A trip of a lifetime: Delaware Valley College students travel to Poland

Jun 14, 2013

DelVal group in Poland.


Warsaw in the background. From left: Mark McDevitt '13, Erica Blazer '13, Devin Cunningham '13 (front),DelVal faculty member and alumna April Laskow, Kacy Shipe '13 and Laci Olivia '13.

A group of five members of Delaware Valley College’s class of 2013 and a DelVal faculty member got to experience Poland free of cost from May 20 through May 30. The group took the trip of a lifetime visiting Poland’s cultural and historical attractions; getting to know the people there; learning about how food is produced in Poland; and more.

This is the sixth year that a group from DelVal went to Poland to learn about agriculture through the Piszek/Evans/Diamond Exchange program with the University of Podlasie in Siedlce, Poland. The exchange also brings a group of Polish students to DelVal each fall. Students and faculty go through an application process to participate.

College Trustee Helen Piszek-Nelson worked with Retired Dean and Honorary Trustee Dr. James Diamond ’61, to start the program in 2007. Dr. Diamond and his wife, Betty, host students and faculty from Poland and have given financially to support the program. Dr. Donald Evans, who passed away before the program was founded, was a faculty member at Penn State who was heavily involved in agricultural programs and exchanges in Poland. Piszek-Nelson and Dr. Diamond both knew Dr. Evans well and chose to include his name in the name of the exchange because of his work in Poland.

The exchange is sponsored by the Copernicus Society of America, which Piszek-Nelson’s late father, Edward Piszek, founded to educate people in the US about Poland. Piszek Nelson is the president and co-chair of the Copernicus Society of America.

This year’s group included: Kacy Shipe ’13, from Oley, Pa.; Mark McDevitt ’13, from Drexel Hill, Pa.; Laci Olivia ’13, from Mifflinville, Pa.; Erica Blazer ’13, from Doylestown, Pa., Devin Cunningham ’13, from Silverdale, Pa., and April Laskow ’07 (B.S.) ’11 (M.S.), a DelVal alumna and faculty member.

The group visited places including: political buildings; a botanical garden with plants for medical and edible uses; Warsaw; Kraków, which is a cultural center of Poland and Poland’s second largest city; castles; Auschwitz, which is a former concentration camp complex; and St. Mary’s church.

They also visited a dairy farm, a pig farm, an escargot farm and even toured a pork processing plant.
“I thought that it was overall an amazing trip,” said Cunningham. “We were able to interact with students that are our age. I became extremely close with not only the host family, but the other students.”

The trip is an experience Blazer said she would not soon forget.

“Visiting Auschwitz (a former concentration camp complex) was very sad, but it was the most educational and touching thing we got to do,” said Blazer. “It really opened your eyes. Everything you learn about in school and everything you read about doesn’t do it justice compared to when you’re actually there.”

Blazer said what she learned on the trip will help her as she starts her career in food science.

“I’ve been to Hatfield’s meat processing plant here, but it was interesting to see how they carry out their sanitation processes in Poland compared to the US,” said Blazer. “The other thing that I found really interesting is the difference in how they look at animals. People seem to understand where their food comes from more in Poland and there seems to be more of a connection for them between the farm and table.”

Blazer said the people who were a part of the exchange went out of their way to make her feel at home.

In the fall, her family will host the student she stayed with in Poland.

“I’ve been messaging on Facebook with my host family,” said Blazer. “I’m so excited for her to come and to show her the US.”

Olivia said she would encourage other students to take advantage of the opportunity.

“The Poland trip is unlike any other trip that I have been on,” said Olivia. “…I would encourage everyone to get involved in this program, by applying to travel to Poland or greeting the Polish students when they visit us in the fall. We do not take all of the opportunities that this school gives us and I encourage all students to experience this wonderful opportunity.”

Svetlana Shkitko, a faculty member who teaches mathematics, currently coordinates the program.