Friday, October 16, 2015

Higher Ed in Poland, an Italian Market, and a Search for Roots

Higher Ed in Poland, an Italian Market, and a Search for Roots

One month of the ten we will spend in Poznan is already past, and as we feared, the time is passing swiftly. I should clarify that I received a 9-month Fulbright fellowship (the maximum), but Robin and I tacked one week to our start date and three weeks following our end date to permit some "settle in" time at the beginning and some travel at the conclusion. Hence the confusing references to a 9-month fellowship and a 10-month stay in Poland.

Classes and Curricula

My classes are progressing smoothly, though I have many more students than we anticipated. We expected about 20 students per class. However, I now have 45 students in my graduate International Public Relations course and 34 in my Internal Communication Management course. Of course, that necessitates adjustments in teaching style, and I have made those accommodations.

I was privileged to deliver my first guest lecture this week -- a 50-minute presentation on PR pioneer Edward Bernays, one of the most colorful figures of the 20th Century in the U.S. This was for an introductory PR course taught here at PUE by my colleague Dr. Waldek Rydzak. It's impossible to cover this topic in one session, so this was just part one; I'll return soon to complete the presentation.

Introductory PR students attending lecture on Ed Bernays

Freitag delivering guest lecture on Ed Bernays

Unlike most higher education in the U.S., undergraduate students here follow a prescribed plan of courses as they work toward their degrees. The concept of selecting required courses from a menu of options and taking elective courses is not the case here. And the curriculum is rigorous. I spoke this week with a Polish undergraduate student and asked about her course load. This is her second year, and she rattled off the list of her current courses: economics, accounting, tax law, insurance, calculus for business, German and English.  Graduate students pursue a similarly demanding agenda. A typical master's student in my class is taking (and I'm not making this up!):

  • European Union Tax Systems
  • Creative Industries
  • Human Resources Management
  • Electronic Commerce and Business
  • Strategic Management in the Polish Business Environment
  • Globalization and Regionalization
  • Retail Management
  • Internal Communication (my course)
  • Health and Safety
  • Cultural Differences in International Marketing
That's her course load for one term! In this case, the young lady is from Italy, taking her courses from Polish professors (except for me) in English. Typically, master's students are carrying 8-11 courses per term. I am humbled.

Cheese, Sausage and Olives

There are often fairs, exhibitions and similar events going on in Poznan, and a few weeks ago there was an open market of gourmet food products from Italy. It was held in one of the city squares, Plac Wolności (Freedom Square). It made for a very pleasant stroll after work one afternoon. Of course, I was socially obligated to bring home some cheese, sausage and olive salad.

This tent offered all types of olives and olive salads. The piles of red items on the near side are sun-dried tomatoes.

The Italian cheeses were superb!

The vendors did a steady business over several weeks, and the agreeable weather helped.

Return to Family Soil

Next week, I will try to get all my class prep work done early as Robin and I have planned a very special trip departing on Wednesday. We're taking the train about 2 1/2 hours to the small city of Sczcecinek. Do not try to pronounce the name without proper medical training! With a population around 40,000, it would not ordinarily be a destination for U.S. visitors. However, the town is extremely special for this visitor.

My cousin Diane is our family's unofficial geneologist, and she has done extraordinary work tracing our family's roots despite the lack of documentation. The Internet has been a big boon to this type of endeavor, and a couple years ago Diane discovered evidence that our family originated in the German/Prussian city of Neustettin. In fact, she found records that indicate our Great, Great, Great Grandfather Gottlieb Freitag married Caroline Ring on November 21, 1856, at the Evangelische Kirche (Evangelical Church) in Hütten, a village connected to Neustettin. Further research revealed that in 1945, Neustettin returned to its Polish name of Szczecinek. A colleague here at PUE did some research on my behalf and learned that Hütten is now called by its Polish name, Sitno, and it's about 5 km (3 miles) from Szczecinek. Although my surname is German (it means "Friday"), our ancestral home is now situated in Poland. In fact, Poland essentially did not exist from 1795 through 1919; during that time, what is now Poland was divided among Germany/Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Russia. The Treaty of Versailles ending World War I re-established Polish boundaries.

Diane's records indicate the Freitags immigrated to the U.S.probably in the 1850s, so it's likely that Gottleib and Carolina made that journey. So next week, at least one Freitag will return to the family's home soil. I will devote a subsequent blog post to letting you know what I discover. This is like a reality show.

I'll leave you with this link explaining 27 reasons why you should never visit Poland. Click on the image for the full explanation....

So some people like to believe Poland is beautiful.

Thanks, as always, for your visit. Talk to you next time.

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