By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, COKATO, MN When residents of other countries think about America, it is not uncommon for this nation’s food varieties to come to mind.
Polish foreign exchange student Martyna Ryczkowska shared that she, too, had been thinking about US cuisine as she prepared to spend a year abroad at Dassel-Cokato High School.
“Before I came here, I had a list of icon foods that you can’t get in Poland that I’ve wanted to try,” Ryczkowska stated. “I’ve already had an opportunity to try peanut butter cups, corn dogs, Doritos, and Twinkies, but I still have caramel apples ahead of me.”
Ryczkowska arrived in the US Aug. 26, and is residing with Dale Petrowski and Peggy Peterson of Cokato.
Although this is her first time in America, it is not her first traveling venture.
“Every year, I go somewhere abroad for vacation,” Ryczkowska shared, stating that she has been to Tunisia, Egypt, Austria, England, Greece (twice), Turkey (twice), and many other countries.
“So, naturally, when I heard about the exchange program in the US, I had to sign up for it,” she commented, adding that she has long been interested in US history and culture.
Ryczkowska also had the advantage of having studied English since she was 7 years old, sometimes watching movies in English to learn new words and pick up the language more quickly.
During her time in the US so far, Ryczkowska has identified several cultural differences especially between DCHS and the school system back home, which she said is different in almost every imaginable way.
“[In Poland], every desk we sit in is for two people. Here, some of the desks are round, for six people; some of them are connected for four people, and some of them are just for a single person,” Ryczkowska explained.
She continued, “In some Polish schools, we have a cloakroom instead of lockers, and we have to change our shoes every day so we don’t get dirt on the floor.”
Other differences include being assigned classes (rather than getting to choose), having different class schedules every day (which repeat every week, and which mean school gets dismissed at different times throughout the week), always starting school on Sept. 1 (unless it falls on a weekend), using imperial units instead of the metric system (inches, pounds, etc. vs. centimeters, grams, etc.), and (as previously mentioned) the food.
“I don’t know anybody in Poland who would eat french toast with maple syrup,” Ryczkowska commented.
Ryczkowska’s host family has been learning about Poland’s customs, too.
“It’s a great pleasure having an exchange student,” shared Peterson. “It’s fun to have a new, open-minded perspective of things that are ordinary for us, but stunning for Martyna.”
One of Ryczkowska’s favorite pastimes while in the States has been watching movies and playing board games with her host family.
“We have a lot of fun together,” she said.
Some of the activities the family hopes to experience during Ryczkowska’s stay include attending the Minnesota State Fair (which they already did), learning more about US history, attending musicals (such as “Hamilton,” which has been Ryczkowska’s dream), and “some other fun stuff.”