Aleksandra Rabenda-Nowak

Year of MA graduation: 2019

Current occupation: Corporate Services officer at British Embassy Warsaw and doctoral student

How was studying at the ASC like?

First three words that came to my mind are: fun, interesting, and challenging.

What did you like most about our Center?

There were many things I liked and appreciated about our Center, but I think the most significant one was that the ASC has always been a space for open discussion and dialogue, where one can learn to understand and respect other people’s opinion.

Your best memory(ies)?

My best memories include all the events we organized together with the ASC Students’ Union – picnics, movie nights, Thanksgiving dinners – the time when ASC community could gather together. I also have some great memories from Transatlantic Symposium in New York City during which we visited UN headquarters and attended interesting workshops and lectures. And finally, my personal favorite – the Graduation Ceremony organized for the first time in the history of the ASC. Organizing this event was a shared effort of students and professors, a moving and unforgettable moment one simply cannot miss at the university!

What did you like the most about the MA program?

Definitely a wide selection of electives – everyone could find something for themselves, whether it’s history, politics, geography, or visual arts. I remember that during classes we discussed various topics from different perspectives, allowing ourselves to interpret things differently.

What skills have you gained while studying that you think you would not acquire anywhere else?

Besides history, geography and politics of the USA, definitely academic writing and American business culture. I also think that I learned a lot as a president of the ASC Students’ Union – in terms of self-confidence, working with people, organizing events, doing administrative job, and liaising with authorities and sponsors. I still use skills and experience I gained at the ASC in my professional career today.

In what way the experience of studying at the ASC influenced your future career choices and helped you get to the place where you are today, both professionally and personally?

Thanks to studying at the ASC, I could work in places that required a good knowledge of English. Even if you think that you know this language well after high school, ASC will provide you with a lot of professional knowledge and vocabulary: writing response papers, essays, and finally BA or MA thesis will give you the level of English your employer can only dream of. 😊 What is more, the knowledge I acquired thanks to classes of American history, geography, art, politics, literature, and philosophy, as well as my MA seminar, help me while writing my PhD. ASC academics are very professional and somehow managed to put a lot of knowledge into my head in a very interesting way so that it has stayed with me until today.

Has someone at the ASC had a particular impact on you and inspired you in some way?

I studied in the ASC for 5 years, but I was mostly inspired during my MA by the classes of Dr. Małgorzata Durska and Prof. Sylwia Kuźma. Classes about women’s history and writing the MA thesis about maternity leave discourse under the supervision of Dr. Durska inspired me to pursue a PhD in the field of women’s history and family.

Would you choose the program again?

I wanted to study American Studies since I was in secondary school. That’s why, in high school, I took part in Know America contest organized by the U.S. Embassy Warsaw and the ASC which got me a place at the Center. To be honest, many people tried to discourage me from applying for the ASC. I think such approach results from the stereotype that cultural studies will not give you any “useful” profession. I argue this is a total misconception about cultural studies. I believe cultural studies are eye-opening and may teach you a lot of skills useful in both professional and personal life. All majors can be useful if you know what to do with them. And I believe that ASC will help you understand what you want to do in the future. It will not pigeonhole you in any way, but help you open your mind and grow. I would definitely choose the program again and I honestly recommend it.

To whom would you recommend pursuing a degree in American Studies?

The ASC offers wide range of lectures and electives in almost all the fields of social sciences and humanities. I recommend our Center not only to those who are interested in cultural studies, but also the ones who want to gain knowledge about visual arts, politics, economy, history, geography, sociology and many more. You can stay with ASC for longer, but it can also inspire you to pursue a career somewhere else. It’s because studying here is such an eye-opening experience and teaches you how to think out of the box.

What advice would you give to a younger self?

I would definitely specialize in the topic I chose for my MA (and PhD) thesis earlier on, during my BA program. On the other hand, it’s good when first years of studying are devoted to exploring and finding yourself. The ASC is great in a way that there is a wide choice of electives which may guide students in terms of their interests. So, do explore and see what happens next, no pressure.

What do you do professionally at the moment?

I work at the British Embassy Warsaw where I use a lot of skills I learned at the ASC, including my good knowledge of English language. I also pursue my PhD in the field of history of feminism. I write about the narratives regarding American family on the basis of writings of leading suffragists. I addition, I work as an editor in the academic journal, where I can use the knowledge from my academic writing classes. I attend academic conferences and write articles concerning social issues, mostly about American and Polish family. I believe it proves that you can make use of the skills and knowledge gained at the American Studies center after obtaining your degree.

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

If you are a student at the ASC, I would definitely recommend you to join the Students’ Union. Without it, my studying experience would not be full. Thanks to joining the students’ union, you can organize and take part in the best events at the university, meet great people, and make friendships that will last for a long time. Organizing movie nights, picnics, thanksgiving dinners, conferences, applying for university funds etc. will not only bring you lots of fun, but also teach you how to negotiate with university authorities and cooperate with third parties. You will gain experience you’re going to use in your future professional career. Do participate and join students’ clubs and academic circles, go for students’ freshmen camps, try Erasmus and other academic exchanges. Go beyond classes. Studying will be an unforgettable experience for you then.