Polish student enjoys cultural experience at St. Thomas

By Mara Kaufman

On Oct. 2, Coughlan Field House was filled with props, languages and citizens from 22 countries around the world. Foods were offered, pictures and maps were displayed and traditional cultural attire was donned.

One of the countries presented at the fair was Poland, the ninth largest country in Europe and the country Lukasz Wlosiak is proud to call home. This pride in his home country is what 19-year-old freshman Wlosiak hopes to share with St. Thomas while he learns about American culture.

Lukasz Wlosiak

Wlosiak, who has been in Minnesota for about two months, said he was “expecting some culture shock,” but he is enjoying his time here and said there are too many cultural similarities to really have a chance to get homesick.  

“It’s not another world. We watch the same movies, we buy the same products, we drive the same cars,” Wlosiak said. “American culture has a lot of impact in Europe.”

This impact is a large part of what brought Wlosiak to the United States.

“I am here not only for studies,” he said, but “to see how America is for real, not how it is seen on TV.”

Wlosiak also hopes to learn more about other cultures while studying at St. Thomas.  

“It’s easier to get to know the world while studying in the ( United States),” Wlosiak said.

Originally, Wlosiak planned to study in Edinburgh, Scotland. After much comparison, however, he realized that Edinburgh already had a large enough Polish minority population.

“If I wanted to study with a Polish community, I would have stayed in Poland,” Wlosiak said. “At St. Thomas I can meet about 60 to 80 (different) people in my classes, and that is why I am here.”

Aside from class, Wlosiak is planning to meet American and other international students in a variety of ways. He is involved with the Globally Minded Student Association, a group that meets biweekly during the convo hour to learn about the countries and cultures of its members.

“I like to participate in events … (to) get to know people and share culture,” Wlosiak said.

Wlosiak also is developing a new Eastern European Club with the help of senior political science/sociology major Sarah Farnes.   The two hope to arrange events – the first of which is planned to take place next week – varying from an evening of Polish movies to finding Eastern European restaurants at which to eat.

“I would like to share not only the basic information of Poland, I would like more to share the culture,” Wlosiak said.  

Wlosiak points out that Poland is a modern country and Krakow, with an estimated population between 750,000 and one million people, “is a great city with great cultural offerings.”  

Wlosiak would know. He moved from his hometown 30 miles west of the city to Krakow by himself at age 15 to attend high school because, he said, the city has the best college prep school system in Poland.

For now, Wlosiak says he is “extremely happy” to be in the United States, but don’t expect the intended international business major to stay put for long after getting his St. Thomas degree.

“I am fascinated with traveling,” said Wlosiak, who has visited about 20 European countries.  “It is so easy to meet people that way. If you aren’t traveling you might feel that you’re missing something.”