Culturally Intact

The life of a college student is filled with both methodized and unexpected chaos. Whether it is the struggle of finding a place to get your next cup of coffee or trying to plan out next semester’s class schedule even though the current one is not even half over, there never seems to dull moment. It is often easy to get lost in all of the hustle and bustle of college life. Looking back at my college and life experiences, I realize that it is important to enjoy the little things in life that make you who you are. People often get caught up in a vortex of professionalism and conforming themselves to fit into careers and various positions in life but doing so, they often lose hobbies, interests, and aspects of who they really are. One of the most important facets of my life is my heritage. It is so important to me that I make it a significantly larger portion of my life than the average person. I am a first generation Polish-American; my parents came over from Poland only a few years prior to my birth. I am sure that it was difficult for them to transition to a different culture and society, but they made sure that our rich heritage did not get lost somewhere in the mix. From as early as I can remember, they instilled a sense of Polish pride in my brother and me.

Pulaski Day Parade in New York City
Pulaski Day Parade in New York City

As a child, I would drag my feet every Saturday to ‘Polish School’ and never understood why my parents would make me go. Now that I am older, I realize how grateful I am for what they did. I was able to develop a strong connection with my roots, one that not many people have. Growing up in an international community I had a lot of friends who were in the same first generation boat, but their parents focused more on blending in and becoming more ‘Americanized.’ Now those same friends who made fun of me for going to school on a Saturday look back and regret that they do not know as much about the culture, history, and language of their ancestors as they would like to. Because being Polish is such a big part of my story, I make sure that I always have time for it. This past spring semester I had the opportunity of a lifetime; I studied abroad in Krakow, Poland. It was the perfect decision for me because despite visiting the area many times, I had always wanted to live there for an extended period of time. I made sure that I had enough room in my academic schedule to go abroad without falling behind. Hands down, it has been the best decision that I have made since coming to the University of Connecticut.

Overlooking the Royal Castle in Poland
Overlooking the Royal Castle in Poland

More recently, I was able to participate in the Pulaski Day Parade in New York City. It was really fascinating to see how many people came to show off their heritage. As we walked down Fifth Avenue, the abundance of red and white colors really was overwhelming. I have always been a firm believer in the phrase, “it’s the little things that count.” The things that hold high sentimental value in your life are truly the most important no matter how big or how small. As we carry out our daily duties, I think it is crucial that we make an effort to take some time out of our busy schedules to fulfill desires and pleasures that we might not always have time to do. In my case, it is celebrating my rich Polish heritage. A wise man by the name of Józef Piłsudski once said, “A nation that does not respect its past, does not deserve the respect of the present and has no right to the future.” These are the words that I was taught to live by since I was a child. I truly am proud to be Polish, and an American.