During the Spring 2022 semester, I traveled abroad to the German cities of Munich, Nordhausen, and Berlin alongside a group of my UTC peers. The trip was included as a component of a faculty-led seminar by Dr. John Swanson which focused primarily on the Holocaust. In our time abroad, about one and a half weeks, we visited many of the historical sites we had read about throughout the semester: several concentration camps, the house of the Wannsee Conference, and many memorials dedicated to varying victim groups of Nazi Germany. Despite reading and studying pages upon pages of information concerning Germany’s history, seeing these sites in person drastically deepened my understanding of the Holocaust. The country’s past remains subtly strewn throughout the streets in recognition of the horrors which were once present, such as in stumbling stones which commemorate individual victims or street signs that highlight the stark development of antisemitic legislation throughout the third reich. In this way, Germany is unique in its public accountability for wrongdoing.
I chose to partake in this trip during the last semester of my senior year largely to round out my college experience. During my time at UTC, I earned a degree in political science with a minor in criminal justice. Therefore, the content focus of Dr. Swanson’s class interested me: political development, war, and human rights violations. I had briefly learned about the Holocaust during middle and high school, but never in a deeply engaged capacity. My concentration throughout my collegiate studies in political science was rooted in American law and political development. Therefore, I felt that there was a gap in my education concerning world history. Participating in this faculty-led trip abroad helped me to tie in my existing understandings of global politics and the development of human rights protections’ into a much broader, international web.
The most memorable aspects of what I experienced and learned in Germany were visual. The architecture is unlike any other I’ve seen, people seemed to favor riding bikes over driving cars, and the graffiti covering Berlin was distinctly political. Though Berlin has a particularly long history of division and conflict, the city seems united in the urgency of fighting against any development of neo-nazi ideology or fascist regimes. In general, I noticed that Germany appeared to foster a kind attitude concerning tourists as the locals I met were always willing to help out or give directions, even through an occasional language barrier. Among many of the people I encountered in Germany, there was a shared sense of passion regarding education and a global exchange of ideas and narratives to counteract the global decline of democracy.
During my short time abroad, I gained a renewed sense of urgency in using my knowledge to initiate change. Though I’d spent the past four years of my life identifying failing political structures and how to best remedy them, my sense of individual purpose in bettering society had blurred around the edges. Speaking with people who were so fervent in their convictions to change the nature of their culture and insure that their country would become a place of justice was inspiring. Any potential students hoping to study abroad would be lucky to experience an opportunity such as this. Regardless of age, time spent in college, or major, the value of studying an event as catastrophic as the Holocaust in the places where it happened cannot be entirely expressed on paper. The best way to understand is to see it yourself.
Jillian Waterhouse (BS Political Science) spent several weeks of May 2022 in Germany as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Jillian had the following to say about study abroad, “The time I spent traveling abroad to Germany with my UTC peers is invaluable to my college experience. Any potential students with an interest in learning about global cultures or history should take whatever opportunity comes their way and go. The depth of understanding provided by traveling is unlike any other.“
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