Gabrielle Wasilewski graduated in April 2017 with a BA in Women's Studies and a minor in Polish Language, Literature, and Culture. Here she looks back on her decision to study Polish, as well as opporunities and impact that this choice had on her undergraduate experience.

"Upon transferring to the University of Michigan, I was fairly certain that I would continue on my high school study of French in college in order to fulfill my LSA foreign language requirement. However, after only placing out of two semesters of French, I reconsidered and thought about taking an entirely new language. I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the great breadth of foreign languages that the University of Michigan offered and perhaps take a less commonly studied language. In the end, it seemed the most sensible to study the Polish language as it is my father’s first language therefore making the study of Polish of personal value to me.

While these were my primary motives for studying Polish at the University of Michigan, there were many additional factors that sustained my decision to study Polish. I really appreciated the small class sizes of my Polish classes and the amount of practice and attention I resultantly received in class. I also enjoyed many events and activities held on and around campus by the Slavic Department and CPPS, which supplemented my study of Polish language and culture. The size of the Slavic department also made me feel like I was part of a smaller, welcoming community within the greater mass of campus.

Financial support from the Slavic Department and CPPS has in itself been an immense contributor to my study of Polish. Without the aid of the Copernicus Polish Language Scholarship that I received in 2016, I would not have been able to travel and study in Poland. This opportunity to study in Poland not only increased my knowledge and interest in Polish language and culture, but it also provided me with the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time. This was an invaluable experience for me, which I believe has helped me to grow as an individual and to become a more well-rounded student.

The support I received from the Slavic Department and CPPS and the experiences I had in Poland and on campus further fostered my interest in Polish language and culture and contributed to my decision to stay an additional semester and pursue a minor in Polish Language, Literature, and Culture. During my directed reading/independent study for this minor, I found that my trip to Poland was again very beneficial as my studies reviewed much of the history, places, and events I observed while in Poland.

Prior to making my decision to study Polish, I was truthfully unaware of the opportunities and experiences, such as the ones detailed in this report, all possible through taking Polish. I made this decision merely out of hope that along with satisfying my LSA language requirement I would learn something that would help me to better connect with my dad and his family in Poland. Looking back I received this and so much more. Many of my experiences studying Polish through the Slavic Department are now defining parts of my University of Michigan career and have changed the way I see the world. Thank you for all of these opportunities and experiences and financial support in the form of the Copernicus Polish Language Scholarship, without which my experiences would not have been possible."

Best wishes after graduation, Gabrielle!