Before we get to the options to study in Poland, I need to set the scene of my visit there. This trip to Eastern Europe is really making me regret not paying more attention in high school history classes. The end of the Cold War was even a current event when I was in high school, that I was largely oblivious too. In many European cities, you can feel the history through the beautiful architecture. Not so much the case in Warsaw. I didn’t realize that over 85% of the city center was destroyed in WWII. The Soviet Union liberated Poland from the occupation by German forces in 1944 and then took over and installed a Communist government which ruled until 1990.
One neighborhood in the city center, Old Town, was meticulously rebuilt after the war to look like it did in the 1800’s. Walking through Old Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage site is pretty wild. It looks like it was built in the over 200 years ago when in fact it was built in the 1950’s-and the Royal Palace wasn’t completed until the 1980’s! This is a very small part of Warsaw, one that you aren’t likely to spend much time in as a student, other than to show visiting friends and family the town. The rest of the city has the drab architecture that reminds me of the public housing projects in my hometown of Chicago. In many areas, Warsaw lacks the European charm I find in so many other cities.
I’ve learned that the inside of a building in Warsaw is often much more impressive than the exterior. The building of my Airbnb looked quite dumpy from the exterior even through the entryway and stairways. The inside held one of the nicest and most modern Airbnb’s I’ve stayed in. The same can be said for Kozminski University. The building was bought, not built, by the University in 1993 so the outside does not look particularly impressive. The facilities inside, however, are modern and well maintained. Kozminski is unique in that all of their facilities are on one campus and are quite extensive, including a sports hall, two sports fields, a gym, post office, ATM machines, four cafeterias, multiple computer labs, a modern library and a simulation courtroom for law students. The campus is about 20 minutes from the city center but is right across the street from a tram line that connects directly to the city center and a monthly transit pass costs only about $25 (and even less for students)!
So let me back up for a minute back to the impact of Communist rule. Privatization was prohibited until after the Cold War ended in 1989, so all of the private universities in Poland are still quite new. Kozminski was founded in just 1993, so it is especially impressive is that they hold the prestigious “triple crown” accreditation and higly ranked internationally and in our own rankings. Their tuition, at around $6,000 a year, for most bachelor's and master's programs, is an unheard of bargain for those of us familiar with the astronomical US prices but is thought of as high for Poland, so Kozminski recognizes that they need to provide high-end value and student satisfaction.
To that end, they focus on combining practice with theory and also developing relationships with companies around the globe that provide their students with employment, internships, lectures, and workshops. Some of the companies they have strong relationships with include Accenture, Deloitte, Loreal, and 3M. Recruitment events occur throughout the year, with some that focus on bringing in employers from one specific country at a time. They also have an entrepreneurial program called Grow Point, in which mentors from various companies help students turn their business ideas into successful ventures. An impressive 90% of their graduates find work within 90 days of graduation!
Kozminski has three different English conducted bachelor’s programs which are all three years in duration. There is a program in Finance and Accounting, one in Management (with specialization choices of Entrepreneurship, Marketing, or International Management made after the first year) and a Management and Artifical Intelligence program.
Classes are a mixture of lectures, seminars, group work and case studies. Most classes have both graded work through the semester in addition to a final exam, which students are able to retake if they don’t pass. Polish law requires all students to complete a three-week minimum internship, though most Kozminski students intern for at least a semester. The small school size of 9,000 allows smaller class sizes (usually around 30) and access outside of class time to professors.
The admissions process for international students is quite simple. Students do need to have their high school studies completed at the time of application, but the admissions period does not even open until May and continues through August, which should allow for students to attend in the fall after their senior year. No entrance exam is needed, students complete an online application and upload their documents. Students generally receive an admissions decision within 10 days.
About half of the programs at Kozminski are conducted in English and 70% of the students in the English conducted programs are international students from 75 different countries, which makes Kozminski the most internationalized school in Poland. Though English is widely spoken at Kozminski, students may choose to take Polish as a second language (with other language options provided as well).
The Student Services department helps incoming students find housing. Kozminski does not provide housing and most students choose to stay in apartments while they study in Poland which range from 350 - 500 euros per month. Kozminski holds a one-week orientation program before school begins and international students can participate in a buddy program. Both Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and the Student Council arrange social events like parties and trips throughout the year. As in most European colleges, student life extends outside of the university into the city far more than it does in US schools. International students at Kozminski have put together a blog which gives great insight into the student life in Warsaw.
I wondered about the international student experience at such a large public university, with its student body at more than 45,000 students at the University of Warsaw.
For a firsthand perspective, I met with Josh D., a former US Marine from Florida who now studies International Relations at the university. His first international exposure came during his years of overseas duty. His posting to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (Marines provide security at embassies around the world) really increased his interest in higher education and stoked a desire for continued international experiences. He also met his now-wife while serving at the US Embassy in Warsaw. Josh’s studies are financed through the GI Bill which, until now, I didn’t realize could be used to fund college in Europe (more info here)! Since then we've added a GI Bill filter in our database for those who want to search for schools that accept this benefit.
The Polish conducted programs are free, so the English conducted programs are seen as the university cash cow. Josh dispelled my images of crowded lectures and no contact with professors. His program was the largest English conducted program at the university and had only 300 students in total. Students take courses with other students in their same year. Josh was in his second year which had only 70 other students. For most of his classes, the 70 students were split into three groups of just over 20 students each, though there were a few lecture courses that they all attended together. The groupings also provide some flexibility for students. If a student has to miss a class with their group on one day, they can go to the other groups class the next day. Josh said that the professors are very accessible and encourage students to interact in class, during office hours, and through email. Josh told me that the international office handles any issues international students have, so students don’t have many struggles with the non-English speaking offices within the university.
The size of the university does cause some bureaucratic headaches, for instance, it took the school six months to reimburse Josh for a trip he had funding for. But Josh echoed what I hear from American students throughout Europe-that he is incredibly happy with his decision to study in Poland and that the impact of having the perspectives from students with tremendously different backgrounds is life changing.
Are all schools in Warsaw as impressive as the two I’ve written about in this blog? Nope. One of the many benefits Beyond the States members gain is access to objective information I provide in our database about schools I visit – even when that information is negative. This trip did make me wonder why more students don’t study in Poland. A lot of students use our Best Fit Program service in which they fill out information about their interests, preferences, qualifications, etc and then I compile a short list of programs I think they should look at. Many students say that they are open to suggestions in any country. Other students request a number of specific countries.
I have yet to see a form that requests an option to study in Poland. Why is that, I wonder? There are some excellent opportunities here at incredible prices. Further, the cost of living is incredibly affordable. Almost every purchase I made while I was here was under $10 and meals out with wine were under $15. While Warsaw is not the most picturesque city in Europe, there are other cities that did not suffer the same destruction during WWII that appear to have more of the Old World charm (if that is a deal breaker for you). If you are looking for high-quality programs at an unbelievable value, consider your options to study in Poland.