As an undergraduate student I am eager to partake in opportunities which help me form and discover my passions and identity. I am so grateful for my time in Germany with Dr. Swanson. I will use this essay to reflect on key learning experiences and personally meaningful moments. During our trip as a class we visited Berlin, Nordhausen and Munich. We were also able to visit two concentration camps : Buchenwald and Mittelbau Dora.
Before the trip we went over an extensive history of Nazism and antisemitism in Germany. We explored the geographical, cultural, and political impact of the rise of the Nazi party. This class was essential for building context for the specific sites we were able to visit. We were able to visit many of the places we discussed as historical sites in class and numerous memorials for people and events we discussed.
The first tour we took of a concentration camp was life changing for me. We visited Buchenwald Memorial first. We watched a short documentary about the history of the camp before we were given a tour. I was shocked at the size of the camp. It was akin to the size of a small town. The implications of its size were horrifying and disheartening. Thousands of people had suffered and died on the land we were casually perusing. The beauty of the land was also incredibly ironic. Most of the camp had been torn down and nature had regrown in its place. Wildflowers were in bloom in many places, the trees blew in the wind and butterflies fluttered in the air. My classmates and I noted the site’s beauty as a symbol of rebirth from great suffering. That is the best we could do to make sense of it.
Mittlebau Dora was equally as big and beautiful. Both sites had bus stops which you could take to visit in and out of the city. This was another shocking aspect of the camps; they were incredibly close to civilization. This further enforced ideas about the complacency and cruelty of many common people during the holocaust. We had learned about this in class.
Another aspect of the trip which was personally important to me was the amount of exposure to foreign food and languages. We met people who spoke Romanian, Russian, German, and even Urdu. Many of the restaurants we visited were authentic and run by immigrant families. There were so many small businesses to support within walking distance of our hotels. Some classmates and I even met another study abroad group from Florida which was interesting. The difference between Berlin and Munich was also very noticeable. Munich was a more conservative rural city, while Berlin was a bustling center of city life and a liberal cultural hotpot. I was even able to reconnect with a friend in Berlin who I had previously known as a foreign exchange student in the U.S. We hadn’t seen each other since high school. It was heart-warming. The foreign culture of people and communication was refreshing and fun as an additional aspect of the trip.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Germany with my classmates and Dr. Swanson, I hope to go back again sometime soon.
Jocelyn Adams (BS Biology Pre-Professional) spent several weeks of May 2022 in Germany as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Jocelyn had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad is an important part of the college experience. Learning from first-hand experience while travelling provides much more engaging criteria than a lecture setting.”
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