In the fall of 2021, I studied abroad in Wrocław, Poland, through Syracuse University’s Exploring Central Europe program. During my semester there, we explored themes based around identity, history and politics in the context of Central Europe, with particular emphasis on the 20th century. I was drawn to this program because it offered the unique opportunity to gain a truly comprehensive understanding of a country’s past and contemporary influences of its history.

Our professors taught a variety of uniquely interesting and engaging subjects such as Polish language, Central European history and Polish culture through film. Additionally, I was able to pursue my interest in environmental justice through virtual participation in a course offered at the University’s London Center called Climates of Resistance. Intersecting my two experiences, I was able to explore both of my passions through the ethnographic research projects we produced and published on Urban Labs.

What exceeded my initial expectations was our two-week signature seminar and weekend trips, which took us to each region and major city of the country. Our journey took us to the cities of Gdańsk, Lublin, Kraków, Warsaw and Berlin (a visit beyond Poland), in addition to excursions to smaller towns in Poland’s countryside, where we were hosted by foundations engaged in peacebuilding and reconciliation. These trips bonded our cohort as we collectively navigated rich new spaces while also reckoning with atrocities committed in the same places.

The staff that organized and taught this program were always available to answer questions, not just related to academics; they were genuinely invested in our well-being. Almost half of our program ate a plant-based diet, and our directors went to great lengths so that we could still experience the local cuisine despite our dietary restrictions, which was a concern I had pre-departure. Our phenomenal staff member, Anita, relayed information about activities and cultural events going on within Wrocław (vegan food festivals, museum exhibitions, comedy nights, etc.) that helped us become acquainted with the city as a whole. One of my favorite memories was when she had our cohort over to her apartment and taught us how to make pierogis from scratch!

During my three months in Poland, I took my first solo-travel trip, met incredible people from across the world, and gained invaluable knowledge about myself and Central European history. This program is unique in both the academic and personal growth it encourages, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in pursuing either!

Exploring Central Europe is a theme-based program focused on history, memories and identities across borders. This fall-only program travels to several different locations throughout Poland and Central Europe, investigating cultural sites tied to World War II, the Holocaust and the Soviet rule. This program is a great fit for students majoring in international relations, policy studies, political science, communications and history!

Interested in Exploring Central Europe? Apply by March 15 to study abroad for the Fall 2023 semester!

Written By Sophie Creager-Roberts ’24, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences, Exploring Central Europe ’21