Publisher's note: The author of this post, Crystal Baity, is a contributor to ECU News Services.
Dr. Adam Nowakowski from Krosno State College in Poland teaches intercultural communication in ECU’s Joyner East. | Photo: Rhett Butler
East Carolina University's School of Communication has welcomed two faculty members from Poland this semester as part of a partnership formed almost a decade ago.
ECU students gather for a photo while studying in Poland. | Photo: Contributed
Dr. Ewa Rusek and Dr. Adam Nowakowski from Krosno State College have co-taught Comm 3180: Intercultural Communication this semester. Rusek taught until fall break and Nowakowski will teach until the end of the semester. As part of the new exchange, ECU instructor Chuck Twardy taught at Krosno State this spring and director of the School of Communication Linda Kean taught in Krakow this summer.
Matthew Campbell, a senior from Shelby and an Air Force ROTC member, said he didn't know the class would be co-taught by visiting faculty when he registered, but he's really enjoyed it.
"Having the ability to receive two different intercultural perspectives in one semester is a unique and rewarding experience,"
Campbell said he has learned that Poland is more of a "high-context culture,"
meaning people communicate in ways that are implicit, relying on context and relationships. The U.S. is more of a "low-context culture"
and depends on explicit verbal communication.
"Sometimes you have to read between the lines,"
Campbell said. "There has been a bit of a learning curve for the students and professors."
Learning more about cross-cultural communication will benefit Campbell as he prepares for active-duty military service after graduation. "When first entering a new culture, you experience the honeymoon/happy phase. As time progresses, you have many ups and downs until you become somewhat acclimated to the culture; it's not an easy process,"
Campbell said. "Not only have Dr. Rusek and Dr. Nowakowski had to experience culture shock, but they've had to teach through it."
Campbell is one of about 80 students divided among two sections this fall. Rusek said she is used to around 15 students in her classes back home. Still, she learned the names of all her students and their interests, and attended the ECU-Gardner Webb football game and a soccer match for one of her student athletes.
Rusek and Nowakowski wrote the syllabus for the course together, and tried to make it as practical as possible, she said.
While it was Rusek's first time teaching in the U.S., she has a lot of experience teaching people from different parts of the world. "It was an intercultural experience for them (the students) that I was here."
She also said it was a great experience for her. "They are a bit like my students back home,"
As she prepared to fly home, Rusek said the thing she will remember about being in North Carolina and at ECU is how "everyone wanted to help me. People are nice. I can feel I'm in the South." She said the banker, the postman, the grocery store clerk - everyone was so helpful. She also appreciated the mild weather, nature and greenery, "grass that's not frozen."
The ECU School of Communication's relationship with Poland started in 2012 when Kean attended an ECU Global Partners in Education event and met Krosno State's Wladek Witalisz.
After Witalisz invited Kean to a summit at Krosno State, she knew she had found a great partner for a communication study abroad program.
"Poland feels comfortable to Americans,"
Kean said. "The Polish language and food are different but the Polish people are really welcoming."
She and two other faculty members led 13 students on an inaugural trip in 2013. Since then, the school has taken students to Poland every two years, while also hosting students from Poland at ECU. ECU's School of Art and Design and the School of Theatre and Dance also are involved. Taylor Reed, a theatre for youth major, was the first from ECU to receive an Erasmus+ scholarship to study at Krosno State this spring. ECU faculty members also have presented at conferences there.
"For the students, it helps them to understand the differences are not as intense as they think they are,"
Kean said. "Study abroad is a turning point for students."
The college has sent faculty to China University of Political Science and Law, and Kean said they are looking at future exchanges with Switzerland and Australia.