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Jestem z USA ale Rzeszow jest moja miasta. On the 7th of July I will board a plane and fly back to the United States. That day represents the conclusion of a nine-month adventure in a place that I now call home – Rzeszow.
The University of Rzeszow has provided me with a dynamic, professional, and fun environment to learn the nuances of the Polish system of higher education.
I am humbled to have had the privilege to work so closely with the talented and experienced educators that compose the Center for Foreign Languages – most notably, Pani Dr. Marta Rzepecka. As there are many differences between the education system of the United States and Poland, I am grateful for the patience and guidance of Dr. Rzepecka throughout my time in the classroom.
I instructed first- and second-year bachelors, and first-year masters students of economics. For the majority of my students, this year was the first full-immersion exposure to English native speaking instruction. Most of the students came into the classroom with a strong grasp on the grammatical structure of the English language; however, a significant majority had never been given much of an opportunity to practice speaking. Through a variety of activities and modifications of the course curriculum, I achieved my goal of getting every student to speak at least once during each class throughout the year. Through informal, summative assessments, we confirmed that we achieved our mutual class goals; many of the students feel more confident in their ability to speak English as a result of our time together. Without the student’s willingness to learn and Dr. Rzepecka’s tireless support of my creative approach to the curriculum, this would not be possible. I am very proud of my students and was heartbroken the final day of classes when we said our last goodbyes.
Outside of the classroom, I have fallen in love with Rzeszow and the Podkarpackie region of Poland. Through formal and informal language clubs, ski and kayaking trips, and general community engagement, I truly feel at home in Rzeszow – despite my less than superior command of Polish. Some of my favorite memories include daytrips to the beautiful countryside, touring small villages, and leading presentations on American culture in elementary and middle schools throughout the region.
I estimate that I presented to over 1000 grade school pupils in and around Rzeszow. It was particularly pleasing to show the children how an outsider can truly enjoy living and working in their town. I hope that the children left my presentations inspired to be the change they want to see in their community.
Rzeszow is an easy place to love and to be proud of. I feel honored to have had the ability to represent Poland’s fastest growing city by leading a variety of events that were sponsored and organized by the United States Consulate in Krakow. My role as a cultural ambassador does not end when I return to the United States. I look forward to future opportunities to facilitate conversations with Americans about the place that I called home for nine months. Thank you Rzeszow; see you again, soon.
Kevin Kareckas was a 2015-16 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at the University of Rzeszow.