Language, Culture, and Adventure: A UW–Madison Student’s Summer in Wrocław, Poland

After one year of Polish classes at UW–Madison (Slavic 111 & Slavic 112), Meghan Hall decided to fulfill her dream of visiting Poland by enrolling in the 2023 NAWA Summer Program in Polish language and culture. Once in Wrocław, Poland’s third-largest city, she dived into the local culture and food scenes while earning a certificate of completion for her Polish course. We asked Meghan to share her impressions about the program, Poland, and visiting the city where her parents first met more than two decades ago.

Asked about her favorite memories, Meghan mentions eating at one of Europe’s oldest restaurants, attending food and music events, and touring Wrocław by boat. After coming back, she shared her thoughts about the NAWA Summer Program, selecting the program location, improving her Polish language skills, and whether she would recommend the program to UW–Madison students.

Piwnica Świdnicka in Wrocław, Poland
Piwnica Świdnicka (Świdnicka Cellar in English) derives its name from the nearby town of Świdnica, which used to be a renowned brewing center in the Middle Ages, providing beer to the Cellar. Established in 1273, the restaurant ranks among the oldest in Europe, boasts Frédéric Chopin and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe among its famous guests, and is located at Rynek Ratusz 1 in downtown Wrocław. (Photo credit: Barbara Maliszewska, CC BY-SA 3.0 PL <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Tell us about your experience in the NAWA Polish language summer program.

I loved my time at the NAWA summer program at the University of Wrocław! It was an intensive Polish immersion program that included cultural programming, guest lectures, and excursions throughout the region. Participants consisted of other college students with varying levels of Polish, and we stayed in the University of Wrocław dorms. After three weeks, we completed 75 hours of classroom activity and received certificates signed by NAWA! After taking one year of Polish at UW-Madison, I was placed in the A2/B1 [upper elementary/lower intermediate] class and learned a lot while in Poland.

Why did you pick Wrocław, Poland, for your program location? How did you like it?

Not only did the timing of the Wrocław session line up perfectly with my other UW–Madison study abroad program in Prague, but it’s the city where my parents fell in love twenty-one years ago! My mom has traveled to Wrocław many times, and I grew up always hearing about the city. When I got the opportunity to see it for myself, I couldn’t say no. Wrocław’s Old Town is very pretty and lively, and the city also has good public transportation. My walk to class every morning was along the riverwalk next to a park, and at night, my friends and I would get dinner in the square [called Rynek] and then sit by the river! The city puts on a lot of community activities like free movie showings at Rynek, music events, and more!

Downtown (Rynek) in Wrocław, Poland
Downtown Wrocław has plenty of restaurants and other businesses located in historic city houses. Sitting outside while enjoying a drink or food is a popular activity and way of spending free time, particularly close to the main square (Photo credit: Meghan Hall).


Do you now feel more confident in your Polish language skills?

I definitely am a lot more comfortable hearing and using Polish daily. The program staff primarily speaks to us in Polish, and, in my experience, most people were happy to let us practice our skills while ordering or shopping in Wrocław. I think the hardest part of learning a language is getting comfortable using it in real-world situations, and the NAWA program was extremely helpful in overcoming that barrier.

Would you recommend the program to Polish language students? Why?

I would 100% recommend NAWA to other students. There is a good balance of language classes, cultural lessons, and fun activities. NAWA also provides housing and meals for participants! My favorite part of the program was meeting other college students from around the world who were also interested in Polish! I have made many good friends, and all the teachers and NAWA organizers are great people.

Sunset by the Oder River in Wrocław, Poland
Watching the sunset with fellow Wrocławians on the Oder River, Poland’s second largest river. Enjoying the outdoors is a popular pastime in Wrocław, given the city’s robust bridge infrastructure (over a hundred!) and plenty of greenery surrounding the Oder and its tributaries (Photo credit: Meghan Hall).


Polish language and culture summer course opportunities for UW–Madison students

The NAWA Summer Program provides an excellent opportunity for students to deepen their Polish language skills and enrich their understanding of Polish culture and history. All UW–Madison students enrolled in our Polish language courses are invited to consider this opportunity. We encourage them to contact their Polish instructor(s) early to discuss potential program participation. The last application period was in early-to-mid Spring 2023 semester, and we anticipate a similar timeline in the 2023-2024 academic year.

Students applying to the program choose from several host universities throughout Poland. The locations include Cieszyn (University of Silesia), Lublin (Marie Curie-Skłodowska University, John Paul II Catholic University), Łódź (University of Łódź), Poznań (Adam Mickiewicz University), Toruń (Nicolaus Copernicus University), and Wrocław (University of Wrocław). Thanks to generous support from the Polish Ministry of National Education, courses and related services (room, board, excursions) are free. Students only cover the cost of travel to Poland and medical insurance for the stay. To learn more about the NAWA Summer Program, click here.

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UW–Madison Polish Studies Program

Educating the Wisconsin public about the Polish language, literature, and culture since 1936.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Polish Studies Program is the oldest academic program in the United States focused on the study and teaching of the Polish language, literature, and culture. UW–Madison Polish studies offer a comprehensive package of Polish language, literature, and culture courses, a generous scholarship program designed exclusively for its students, and various extracurricular activities each academic year.

The program, dating back to 1935, offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced Polish language courses, in addition to intensive Polish courses for heritage speakers and (under)graduate students. In 2011, the program received the prestigious 2022 Award Distinction from the University of Warsaw for its achievements in promoting the Polish language and knowledge about Polish culture and history. The UW–Madison Polish program also offers a broad range of Polish culture courses on Polish film, contemporary Polish culture, Polish migration to the Americas, a survey of Polish culture from the Middle Ages to modern times, Polish comedy culture, and post-communism.

Each year, the UW Polish program awards scholarships for tuition through the Lapinski fund to undergraduate and graduate students studying the Polish language, literature, and culture. The Polish Student Association (PSA) provides a space for all students interested in events, activities, and learning about Poland and Polish culture. In collaboration with the Polish program faculty, the PSA also co-organizes the Madison Polish Film Festival, an annual celebration of Polish cinematography in Madison, Wisconsin, now more than 30 years old.