Year — Fall 2019
Application deadline: December 5, 2018
Spend your school year learning a new language, exploring a new culture, and experiencing living history! This year-long program gives you the opportunity to live with a Polish host family and go to school in your community. You'll also get to learn the Polish language by being surrounded by it 24/7. Poland has been an important country throughout European history and despite being at the heart of much destruction during World War II, it has kept much of its cultural heritage remarkably intact. Poland is home to 14 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites, so there are endless spots to explore and make your own.
Polish culture and society are very much centered on family life and enjoying meals together. Families will usually gather on Sundays to have lunch with immediate and extended family members. The country is predominantly Catholic, and religion often plays a large part in daily Polish culture.
Your journey to Poland will begin in New York, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the U.S. You’ll learn some essentials for your first days in Poland and speak with a Cultural Resource who recently spent time in the region. Then, you’re off! You’ll travel with a group to Krakow, where you’ll be welcomed by AFS Staff or Volunteers.
Soon you’ll be ready to travel to your new community. Along the way you might spot the formidable Carpathian Mountains, the coastline of the Baltic Sea, or the winding river Vistula. You might also stop to enjoy traditional pierogis or cabbage rolls with your host family. As you wind your way through the old cobblestone streets, you’re bound to see neighbors out walking around or drinking coffee or tea. Even a frigid winter evening won’t stop people from visiting friends or running out for a fresh loaf of bread from the bakery!
Like anywhere in the world, all families in Poland are different. But Poles are usually warm and affectionate with strong family ties. You’re likely to find a close-knit family with grandparents often living in the home. Polish parents usually give their children quite a bit of independence and responsibility. Older siblings often take care of younger children and you might be responsible for preparing your own breakfast and getting to school on your own.
As a student in Poland, you can expect to enjoy a very active social life, with friends around so often they feel like siblings. Poles enjoy spending time outside; young people especially like riding bicycles, hiking, and canoeing and kayaking on Poland’s many beautiful rivers. You and your friends might also enjoy walking around the town center or going out to eat. During the summer, a favorite activity is mushroom hunting. When you need some down time you might relax with a card game (bridge is popular, even among teenagers) or watch some TV.
A lot of the food in Poland is pretty hearty. Pierogis, a kind of stuffed dumpling, are very popular. Other favorites include pork and cabbage, stew with mushrooms and sausage, breaded cutlets and potatoes. Bread is served with pretty much every meal and people often buy fresh bread daily from local bakeries. If you live in a rural area a lot of your fresh vegetables might come from the family garden, and you may find that it’s your job to pick the salad fixings for dinner each night. You’ll also get to enjoy lots of tasty desserts such as poppy seed cake and cheesecake.
High school in Poland will provide an incomparable opportunity for you to make friends, learn Polish, and teach other students about your culture. Depending on your age you’ll either attend Lower Secondary School, which provides an overview of a wide range of subjects, or Upper Secondary School, where students prepare for university. In either type of school, you can expect to take foreign languages, history, science and math. Education is highly valued in Poland and most young people hope to go to university. To help you adjust to your new community and school, AFS Poland will provide language courses locally for the first few months of your exchange.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.