2018 Prize Giving Ceremony at Macquarie University
Dr Kamila Walker
Macquarie University’s Department of International Studies: Languages and Cultures held its annual prize giving event on 24 May 2018 to acknowledge and commend the highest achieving students across the broad diversity of language disciplines it teaches. This is perhaps the most anticipated gathering in the Department’s calendar of events, as it provides the opportunity not only to celebrate academic excellence officially, but also to use the University forum to foster relationships with international communities in Australia. Alongside university teachers and the families and friends sharing in the students’ success, the presence of esteemed guests—including international government officials, politicians and representatives of Australian/Polish organisations—has contributed to the importance and prestige of these awards.
This noteworthy ceremony was opened and conducted by the Associate Professor Ulrike Garde, Head of the Department, and the awards for exceptional performance in Polish Studies were presented to current students by the Vice-Consul of the Republic of Poland, Mrs Dorota Preda. The first award, The Krystyna Singler Prize for proficiency in Polish Studies, was presented to Mrs Monika Tan. The second, The Zygmunt Wszelaki Prize for proficiency at 300-level Polish units, was presented to Mr Kristopher Benedict Evans. On behalf of the Department of International Studies, I wish to congratulate both students on receiving these well-earned awards and look forward to witnessing their future progress through further encounters with the Polish language and culture.
Award recipients have acknowledged their sense of achievement and the impact of their new linguistic awareness on their personal lives. Below they share their experiences of learning Polish at Macquarie University and speak about the value of their acquired knowledge and skills beyond academic excellence, both accounts being so complimentary to me personally that I feel quite humbled and very fortunate to have played a part in their educational journeys.
Since beginning the Polish Studies course at Macquarie University last year, studying Polish has, for me, become almost an obsession. I certainly never envisaged winning an award for studying something I am thoroughly enjoying!
My Polish father died in 2010. Sorting through his belongings, I found a treasure trove of mementoes from his childhood. There was evidently a history there that I had never known, and a part of myself that I would never understand. For many reasons, Polish wasn’t spoken at home when I was a child. I began to appreciate what I had missed out on, and every now and then the thought of learning Polish crossed my mind. Suddenly I realized I had no more excuses. On a whim, I applied to Macquarie University, thinking I had nothing to lose. I was elated to receive my acceptance letter! Coming from a background in science, learning a language properly was going to be a completely different experience for me.
What an intriguing language Polish is! I still have much to learn, however I am constantly looking forward to the next challenge. The course definitely keeps me on my toes, but in a good way. Last year I was able to apply some of what I had learnt from the course on my first trip to Poland to visit my father’s birthplace. I hope my studies will enable me to return there in the near future as a more fluent speaker with a well-rounded knowledge of Polish culture. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Kamila Walker for being patient, encouraging and supportive of a student who is very impatient to make up for lost time!
I am very honoured to win this prize, and my greatest thanks must go to Dr Kamila Walker for her tireless efforts with me and my fellow students. An hour-long lesson with Kamila regularly turns into 90 minutes or two hours, such is her dedication. Even when she has the flu, she has been known to continue Skype lessons, despite the students’ suggestion that she should take a break!
Studying Polish at Macquarie over the past few years has enabled me travel to, and live in, Poland at various times. I am delighted at my academic results which were partly due to the considerable flexibility of the online program. The coursework supplements my studies in Politics and International Relations too.
Through this program, I have developed a set of useful skills and am now well-placed for my future work and study plans in Europe. Although I will continue my journey with the Polish language, I am delighted when friends and strangers compliment my Polish speaking and writing abilities. This feedback has given me a real sense of achievement, especially considering the limited ways for people like myself to learn and be exposed to the authentic Polish language, aside from at Macquarie.
I would also like to give special thanks to Mr Krzysztof Bromberek, a very talented private teacher from Poznań. Particularly in the long breaks between semesters at Macquarie, he and his lessons have been invaluable for practising my skills, whether I’ve been in Australia, Prague, Milan or London.
The respective talents of these students would never have been able to translate into tangible educational outcomes, if it had not been for the dedication of private individuals and government institutions who, alongside the Department of International Studies, invest a great deal of time, effort and money to maintain the currency of the Polish Studies program at Macquarie University. As the Convenor of this program, I would like to take this opportunity to thank both private donors and external organizations for their financial support over the years. In particular, my thanks go to the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Sydney for their annual donations towards the maintenance of the program, and specifically to the Consul General herself, Mrs Regina Jurkowska, for her active involvement with the learning and teaching of the language and culture of Poland at a tertiary level. I also wish to recognise the invaluable help provided by the Polish Studies Foundation, which has been a long-time supporter of the program and acknowledge its President, Mr Tom Czarnota. The Foundation has made a significant contribution towards effecting the Department’s broader initiatives with respect to Polish Studies, and Macquarie looks forward to the continued support of the Polish Studies Foundation in the future.
The last year has been especially fortunate for the trajectory of the Polish Studies program, starting with a special project grant from the Blum Foundation for the development of a range of online tools to improve the student experience with long distance learning. Next, a grant was received from Stowarzyszenie “Wspólnota Polska” for the development of a new online Polish literary unit. This grant was then followed by an unexpected bequest of $150,000 to the Polish Studies Foundation from the last Will and Testament of the late Mrs Nathalie Kulakowski, an extremely generous gift from the heart which will be used wisely and strategically to support the Polish Studies program. This donation, together with other grants and gifts, testify to the strong and ongoing commitment toward the cultivation of the Polish language and spirit beyond the country’s native borders, and collectively support the future viability of this important program. Macquarie University extends its heart-felt thanks to all for their endeavours and continuous support.
If you have an interest in learning Polish at Macquarie University, please visit Polish Studies at www.mq.edu.au. Should you require any further information, please contact me directly via email [email protected], or alternatively by phone: (02) 9850-7014.
Dr Kamila Walker