The first thing Stephanie Jaczkowski said she will do when she gets to Poland is buy a lamb kebab.
The Clinton Township senior has been awarded a Fulbright fellowship in Poland to work at the University of Gdansk for about nine months.
“I’m super excited just to be back. I spent five months there and loved it,” she said. “I’m looking forward to making new friends and being a teacher, but I’m also really excited to hang out with the people I met the last time I was there.”
She found out she won the fellowship on her way back from a tour of the public affairs program at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. Jaczkowski said she had called her mother and said she would be going to IU.
But then she returned to her friend’s apartment. It was 1:30 a.m., and she had not checked her email all day. After checking it, she found an email in her inbox from Phame Camarena, director of the Honors Program and the National Scholarship Program Director at Central Michigan University, congratulating her for winning the fellowship.
Camarena said he and his department became confident when they saw the quality of Jaczkowski’s application.
“We were cautiously optimistic,” he said.
It will be essential for students to explore the program earlier, he said, but having an award winner will give younger students something to aspire to.
Jaczkowski got her admission to IU deferred for a year. She said she plans to get her master’s degree in public affairs and a master’s in Russian and European studies.
“I’m going to work my experiences with Poland into my entire career. It’s not just a one-year thing,” she said.
Jaczkowski said she hopes to move to Washington, D.C., and be a policy analyst or do analysis for the government in some way.
“There are a couple opportunities that would be really interesting, and obviously who knows what I’ll be able to do in three years because it’s three years away, but there are a ton of options,” she said.
Eventually, Jaczkowski said she wants to become a college professor, and is confident having an early experience in the college classroom will help her resume.
She also said she likes studying abroad for the challenge, and learning doesn’t stop in the classroom.
“You’re constantly having learning experiences, whether it’s going to the grocery store or a party or a restaurant,” she said. “You’re struggling to translate everything from Polish to English, so every minute it’s something new, and it’s a lot more challenging than living in the United States. Even there you get into routines, but over there not having an umbrella might throw you into a bigger loop because you don’t know what the word for it is.”
Jaczkowski is the first undergraduate from CMU to win the award, and first since 2003.
She said she is speechless at times.
“I think it shows that a lot of times students don’t respect their degrees from CMU enough. There’s no Chippewa pride when it comes to our academic programs, and there’s a lot to be said for the education you can get here,” she said.
Camarena said he hopes Jaczkowski’s award will make Fulbright nominations and awards a normality.
“My hope will be that within the next two or three years we have it so that every year we have at least one Fulbright award winner. And I think that’s realistic,” he said.
Camarena played a big role in Jaczkowski’s decision to apply.
“Phame (Camarena) was constantly telling me ‘you really can do this’ and constantly being supportive of my application and constantly encouraging me,” she said.
The optimism of Camarena and the support of the Honors Program was the only reason Jaczkowski said she applied in the first place.
“I’m just extremely blessed. I couldn’t ask for more,” she said.