Before departing for Poland, the group of 28 students that were going on the trip attended lectures at Brandeis and Harvard University, which gave them their first perspectives on the country's rich history and culture - a key to understanding its dynamic present. These were supplemented with readings on Poland's emergence from authoritarian government, the ascendancy of the Solidarity movement, and the formation of civil society. Showings of two movies by Polish director Andrzej Wajda, with their vivid images of Poland's past, further helped set the scene for the visit itself.
The group was composed of 27 Master of Science in Finance students and one MBA candidate. A number of the participants had also taken part in last year's program, held in Istanbul, Turkey. The week-long visit to Poland offered them an intensive introduction to a country that has since 1989 moved rapidly from having a socialist, command economy to the freedoms of an open market. Over the same period it has joined both the European Union and NATO, reaffirming its historical position as part of Western Europe.
The program in Warsaw was run in partnership with Collegium Civitas, a university established under the auspices of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Lectures given by faculty from Collegium Civitas and the Center for Social and Economic Research explored Poland's history in the 20th century, its swift economic transition, the extensive privatization of its industries, its accession to the EU, and its domestic and foreign policy concerns. Visits to the privatized Polish Mint, the National Bank of Poland, and a private equity firm illustrated the remarkable progress that the country has made since the fall of communism in 1989 in creating a fully functioning market economy.
Many students left the trip feeling they had gained experiences that will remain with them for years to come. "My global perspective was broadened, my sense and understanding of world history was deepened, and my understanding of humanity was unclouded from what I thought I knew," said James Orsillo, an MSF student, about his life-changing experience.
Professor John Ballantine, Director of the Master of Science in Finance program believes this year's trip was successful. "The students were exposed to the political and economic developments of Poland through academic lectures before the trip, which were reinforced by observing first hand the practices and vision of Warsaw. All understood why history matters and what the paradox of Poland is about," said Ballantine.