Krzysztof Cichocki shared his thoughts on how the Fulbright Program and other American exchange programs impacted the education and the development of Polish economists. He pointed out how they became the leaders of economic reforms and played a major role in the transition period in Poland in the 1990s by showing the change in macro-economic indicators. He also highlighted that every time he had started his exchange programs in the U.S., he received enormous support from local academic environment, and that he was impressed with the high standards they represented.
For a few years now, Prof. Helen Rosenberg has been bringing her students to Poland. She said: “I haven’t chosen Poland, Poland found me.” She was offered to run the first group of students coming to Poland from her university and fell in love with Gdansk. Coming from a Holocaust Survivors family, she is re-discovering this region for herself and her students. Through a short video of one of her students reflecting on his experiences during the study abroad time in Poland, Helen showed us the power of international cooperation that also takes the form of short-term exchanges.
Stephanie Caridad, this year’s Fulbright grantee at the University of Gdansk where she teaches English, gave us chills while telling us her family story. After the Second World War, her Polish grandparents settled in Argentina. Her grandfather never had a chance to visit his beloved homeland again. He passed away 10 years ago and his ashes, according to his will, were buried in Poland, in Warsaw. In search for a better life, Stephanie’s parents moved to California. Being a member of such multi-cultural Argentinian-Polish-American family, Stephanie discovers and explores the Polish side of her heritage during her stay in Poland. When she was telling us her story, her mom was about to come to Poland, and for the first time visit her father’s and Stephanie’s grandfather’s grave.
Krzysztof Cichocki explained that what he learned as a grantee in the U.S. and while working with American institutions is the importance of planning and reporting on a regular basis – a valuable skill, which in the long run brings visible and quantifiable results. By now, everything he learned in the 80s and 90s in the United States is considered a norm. On the other hand, Stephanie Caridad’s competencies have developed in the somewhat opposite direction: she mastered the ability to improvise, adjust quickly to changing environments, and accept new didactic challenges.
Anna Mazurkiewicz’s words serve as a good conclusion to this roundtable discussion focused on sharing professional and personal experiences: “Fulbright is so much more than money – it’s a community of like-minded people from all around the world. When I was starting my grant I realized that this is not an elitist club I had in mind, but a group of friends who care about the world.”
The Congress was organized by the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America and the University of Gdańsk. More information about the event and the full program are available here: piasa.org/annual-meetings.html.