Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lilly goes to Krakow, Poland: an adventure comprised primarily of food and Fellowship.

No, I did not misspell Lily’s name. Different Lilly. Lily did not visit Krakow. But Brad and I did! Spoiler: we loved our time there.

For the past 3 years, Brad has had a fellowship through the Eli Lilly Foundation. He has been a part of a cohort in the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program, and although I’ve written very little (if any?) about it, it has played a huge role in our lives. A brief overview of this cohort: They have an annual “real-life” conference in different locations, and during the school year, they “meet” every other week via Google Hangouts to discuss reading that they have been working on together (we get boxes of books for this every semester...it's a dream come true for Brad). They have also had two Lilly mentors that facilitate their readings, bi-weekly discussions, and conferences (both are professors at Lilly network universities). There is a stipend attached to the fellowship, but more importantly, there has been a stimulating, like-minded, and supportive cohort for Brad to wrestle with about intellectual and spiritual issues, outside of his discipline. Of course, Brad would do a much better job articulating this, but you’re stuck with me and my descriptions. Maybe I'll have him write about it sometime.

Anyway, for their 4th and final annual conference (they bookended their 3 years with conferences), they met in Krakow, Poland, rather than a Lilly network school (which is the usual setup). One of the cohort members has been doing his doctoral work on central/eastern European, specifically Polish, history and has spent a good amount of time in Poland. Not only did the cohort decide to meet in Krakow, they invited spouses to join! We don’t usually get invites, guys. Brad was really enthusiastic about issuing spousal invitations because he is a dreamboat. 

Our trip was absolutely fantastic. I could not have imagined a more wonderful trip! While living in Ukraine, I continually heard about how fabulous Krakow is, so I was very excited to visit. It met my expectations as a city, and the Lilly Fellows cohort exceeded all my expectations of Brad’s “Lilly friends.” It was so SO nice to meet the cohort that I've heard so much about and that has been so instrumental and supportive in Brad’s doctoral journey, and I could not be more grateful for that opportunity.

Another Lilly-connected scholar/professor, who also happens to be Polish (though he lives and teaches in the US), was VERY instrumental in our Polish adventures. He wasn’t connected with Brad’s cohort, but he was invited to join (and to spearhead our Polish cultural experiences), and it was an absolute treat to spend time with him. Many, many thanks to Piotr!

As a precursor to my blog posts to come, I should make sure you understand a few things about these Lilly cohort gatherings: they talk about deep and often complicated ideas + they eat A LOT of EXTREMELY GOOD food. (Brad insists that I emphasize that these two elements are causally related to one another.) I calculated our hours spent talking around tables of food or beverages, and it was well over 24 hours (of our- just shy of- 6 days). I am not kidding about the significance of conversations around meals. And it is awesome.

Note: I consider myself a reasonably smart gal, but often the Lilly conversations would leave me far behind. This group of people is unbelievably intelligent and thoughtful. I was extremely impressed.

I’ll probably spend many posts recapping our experiences of the almost 2 weeks we were gone (not all of that time was spent conference-ing; Brad and I tacked on a couple of days on our own in Europe after the Krakow conference ended), so I hope you enjoy following us through Poland, Denmark, and the Czech Republic! We certainly enjoyed our time globetrotting.

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