Skip to main content

The Polish American population of New York State (outside of New York City) is relatively small, so it is noteworthy that Cornell University, located in beautiful Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes Region, an Ivy League institution famous for its agricultural programs, offers Polish language courses.


The Polish instructor at Cornell since 2012 has been a senior lecturer Ewa Bachmińska, a person with many talents, and a deep interest, knowledge, and passion for animals. Ewa Bachmińska is currently working on her PhD in animal science and has three master’s degrees: in applied linguistics from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (with English and German), in jazz voice from Webster University of St. Louis, and in Spanish from Saint Louis University.


Professor Bachmińska’s professional interests include the use of animals in language classes, animals in global cinema, and comparative studies of the American and European bison. Recently, she was awarded a grant that will allow her to spend a part of the summer in Białowieża Forest researching bison.


Cornell’s students studying arts and sciences are required to take three semesters of a foreign language and the university offers three Polish language levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced.

Students very much like Professor Bachmińska’s classes and appreciate her teaching style, which is reflected in enthusiastic student evaluations of her classes. Last semester, Professor Bachmińska had five students in an advanced Polish language class, which is a high number for any US university where Polish is taught. Many of her Polish language students come from New York City, have a Polish background, and often study engineering or premed programs.

In addition to Polish language classes, every semester, Professor Bachmińska teaches a very popular first-year writing seminar, in which she combines the perspectives of humanities and life sciences.  In the course titled “Animals in World Cinema,” students learn about animal welfare and conservation, which includes discussing “wildlife, companion, farm, and lab animals in conjunction with human cultures, politics, and geography” ( ) through viewing international films. She frequently changes the list of films and seeks guest speakers from across the university who talk to her students about animals and humans in the shown films. This fall, she is planning to include the exciting topic of bees.

What makes Professor Bachmińska’s classes so interesting is the way she incorporates a multidisciplinary approach and skillfully uses the resources available on campus. Her students regularly visit the university sheep barn or interact with horses, which also allows – for instance – Polish language students to acquire some equine-related vocabulary.

Speaking of resources: the Cornell Art Museum has a collection of Polish posters, the Ithaca movie theater Cinemapolis occasionally shows Polish films (most recently “Green Border” and “The Peasants”), while close by there is Log Country Inn Bed and Breakfast of Ithaca run by Poles.



Leave a Reply