DelVal students return from Polish exchange trip

Jun 20, 2011

By Annmarie Ely

Four DelVal students and a faculty member recently returned from a May trip to Poland, where they visited The Royal Palace in Warsaw, a mushroom farm, a robotic dairy farm, two agri-tourism farms and the U.S. Embassy.

The visit, from May 23 to June 1, was organized by the University of Podlasie in Siedlce, Poland, and the Piszek/Evans/Diamond Exchange program. As part of the exchange, students from the University of Podlasie will visit DelVal in the fall.

Participating this year in the annual exchange were Jaimie Shipe ’11, a graduate of the food science program; Harris Trobman, a senior environmental design major; Darla Romberger, a senior double majoring in animal science and dairy science; Galen Weibley, a junior horticulture major; and Professor Michael Fleischacker.

“I would definitely recommend it,” said Shipe. “It was an awesome experience.”

The exchange between the two institutions was established in 2007 and is free for DelVal students.

Shipe wanted to participate because she was interested in seeing agriculture in other parts of the world.

“I’m going to be teaching agriculture in the future,” said Shipe. “I thought it was something that I could do to really further myself.”

Shipe said the program took her on a full tour of a meat packing plant where she learned how the meat is marketed. She also went to a fruit processing plant and got to compare the plant to ones in the U.S.

Trobman said he wanted to participate because he is of Polish descent.

“I wanted to visit Poland this year to help reconnect with my Polish ancestry as well as experience a new culture,” said Trobman. “I loved learning Polish, sharing experiences, and becoming friends with the Polish people.”

The group had dinner at an agri-tourism farm, which was a small dairy operation. The farm had a business kind of like a hotel where people could stay.

That evening, Shipe said there was a bonfire for the students with traditional Polish food.

The hospitality in Poland impressed the DelVal students. Weibley said his favorite place was the Polish students’ homes.

“The students and their families were very hospitable in showing kindness to the entire DelVal delegation,” said Weibley. “By far this was the best memory I had on the trip because we were able to see in the life of a student in Poland.”

Shipe said there were quite a few Polish students there for every activity.

“There was a lot of conversation about how they compared to what we would do here with agriculture,” said Shipe.

She noticed some differences between ways of life.

“They use technology, but not in the same way we do,” said Shipe. “Most of their assignments are turned in on paper.”

There are also academic differences. The Polish students come out of their program with bachelors’ and masters’ degrees.

The group went to Warsaw, the capital of Poland, for a few days. Shipe was reminded of the nation’s history during this visit.

“When you’re walking through any town or city in Poland, you have to remember that the Nazis destroyed it,” said Shipe. “Almost every building was a replica.”

The program also took the students to what was once a Nazi concentration camp.

“It was one of those things that I had wanted to see, but it was just really powerful when I saw it,” said Shipe.

The students learned a good deal about the nation’s history on the trip. Shipe said they also got to see an outdoor museum of agriculture with recreations of farms and buildings from different time periods.

Overall, the students said the trip was a great experience.

“The entire time we were hosted in Poland, we were met with some of the most sincere hospitality I have ever experienced,” said Romberger. “Even though at times I couldn't communicate with my host family (due to language barrier), they treated me as part of their family.”

Weibley said he would definitely recommend the exchange.

“I would highly recommend this program to students in agriculture that would like to see a different part of the world than they are accustomed to,” said Weibley.“I would also recommend that students who are interested help when the Polish students come in the fall. In the fall, I helped out and when I went to Poland, I stayed with the faculty member who came to the U.S. This helped with the transition to a new family since we already had a great relationship before I arrived.”

After participating, Romberger said she is eager to do more traveling.

“I had an idea of what this trip would entail, but it exceeded my expectations,” said Romberger. “This trip has sparked my interest to travel more frequently and experience agriculture in other foreign countries!”

The exchange is partially funded by The Copernicus Society of America, which was established by the late Edward Piszek. Piszek started Mrs. Paul’s Kitchens, a successful frozen food company that he later sold to Campbell Soup Company. He was proud of his Polish heritage and worked to educate people about Poland. His daughter, Helen Piszek-Nelson, had the idea to create the exchange and worked with retired Dean Dr. James Diamond to start the program.

Mathematics Professor Svetlana Shkitko currently coordinates the program.