On Friday, September 25th we organized a virtual graduation ceremony for our 2019-20 Polish grantees on Zoom. Even though this year’s program was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our virtual celebration was a unique chance for everyone to come together and share their reflections on their time spent in the U.S.
We kicked off the ceremony with a welcome by Justyna Janiszewska, Executive Director of the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission and a slideshow with pictures commemorating some precious moments of our grantees’ stay in the U.S. B. Bix Aliu, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy and Wojciech Murdzek, the Minister of Science and Higher Education delivered their addresses to this year’s graduates via pre-recorded videos. Both of them grounded their remarks in the unprecedented challenges this year’s grantees faced due to the pandemic while simultaneously emphasizing the Fulbright grantees’ importance in strengthening the Polish-American relations.
Bix Aliu congratulated this year’s graduates saying: “You have strengthened ties between Poland and the United States by sharing your knowledge and research, and by being citizen ambassadors for Poland and the Polish people in America. … We need you to continue your mission now – to serve as ambassadors for U.S. – Polish relations, to show Poles how important our friendship is and to convey the beauty and diversity of America’s people, traditions and culture.”
Wojciech Murdzek addressed Polish grantees with the following words: “I hope that despite such unfavorable conditions caused by the global pandemic, you have successfully achieved most of your goals. I am convinced that your minds are full of ideas and that you have lots of energy to act. I hope that your motivation will not weaken and remain with you forever, illuminating the path to further successes and contributing to the development of Polish science.”
As is the case with all of our graduations, the ceremony would not be complete without a live concert performed by one of our alumni. This year, we were honored with the opportunity to host Stan Breckenridge who both sent us a pre-recorded concert and attended our virtual event himself. For this occasion, Stan composed a piece titled “It changed my life.”
Because this year we could not meet in person and share food, drinks and chat after the official part, we extended our virtual celebration to include several speeches by this year’s graduates representing each award category who expressed their interest in sharing their U.S. experience. Our graduates talked about various collaborations they established while in the U.S., friendships that emerged out of their stay, as well as shared some fun facts about different living experiences across the country. We also hosted our Fulbright Ambassador Dr. Mateusz Świetlicki who encouraged our recent graduates to stay involved in various outreach initiatives aimed at promoting the Program’s mission and goals.
This virtual graduation was a very important moment for all of us as it allowed us to officially congratulate our alumni on the completion of the Program despite the difficulties related to the pandemic and celebrate their accomplishments. We are proud to welcome such a wonderful cohort to the community of Fulbright Poland alumni.