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Gilman Scholarship recipient connects to Polish heritage

  • two women stand on sidewalk in front of mural
  •  woman at city center

Posted on March 01, 2017

Jennifer Polasek was able to connect to her family heritage while spending the fall semester studying abroad in Poland.

Polasek, who had some experience speaking Polish with her family, was not not fully immersed in the language. She said this challenge was only an opportunity to learn more, not something that should discourage students from going abroad. 

“For many people, including me, studying in another country is the scariest thing they’ll do in their education,” said Polasek, who is a writing major. 

She earned the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

While in Poland, Polasek spent time in Grand Rapids' Sister City, Bielsko-Biala, and shared her experience through a blog post published by Awesome Mitten. 

Polasek found value in going to a place that some students might not think about when choosing to study abroad. Universities work on the value of language and diversity, Polasek said. 

“I believe in keeping languages alive and keeping cultures alive,” Polasek said. “I encourage students to go to a country they don’t know about, and to consider the endless possibilities they can encounter there.”

— by Lucas Escalada, student writer