Poland 2014

Gdansk at night

The Program: May 2014

Students at Shipyard

Gdańsk Shipyard

Poland Through a Lens offers students the opportunity to explore one of the most rapidly changing new democracies in Europe on the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.  Until 1989 the people of Poland were struggling with political and economic stagnation under a communist government.

Today the country boasts one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.  It is one of the largest countries of the European Union and will play a role in shaping the future of the continent. The goal of this class is to create a website with multimedia reports that tell the stories of people you meet during your travels.

As a participant in this course you will have an opportunity to experience several sides of the contemporary Polish experience; from the world of the affluent businessmen in the big cities to the struggling farmers who are learning to cope with the economic changes that are the result of the country’s entry into the European Union.

The Schedule

After an initial orientation session in Ames, the group will fly to Gdańsk and be based in the Polish resort town of Sopot on the Baltic Sea. During the summer Sopot is a popular destination for tourists from Germany, Scandinavia and Poland’s larger cities. We will arrive before the season begins and will be able to take advantage of the amenities without the crush of the summer crowds.

While in Sopot we will cooperate with the Sopot School of Photography and hold evening critique and projection sessions with Polish students and faculty. A documentary project of daily life in Sopot, produced by both groups, will result in an exhibition at the end of the second week. A weekend family-stay is part of the program in Sopot, as well as trips to smaller towns where medieval castles still dominate the skyline.

The final portion of the program will take place in southern Poland where students will live in a mountain village and have the opportunity to learn about and photograph rural life. A few days in Kraków, the cultural capital of Poland, is also part of the agenda and will offer students the chance to explore this beautiful historic city at a leisurely pace. In Poland you will also attend lectures and meetings with accomplished Polish photographers, journalists and professors who will lead sessions on topics ranging from the new Polish media; working in foreign countries; as well as discussions on contemporary Polish culture and society.


In Sopot and Kraków double occupancy rooms at small inns, located in historic buildings, will provide the opportunity to live right in the heart of the cities. A short home-stay will also allow students a more intimate view of how Poles live. In the southern mountain village, room and board will be provided in an agro-tourism setting with multiple-occupancy (4-5 people) per room.


Associate Professor Dennis Chamberlin, from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, is the group leader of this summer study abroad program. Chamberlin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent in Poland for fifteen years. He documented the fall of communism in Eastern Europe as well as the struggles people faced while building a new social and political system. Chamberlin has traveled extensively throughout the region producing stories for publications such as The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.

Dennis and Pawel

Dennis and Paweł

Paweł Wyszomirski is a documentary photographer based in Gdańsk, Poland.  He was raised partially in the Middle East. He graduated from the Geography department at the University of Gdańsk. With his head full of theories about the interactions between man and nature he picked a camera to document a realistic reflection of it. He chose photography for his occupation, passion and lifestyle.

He participated in the international documentary photo project that dealt with complex Polish-German relations “Wie du es siehst?”  His work has been exhibited in Poland and Germany. Over the past few years he has coordinated and taught at several photography workshops and courses for students from Poland, the United States and Scandinavia.

Pawel interned at Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s premier national newspaper, and currently teaches photojournalism and documentary photography at the Sopot School of Photography WFH.


Grandmother in doorwayPrior to leaving Ames, all students will participate in the orientation sessions where a basic introduction to Polish will be taught. You will find that a few polite words in Polish will help you during your visit. While in Poland, students from the Sopot School of Photography who speak English will be paired with students from our group to work on topics together. All lectures will be in English. During the week in the mountain villages translators and guides will be available but you may find that your camera and a smile will open many doors.


Subjective bus stop

Public transportation will be used for travel between cities. In most cases this will be via the extensive train network but public bus services will also be used for shorter trips.


Students will receive 3 credit hours for the course as JlMC 390.


$3000 course fee plus tuition and airfare

Financial Aid

The College of LAS will provide scholarships to all LAS students that will cover 75% of your tuition.

The Greenlee  School is offering several scholarships of $1500 for this program.


May 15 – June 6

More information

Contact Prof. Dennis Chamberlin at dennisch@iastate.edu

Walk in the mountains


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