Ethnic Identity: Rediscovering My Slavic Roots | St. Lawrence University Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies

Ethnic Identity: Rediscovering My Slavic Roots

Milena Kozyra
Class year: 
2018
Major(s): 
Economics
Hometown: 
South Windsor, CT

I believe study abroad is an experience every student should participate in to expand their horizons and appreciate what the world has to offer. What could be better than traveling to a foreign country to learn about its ideas, history and culture?

Last fall I had the opportunity to study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. I committed to the program for educational and personal reasons, to acquire a better understanding of my cultural background and to pursue my interest in the history of Poland. At the age of ten I permanently moved to the United States. I experienced a cultural shock; I struggled to learn a new language and to adopt to the American lifestyle. Growing up I longed to learn about my heritage. My interest in the Polish culture persisted at St. Lawrence where in the spring of my sophomore year I decided to take 20th Century Europe history course. Since my arrival to the United States, I was lucky enough to vacation in Poland, however, each time I returned with more questions regarding my upbringing and a greater yearning for knowledge about the history of Eastern Europe.

I traveled to two famous cities in Poland, Krakow and Rzeszow. I spent my weekend in Krakow with a couple of friends from St. Lawrence. We took a bus tour of the city and walked through the famous Main Square where we shopped for small gifts and tried Polish pierogis. I saw St. Mary’s Basilica and the Wawel Castle. On our second day in Krakow, we decided to visit Auschwitz. It was a changing experience that exposed me to the weight of human history. In November I traveled to Rzeszow, the district in Poland closely tied to my upbringing. I toured the Market Square, Rzeszow District Museum and Bazylika Wniebowziecia Najswietrzej Marii Panny. I believe that both journeys greatly benefited me in choosing my career path and related to my academic and professional goals.

The weekend excursions to Poland extended the appreciation for my ethnicity. Academically, it is very important to me that I maintain my fluency in Polish. Traveling to Poland gave me the chance to further internalize the language. I have a very strong love for the Polish people and culture. The weekend trips allowed me to bring together all of my past experiences from childhood and combine them with new and exiting lessons of how the country currently impacts and is impacted by the rest of the world. This opportunity was an invaluable experience and one of the highlights of my career as a St. Lawrence student. 

Photos: 
Poland
Study Abroad: 
Czech Republic
2016
Donor: 
The H. L. Platt and Barbara Glendenning Platt '53, P'83 International Travel Fund