AU in Krakow

6 American University students, 1 coordinator, and 1 professor--in Poland. This should get interesting.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Class is officially over. We shared a toast to its outcome and I am now nursing the effects of a late night of celebrating. As I begin to answer the waxing flow of e-mail asking me about my experience in Krakow (usually a sophisticated version of what did you learn while you were there?), I fully grasp how little I learned inside the classroom. Of the top 10 things that I am taking back with me (the serious version, although the David Letterman spin has been kicked around as well), 8 of them stemed from experiences outside of the "academic" environment - in this case books and classroom discussions. One could argue that this is correlated to my predisposition for kinetic learning, but I think that it says more about the subject matter that I have been studying than my learning capability: Identity is formed through a continual subjective process that can be best understood through witnessing and participatory experience (and of course a lot of vodka consumption). And because we have been "participants" in studying identity, our own personal identities have been irevocabley modified. In a twist of scholarly irony, my study of another's identity has added to the construction of my own personal identity.
As I silently whisper good-bye to St.Mary's and the Rynek, I can not help but feel my chest tighten and my eyes brim with tears. I immediately question this highly emotional response: afterall, I am one of the few in the group that have absolutely no ties to Poland - no pre-existing family, heritage, or friends; I just came along for the ride. So why grieve at leaving? I think of Milosz' warnings to "Love no country: countries soon disappear/Love no city: cities are soon rubble"(Child of Europe) and challenge myself even more strongly to understand why I am saddened to leave buildings. Buildings! Which are man-made compilations of brick and mortor, inanimate objects.
As I continue my slow walk through the Plank, I understand that Milosz is correct: countries and cities are objects. But I mourn my impending separation because these objects are the physical reminders of my identity in Poland. My identity as student and traveler is emphasized here in Poland in a very unique and contextually specific way. This part of my identity will begin to fade upon take off from the Krakow airport. And I will ache for it: perhaps this what is meant to have "left" a piece of yourself. I hope to return one day to reclaim it.


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