Wroblewski teaches in Slovakia with Fulbright scholarship
MADISON – After earning a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, Zach Wroblewski is teaching high school students in Slovakia.
Fulbright scholarships are the largest program for U.S. international exchange and increase cultural interaction between Americans and host countries. Wroblewski applied for the scholarship in October 2015.
“I’m very interested in education policy, and Slovakia is noted for achievement in their schools while spending less money than other countries,” Wroblewski said. As a four-year soccer player in college, he liked Slovakia’s interest in the sport.
“Many ‘Fulbrighters’ (want) to do something that puts you entirely out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Some do this just to see if we can … and learn as much about ourselves as possible.”
In May 2016, he graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga. with a double major in political science and secondary education.
He’s living in Krompachy, a small industrial town of 9,000 in eastern Slovakia. Numerous Fulbrighters live within a few hours in western Slovakia. He often shops and meets friends in Kosice, Slovakia’s second largest city.
Wroblewski teaches at Gymnazium Krompachy. “Gymnaziums are similar to American high schools (with) many different subjects,” he said. Vocational schools and those focusing on specific disciplines, like art or architecture, are popular.
“Students and teachers have probably been my favorite part. Everyone has gone above and beyond to make sure that I feel at home. Honestly, it’s similar to Southern hospitality … just in freezing temperatures,” Wroblewski said.
“It’s cold … like, really cold at least coming from Alabama,” Wroblewski said. Average winter temperatures are 10 to 30 degrees F.
He has learned to speak Slovak to communicate publicly but almost exclusively speaks English at school for students’ introduction to the language.
“I live by myself in an apartment close by the school. I’m the first American that has come to the school in the last 25 years,” he said.
Thus far, he has visited Munich, Bratislava, Krakow and Rymarov. His favorite destination has been Prague, “a gorgeous city with lots to do.” Traveling, usually by train, is inexpensive.
He likes the cuisine, especially soup at lunch and halusky or pasta with cheese, cabbage and bacon. “The cheap beer tastes great,” Wroblewski said.
In only four months, Wroblewski has learned Slovakian folk dances, to dry clothes without a machine and “surviving on more than just ramen and sandwiches. No matter where you are in the world, there are people who care about each other and want to improve their own lives and community.”
When he returns home, Wroblewski plans to teach history, government and/or economics in high school and coach soccer. “For immediate plans, I’ll go to the first Chipotle I can find.”
His parents are Ron and Maura Wroblewski.