Polish University
UW-River Falls student Grant Erickson (in the red shirt) works with an Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego student during the Dragon Strachota field day for Wroclaw kindergarten students.

Cross-cultural agreement signed with Polish university 

June 23, 2016--Cooperation between the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a major Polish university is creating new opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges for health and human performance (HHP) students.

Paul Shirilla, HHP department chair, said the department signed several new agreements with Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego (AWF) University in Wroclaw, Poland, during the program's study abroad trip earlier this month. They include an exchange agreement to allow AWF students and faculty to study at UW-River Falls and support to secure funding to pay for their trip.

"As soon as next fall we could potentially see Polish students here to study," Shirilla said.

In its second year, the Health and Human Performance Department's trip to Poland began when James Gostomski, professor of health and physical education, contacted AWF University, which focuses on physical education, exercise science and other sport-related fields. Gostomski is of Polish heritage and has family ties in the area.

A total of 12 students have visited, earning three credit hours toward the university's global perspectives requirement. While there, they participated in a local kindergarten's physical activity programs, created and ran workshops at a children's festival, attended classes at AWF and participated in activities with children from an orphanage in the nearby city of Namyslow. Students have also visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and participated in a short trip to the Czech Republic to visit University of Ostrava and tour the local sites.

"This experience allows our students to immerse themselves in Polish and Czech culture while also sharing physical education best practices with Polish children," Shirilla said.

For Morgan Wilson, the trip was the first time she's left the United States. Wilson, a health and physical education major, said she enjoyed being able to learn about another culture.

"We got to go into some classes and meet some very nice people who I am now very close with," she said. "Plus, it was a great way to get to know more people in my major."

The visit was facilitated by Monica Ilecka-Folcik, AWF international relations director, and Zofia Ignasiak, AWF vice rektor.

To learn more, call Shirilla at 715-425-3226 or email

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