After taking a semester long course on the Holocaust it felt like I knew everything there was to know. While obviously this was very far from the truth and I recognized that, I was not sure what more was to be gained from this trip other than the cool experience of being able to travel to Europe for the first time. Thankfully though, I was entirely wrong. The ability to see all of the places and stand where the victims of this tragedy stood was entirely sobering and deeply reflective. Throughout this trip we visited many different locations related to the Holocaust. In Munich we visited some of the offices that the Nazi party started in including one that Hitler himself worked in.
In Berlin we were able to visit the sites of the secret police offices and the building where the Final Solution was decided on. It was impossible to understand how people had committed such atrocities and being at those places myself made that feel even more real and overwhelmingly un-understandable. While in Berlin, we spent a lot of time learning about how the city and nation have come to terms with its evil past. We visited dozens of memorial sites and discussed how the country actively works to commemorate those who were lost. These discussions spurred interesting conversation regarding how the United States has gone about both commemorating its own history of atrocity and how they work to ensure nothing of the sort happens again. Most powerfully though for me was visiting the concentration camps. It was an experience that is difficult to put into words. It caused deep pain as I hurt for the millions that were lost but also a deep sense of justice for the people who will never get their own.
One unique aspect of this trip was the connections that Dr. Swanson had and the opportunities that gave us that many students visiting Germany would not have. Specifically of note was an afternoon tour we were able to go on around the city of Berlin in which we visited and learned about many different Holocaust memorials. This was an incredible tour in which I learned so much, but I also felt so lucky to even attend after hearing the tour guide only gives tours for two different schools, UTC being one of them. On a lighter note too, Dr. Swanson also knew all of the best restaurants and places to visit to give us the most “German” experience possible.
Overall, this trip was an incredible experience. The ability to learn about the Holocaust for an entire semester which in turn gave us the ability to understand everything we were seeing in full context was not something that is easily replicated but is something necessary in my opinion. I would over and over again recommend both this trip and any trip of a similar sort as I personally would not trade it for the world both from an education, culturally, and personal standpoint.
Kyla Downs (BS Secondary Education: Political Science) spent several weeks of May 2022 in Germany as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Kyla had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad in Germany has allowed me to physically connect with the material that I learned in class in a way that simply isn’t possible without truly being there in person. If ever given the chance to take a course and then go and experience the places that you learned about, you should always say yes.”
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