Spanning more than 20 years, my visits to Warszawa remind me how much the city grows in similarity to New York City, my former home. For students who have never been to a city this size, Warszawa is daunting. Extensive systems of three forms of mass transit exist here: bus, tram and subway. The population stresses the capacity of the public transit systems, especially during rush hours, and students accustom to Des Moines are unsure how to react. Quick-paced and nonstop pedestrian traffic adds to the metropolitan rhythm. Aggressive drivers playing “chicken” on the streets also unnerve the unsuspecting visitors. It’s not just a language disadvantage we are challenged with here, it’s a metropolitan unfamiliarity too.
However, among the massive city we have found and befriended other university students. In the past two days we have shared class lectures with Uniwersytet Warszawski and Uniwersytet Lazarski. Warszawski is a massive public university with 3 main campus sites spread across the city. Lazarski is a smaller, private university with a special niche among Erasmus students so English is the language of instruction. Happy chatter and student energy filled our classroom spaces as Americans and Poles learned a little about each other and about their attitudes towards and uses of social media and new technologies. We heard about popular social media in Poland, much of which differs from ours, and we patiently explained some of our favorite SMs and discovered they are not well liked in Poland. We discussed changing technologies and changing behaviors.
More than these outward changes, I see that my JMC133 students are changing. They are becoming more curious about this culture, more tolerant of differences, more respectful of history, more insightful of consumers and consumption behaviors. The immersion process we’ve followed for this course combined with the intense period of study have worked well to develop these students into more mature global citizens.
For those readers who are the parents of these students, thank you for allowing them this experience. It has been a privilege sharing these weeks with your sons and daughters. Dziekuje bardzo.
As we drove from Krakow to Warszawa, we made a valuable culture stop in Lodz. This city is home to the National Film School, which has produced prestigious film directors such as Roman Polanski and Andrzej Wajda. Lodz has long been a magnet for all creatives, so the Muzeum Sztuki was destined for development here. Among those famous avant-garde artists who spent time in Lodz (and whose works we were able to see) were Warhol, Walker, Picasso, Mondrian, Leger, Brecht and Adler. We viewed styles including Cubism, Universalism, Conceptualism and Surrealism.
It reminded us of the life and vitality of a people who were both daring in their dreams and determined in their visions. Social reforms and artistic reforms all germinate with the same burning creative brilliance.
Not only were we lucky to be at the museum, but on this day we experienced a special festival day and performance art was free for us to experience as well.
Then we transitioned into immersing ourselves in the consumer experiences.
We’ve used trams and buses to travel, learning about ticket purchases and validations. We’ve walked many kilometers, in malls, on dry streets and snow-covered avenues, in the Old Town and by the Wisla River, sometimes crossing an avenue by utilizing an underground connector.
We use zloty and groszy and learned at what value the currency switches from coins to paper. We’ve tried many types of food in many types of eateries and still have not gone off budget. We’ve seen very old, new, and very new. Students are learning an amazing amount by their total immersion into the Polish culture, crossing a threshhold as they cease comparing everything to the USA and begin comparing with Poland itself. We hope you continue to journey with us by reading the six student blogs, connecting from the links posted above.Prosze i dziekuje. Please and thank you.
This was quite a unique experience. To end Christmas season, parades were held in 90 cities and towns around Poland to celebrate the Epiphany, also called the Feast of Three Kings. The TVP (Polish television network) just reported that nearly ten thousand people were part of the event in Krakow. And we students and faculty of Drake University attended as well.
People representing each of the three kings (Kaspar, Melchior and Baltazar) were costumed and approached the stage in the town square from three different directions: from the directions of Africa, Asia and Europe. Flag bearers, singers, musicians and hundreds of parade participants wearing cardboard crowns processed along with each of the kings. All children were invited to join the 3 kings on a stage set with a stable and characters representing Mary and Joseph, and a baby representing the newborn Jesus. The Cardinal of Poland, Stanislaw Dziwisz, was also in attendance and spoke with devotion to his faith but added in a great deal of good humor. Dziwisz had been the personal secretary to Karol Wojtyla when he was Cardinal and continued working with him throughout Wojtyla’s papacy.
The event was covered by television news. We noticed the cardboard crowns were sponsored by the Lotto and TVP, along with other businesses.