While I could be imaginary and say that my ancestral genes on my mother’s side ensured that I would have valuable weeks as a Fulbright special roster scholar in southern Poland, the reality is that the grand Renaissance city of Kraków and its outstanding Jagiellonian University simply made each day a dynamic experience. As a scientist and science educator specializing in global ecology and the need to create a healthier, more sustainable environment, I was pleased that my multi-media presentations to and discussions with University students, faculty and even children in a Krakow public school were well-received and thought-provoking for many.
Examples of special experiences abound:
- Meeting with many citizens of various ages, talents and interests who want to help ensure that Poland’s rivers, particularly the Vistula which meanders south to north for over one thousand kilometers, healthy for generations to come.
- Experiencing the unique 4 km park with its thousands of trees in Kraków known as the Planty. This urban ecological green model surrounds the entire old town (“stare miasto”) area of the City, such that visitors and residents must pass through or walk along this beautiful green region to get into the ancient streets and breathtaking architectural wonders that date back in some cases to the 12th and 13 centuries.
- Sharing with University students key ways that may not be realized as to how the biosphere – the area of life in and around the earth – works, and how we can be a better partner with it in our own communities.
- Being immersed in the many cultural events and expressions of the City, including the international choir festival with participants from various countries, a festival of very talented street musicians, and of course the art in Kraków’s memorable museums.
- In a role of unofficial ambassador for the United States under the Fulbright program and through previous visits and yes those family genetics, I was able to feel a kinship with the region and its people as both citizenries face new challenges in our democracies and in ensuring a healthy environment for our children.
Being in this Fulbright experience is a lasting treasure, for its daily encounters, discoveries, experiences have become an intellectual and emotional part of me.