This past May, two University of the Sciences students took advantage of a unique study abroad experience as part of the University of Warsaw’s “Warsaw International Studies in Psychology” (WISP) program. Lisa Chhour HUM’10 and Kasia Kania PSY’10 were the first students from the University to be part of the WISP program. Accompanied by Assistant Dean of Retention Dr. Gerard Hoefling, the students spent the entire month of May living in a flat in the Old Town portion of Warsaw, a short walk from the University of Warsaw’s campus.
“We had striking conversations about psychology and philosophy,” said Chhour, who along with Kania, interacted a great deal with students from all around Europe
who were taking part in the same program. “Some of the deepest discussions I've ever had with any fellow classmates.”
Dr. Hoefling, who had previous teaching experiences in Poland
, began the study abroad planning in November 2007. After a year of setting up the pilot program with the help and support of James Yarrish and Dr. John Connors from the Academic Affairs office, these students were chosen to take two courses within the University of Warsaw’s WISP program: “Professional Ethics in Applied and Experimental Psychology,” a three-credit course taught by Dr. Hoefling, and an independent study course, “Warsaw – A Search for a Meaning,” a one-credit course. To qualify, the students needed three completed semesters at the University, a 3.0 GPA, and to be on good academic standing.
“Having class with students from a variety of countries, with different views and opinions, we were provided with the extra ethical perspective that is needed for future professionals of the health care field,” recalled Kania. “University of the Sciences delves into the world of pharmaceuticals, biological, physical, and social sciences all at once, so it is important for its students to have the opportunity to connect on a global level and learn about how other cultures perceive world issues.”
In connection with their independent study, Chhour and Kania visited some of the most historic sites in Poland
. The students were able to explore Nazi death camps, prisons, and museums related to the Holocaust. They even got a personal tour of the remains of the former Jewish ghetto from Dr. Michal Bilewicz, one of the preeminent Holocaust historians in Europe
Housed in the oldest and one of the most historic areas of Warsaw
, they were a short walk away from the Old Town Market Square
, an outside area plentiful in shops, cafés, and live music. The students had most weekends free, which gave them the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Warsaw
, as well as venture out to surrounding areas, including the city of Krakow
, one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland
While much of the trip ran smoothly, it still had its share of bumps in the road. A planned trip to Auschwitz, the largest and arguably most infamous of the Nazi’s concentration camps in Europe
, was cancelled due to logistical difficulties, which disappointed both students. Thankfully however, Dr, Hoefling’s Polish colleagues came to the rescue and suggested a visit to the city of Lublin
and the nearby Majdanek concentration camp. While less well known than other death camps, this site, where an estimated 150,000 suffered, served as a grim reminder to the students of Nazi atrocities and horrors.
Communicating with locals and finding ways to contact home became difficult matters for the students during the trip, but all part of the experiences of living and learning in a different country. The University
gave students internet access, and both students were given phones that, while not as reliable as phones in the States
, gave them the ability to call home.
Despite these minor inconveniences, the University has high hopes the pilot program will serve as a springboard to more student and faculty participation in the coming years.
“The University of Warsaw is eager to have us back, and we’ve begun preliminary discussions about how else to expand the program,” Dr. Hoefling said, “We’re hoping to bring up to six students, who will have the opportunity to take up to seven credits next spring. In addition, we have discussed the possibility of Polish faculty teaching courses here at our University.”
Compared with the rest of Europe, Warsaw
is a fairly inexpensive city, as it has yet to transit to the Euro. With its historic past, scenic city blocks, friendly people, and delicious food, it provides much to be desired as a city in which to study abroad. Soon after the start of the fall semester, Dr. Hoefling intends to begin recruiting students and planning for next spring’s trip.