Northeast High School students hosted exchange students from Poland for the city’s Sister Cities exchange program.
It turns out, they have nothing like Philly cheesesteaks in Poland.
Anna Durmowicz used her trip to America to sample a lot of different foods, like American, Mexican and Japanese. She said in Poland, they don’t have as big a variety in cultural recipes.
Anna was one of 15 students from Swenson High School and Tadeusz Kosciuszko High School №4 in Torun, Poland, to spend 10 days stateside as part of Philadelphia’s Sister Cities exchange program. The students stayed with families of Northeast High School students.
While they were here, the Polish students went to school to experience the differing school systems and toured Philly, New York City and Washington, D.C.
This program has been going on since 2008. At the conclusion of their stay on March 27, the students and their advisers were honored by Philadelphia City Council for 10 years of exchanges between the schools. Councilman At-Large Al Taubenberger, a Northeast graduate himself, offered citations to keep the connection alive for many more years to come.
“It is the experience of actually traveling overseas that teaches our students that they as individuals can represent our city and be the future global business leaders who connect Philadelphia to the world,” he said.
Siobhan Lyons, president of Citizen Diplomacy International, said students staying in each other’s homes gives them a much more authentic experience.
Anna was impressed by the differences in the schooling systems. She said Poland schools were more lecture-based, and appreciated that American students are able to communicate more with their teachers.
“Here, I feel like the students were truly participating in the class,” she said.
Of all the new foods she tried, she said her favorite was hot peppers, which she had cravings for. She also complimented our country’s fruit.
“Supposedly, we have the same apples, but yours taste so much better,” she said.
Earlier in the school year, Northeast students took a trip to Poland. Senior Zainab Janneh turned 17 while she was there and was excited for the opportunity to go to a foreign country without her parents. She said the most interesting thing was that Poland was “slowed down” compared to Philadelphia.
“I was surprised by how friendly people were and they were actually quite slow,” she said, referring to the speed of the service and the conversation. “When you go to a café, everything takes so long, but in America it’s like, hurry.”
Zainab will study nursing in college, and said after this opportunity she is looking forward to traveling while in college.
Junior Sean Dyson did not go on the trip to Torun, but hosted an exchange student. He called it a unique opportunity that allowed them both to learn much about their differing cultures.
“We enjoyed learning about Poland, and he enjoyed learning about America, so it was a really unique experience for both of us,” he said.
Places the students visited in Philadelphia included Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Polish-American Cultural Center.
Students learn a little of the language before they go, but do a lot of learning while they’re visiting.
Despite the cultural differences, Anna was impressed with how similar both countries are.
“Did anything surprise me? How similar we are,” Anna said. “We think about America as a whole different world and so far away, and we are all people.”
Lyons said Torun has been one of their most successful programs and has been an inspiration for other cities. The program also takes students to Douala in Cameroon, Tianjin in China, Aix-en-Provence in France, Frankfurt in Germany, Abruzzo and Florence in Italy, Tel Aviv in Israel, Kobe in Japan, Incheon in Korea and Nizhny Novgorod in Russia. ••