A Semester at the Warsaw School of Economics
POSTED ON: Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:13 AM by MIDN 1/C Nguyen, 1/C Remis, 2/C Sanders, and 2/C Williams
MIDN 1/C Nguyen, 1/C Remis, 2/C Sanders, and 2/C Williams studied economics for a semester at the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland through the CIEE semester abroad program. They spent four months in this country filled with rich history and were able to visit multiple cities and attempt to blend in as locals with the little bit of Polish they learned in class.
Adapting to city life was quite a 180 from life at the Naval Academy as the midshipmen had to become more independent, taking on the responsibility of deciding their class schedule, making meals, and figuring out public transportation. They were able to experience the arts and culture in the city by attending the opera, ballet, and food festivals that had everything from chocolate to pierogi. There was always something to do in Warsaw and the midshipmen took full advantage of all the city had to offer. When not in class they had the opportunity to walk through a history of the Jewish population at the POLIN museum, stroll under the lights in Old Town after sundown (which was at 3:30pm), and travel 33 stories up to get a birds-eye view of the city from the top of the Palace of Culture and Science.
After a few short weeks they were seamlessly travelling between bus and tram throughout the city, and later the country, visiting surrounding cities such as Krakow, Gdansk, Lodz, Wroclaw, and Zakopane. Given the turbulent history of Poland that each of these midshipmen learned about in classes, each of these cities had a different story to tell. In Gdansk the midshipmen visited the Solidarity Centre, adjacent to the shipyard made famous by the founding of Solidarity, the trade union turned social movement that led to the fall of communism in Poland. The most memorable, perhaps, was Krakow, where the CIEE program sponsored a trip to Auschwitz and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. With the Holocaust museum being a required part of training of Plebe Year, this guided tour of the concentration camps allowed them to see first-hand where the events took place. It was a rainy and gloomy day as they walked through the buildings that housed prisoners which now serve as exhibitions. Although an extremely emotional day, treading through the gravel walkways and on the train tracks leading from one camp to another was an experience they will never forget.
Near the end of their trip, they were able to visit the US Embassy and attend Ambassador Mosbacher’s Holiday party where they spoke with multiple military members working in Poland and enjoyed being in a room surrounded by fellow Americans for the first time since they had left. After a brief introduction with the Ambassador at her party, they were invited back again for a personal meeting and were accompanied by CDR Wypyski, the Defense Attaché. Dressed in their best business casual, the midshipmen met Ambassador Mosbacher, who shared her story of becoming a successful businesswoman and the transition to US Ambassador, which was full of lessons that they could apply to their own lives. The midshipmen left the house with a head full of advice and pockets full with two different challenge coins to add to their growing collections.
During their last stroll around the city before their flight home the next day, the midshipmen wondered how they had ever felt so lost during their first week here, because now they knew the city like the back of their hand. They learned so much about the culture and history of the country but also about themselves. With a small group of only 6 Americans they had to lean on each other in times of need, but having such a tight knit group made traveling throughout the country much more enjoyable. They memories they made will last a lifetime and each of these midshipmen will be eternally grateful for this opportunity provided by the Naval Academy.