Somewhere across the sea

Polish foreign exchange student compares home country to U.S.


Photo by Grace McGuire

Polish exchange student Julia Kubiak finds her experience in America completely different in culture, educational system and people. To be eligible for this program, she had to undergo an extensive scholarship program meant to create leaders and individual thinkers.

Story by Maddie Anderson, staff writer

She walks through the halls of Texas High, her new school. Students bustle running to classes and laughing with friends. Administrators and teachers dispersed throughout the hallways, monitoring the vast sea of strangers that surround her. This would be junior Julia Kubiak’s world for the next nine months.

Originally from Poland, Kubiak longed for an experience at an American high school. The process was long and expensive, so Julia entered a scholarship for a foreign exchange program, which was extensive and rigorous, taking over a year to complete.

“Recrutation for my scholarship was really hard. In Poland, only 30 students get the scholarship out of 2000 applicants,” Kubiak said. “To get it, you had to prove that you were responsible, open minded, and that you are a good leader. I had to write six essays, an English test, and have an interview with an employee from the Department of State.”

“The people who received this scholarship participated in a camp to prepare us for this experience,” Kubiak said. “We learned how America is different from our country.”

She was taught the principles of the American school system, as well as the fundamentals of society and beliefs, such as political views and culture. Kubiak also had to perfect her English, which she had been studying for 13 years, beginning in preschool.

Kubiak arrived in the U.S. in the summer of 2017 and soon began school at Texas High, ready and excited to start her junior year in the U.S.

“It is hard for me to adjust because this school is very big. But I’ve come to really enjoy this school.  [Students] are always very friendly and ask a lot of fun questions,” Kubiak said. “My school had 200 people, so it is hard to find my way in the hallways. It is really big and different.”

Despite the language barrier and size of the school, she soon found her favorite classes, World History AP and soccer.

Here I have met such wonderful people who are always ready to help me, which means a lot to a foreign exchange student.”

— Julia Kubiak

“I like sports because they are really professional,” Kubiak said. “Texas High has really great sports facilities. I’m going to miss that.”

When compared to Poland, she found startling differences, especially within school.

“School in my country is much harder and more boring. We don’t have any elective classes and all our classes are on the AP level,” Kubiak said. “Our schools are much smaller, usually only about 300 people. We have every class with the same people, who are the same age.”

She hopes to continue to improve her English, and even apply for university in North America, with the University of Toronto being at the top of her list.

“I really like the school spirit here, I’m going to miss it in my country,” Kubiak said. “Here I have met such wonderful people who are always ready to help me, which means a lot to a foreign exchange student.”