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Local families open homes to Polish students for unique experience

The B/CS Sister Cities program, in coordination with the X Liceum Ogólnokształcące School in Toruń, Poland, brought 17 students to the local area. In addition to visiting places of interest, the students also had the opportunity to experience two days of American high school.

One of the Polish students, Antonia Trawinska, was surprised at the flexibility of American students’ schedules.

 “It was strange to me how different schools are in America,” Antonia said. “In Poland, we go to all the same classes with all the same people, but here people choose the classes they want to take and never stay with the same group of people.”

Many Polish students were off guard because Americans were so friendly to random strangers.

 “It was surprising that people were so polite,” Antonia said. Things like opening doors for each other or just being courteous don’t really happen in Poland; instead, people mostly ignore each other.”

Not only were Americans very friendly in public, but they also were a lot more active in the classroom.

“It was interesting how students interact with their teachers and answer questions in class,” Antonia said. “When a teacher asks a question in Poland, the students just sit there in silence, and students do not have a relationship with their teachers the way they do here.”

Texas has more than its fair share of stereotypes, and the Polish students were interested to see if they were true. 

“The stereotype that surprised me was that people in Texas actually wear cowboy hats,” Antonia said. “It wasn’t just people at the rodeo either; the moment we stepped into the airport, I saw people wearing cowboy hats.”

Another Polish student, Piotr Wegrzyn, was surprised by how kind Americans are and how open everyone is with each other.

“In one of the restaurants we went to, some people who had never met us gave us some shrimp from their table for free,” Piotr said. “That would never happen in Poland or anywhere in Europe. Everyone has just been so inviting and friendly here.”

Even though the overall environment and takeaway for the students has been positive and inviting, there were a few negative surprises. 

 “Polish students would never talk to their teachers the way they do in America,” Piotr said. “I was really surprised with how disrespectful some students are. I imagine that if it happened in Poland, it wouldn’t go well.”

The students also experienced a few other more positive culture shock moments at school and around Texas as they visited many attractions, such as the Houston Rodeo, the Blue Bell Factory, and NASA.  

“I really enjoyed going to the rodeo because we don’t have things like that in Poland,” Antonia said.” Even though I don’t listen to country music, the concert with Brad Paisley was the best part of the trip.”

Along with the sights and activities, American food stood out as one of the major differences between the two cultures.

“The best food I’ve had here were chicken wings, deep-fried alligator, and sushi,” Piotr said. “I liked all the food. It was greasy, but I liked it. It did surprise me how little water people drink here though.”

The trip has allowed the Polish students to gain a new view of the world and learn more about other cultures.

“Visiting other countries allows us to compare it to what we already know,” Piotr said. “Then we can take something from another culture and apply it to our own while also getting a different view of the world.”

Other than the rodeo, Polish student Igor Kruszczynski noticed differences in the size of everything in America.

I think everything is bigger in Texas,” Igor said. “The portion of meals is much larger, and so are stores. The food in America is fattier and has more sugar, too.”

Not only was Igor surprised by the oversized meals but also by the people he met in Texas.

“I honestly thought Americans were dumb, but after being around them, they’re really not,” Igor said. “My favorite part of the trip was the people.”

The Polish students were not the only ones to experience a new culture; their host families also gained a glimpse into their visitors’ culture.

“I’m glad that I was able to host one of the Polish students because it was such a unique experience,” sophomore Katherine Keyser said. “It is good to see for yourself what other places are like that are so different from what you are used to on a daily basis.”

Learning about the Polish culture and education system intrigued Katherine, and she appreciated learning about things outside of what she considers the norm.

“Some of my favorite parts of the experience were going to school with Antonia and just talking to her to hear how things are so different in Poland,” Katherine said. “They don’t really get to choose their classes or customize their schedules like we do here, and there are a lot fewer options.” 

Not only did host students learn more about Poland, but so did their host parents.

“Hosting Igor had a major impact on our family,” parent Christy Cruz said. “My son, Elijah, got to experience what it’s like to be a big brother, and we learned about another country.”

Opening their home to a student from another country helped enrich their lives and increase the Cruz family’s understanding of other cultures. 

“The most rewarding aspect of this entire experience was learning what Igor thought of the USA and especially Texas,” Cruz said. “It was interesting to see it from his perspective while also gaining a Polish family member.”


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Elijah Cruz
Elijah Cruz, Staff Writer
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