapest) to learn more about the region she came from. In Budapest, she found the Hungarian students had little interaction with Giezynska and students who were there as part of the ERASMUS program. She attributes it to the fact she and others from the West “had very different spending power. Even now I can see that division still exists between Western countries and Central and Eastern Europe. “The program is supposed to be about evening out the possibilities to move,” but she still sees plenty of room for improvement. And the treatment of students can still be an issue. She sees too much bureaucracy when students need to get paperwork completed. “Customer service doesn’t exist. The student is a petitioner, not a client.” Christine Mueller, who teaches German at the Warsaw University of Technology, has had similar experiences. The German native studied both in Germany and Poland during her university years and graduated with a degree in history in 2005. In Germany she was able to study what she wanted, while Poland’s curriculum was far more structured, and she appreciates the differences in each system. She also sees changes in that in the past, ERASMUS students who came to the region focused on
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR J A N + F E B . 13