Dear Summer 2014 Poland Program Participant,
PLEASE READ THIS COMPLETELY AND RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONS RAISED BELOW.
We are only a few weeks away from closing the application window, and I’m excited to be seeing you all in Poland.
I have heard from a couple students (literally two, who approached me together last Friday) that you may be wondering what you should be thinking of or doing in relation to the Poland Program. On classes — nothing. Your classes will be made available at the summer class selection process. On plane tickets — think about booking your flight in about a month. Or now if you’re risk averse. On rooms and roommates in Bialystok — nothing yet, but sign up for the TWEN site so you can see who else is going (just be aware they will also see you are going). On learning Polish — if you don’t already know Polish, forget it.
On the other hand, we are now starting the part of the process where I need to email you a lot, ask you a lot of questions over the next two months, and hopefully get answers as soon as possible. If you have decided not to participate in the program, this is also the time to just let me know. You won’t hurt my feelings, and it really helps me with logistics.
RIGHT NOW I am in the process of making arrangements for the program trip to Krakow and Auschwitz. In that vein, I need to get a handle on your preferences so we can lock in rates and schedules. I have created a TWEN site for the Poland Program 2014 and have uploaded a poll under the “custom polling” tab asking (1) do you plan to go, and (2) do you want a cheap hostel or an expensive hotel?
By signing up for the TWEN site, you are voluntarily giving me permission to share your identity (although not other information) with other participants of the program. Needless to say, this will make it a lot easier for you to arrange things like group airfare purchases, roommates, dinners, etc. But you will be letting others know you are participating in the program.
The trip will depart from Bialystok on Thursday, July 3 immediately after class. We will head to the train station and catch a train to Warsaw and then to Krakow. We will arrive in Krakow at the hotel or hostel at approximately 10:00pm. You’re free to head out for the nightlife at that point, although you’ll want a guide. On Friday, July 4, you will have the morning free until approximately 12:00noon, when we will take a bus to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial and Museum for a program tour (this means it’s included in your activity fee) with a guide of the camp at Auschwitz 1 (where the Polish prisoners were kept) and Auschwitz-Birkenau (the camp featured in Schindler’s List and other films). We will return to Krakow at approximately 6:00 where you are free to grab dinner on your own or join me, Magda Majewska, and/or another associate of the program for dinner. Saturday will be free on your own — Magda and I have become extremely familiar with the city and will be happy to show off highlights, or you can take time to tour the castle, various palaces, medieval defensive structures, museums, cathedrals & churches, and other sights on your own. Sunday, a group often tours Wieliczka Salt Mine (http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/) before we catch the train in the early afternoon back to Bialystok. Typically, the cost of the trip has been about $350 USD (depending heavily on exchange rates), although there are many things you can do to reduce this cost.
Lodging choices include either a hotel or a hostel. I REALLY, REALLY NEED YOU TO INDICATE A PREFERENCE FOR A HOTEL OR A HOSTEL ROOM IN THE CUSTOM POLL ON THE TWEN SITE.
Advantages of the hotel: consistent quality. I haven’t stayed in the hotel from which we currently have a bid, but it has been hit or miss. Typically, a hotel will run about $65-$85 USD/night for a very nice hotel close to city center. We’ve seen them as low as $55, depending on the exchange rate. And your cost depends on your willingness to have room mates.
Advantages of the HOSTEL: (in the poll, I’ve capitalized HOSTEL so that you don’t mistake it for the hotel option) — cheap. Dirt, dirt, dirt cheap. In a triple, you’re looking at around 55PLN/night, albeit with a common bath. The students who stayed in this hostel last year liked it as much as the hotel others were staying in.
THIS POLL IS TO JUDGE INITIAL PREFERENCES ONLY: I will post a sign up sheet as soon as we have final bids. But, the number of rooms I reserve at each location will determine the availability of those choices, and you are not guaranteed your first choice in lodging options.
A note on costs and exchange rates: Exchange rates fluctuate a lot, especially as we get toward summer, especially if there’s a war in Ukraine. (If there’s a war in Ukraine, the Office of Study Abroad will assess the safety situation carefully before either continuing or canceling the program. That decision is entirely out of my hands.) The costs I’ve cited in the poll are for comparison purposes only. I will have better numbers shortly before we book the rooms (in about 2 weeks) and you will have an opportunity to change your choices then. But in the interests of transparency, I will try to get the amount billed to you as close as possible to the quoted rates, but there will almost certainly be variance.
Prof. Daniel Barnhizer
Michigan State University College of Law