I have always been meaning to do a study abroad program. I think that when it truly comes to learning certain topics the best way is to experience them firsthand. For example, when I took Latin in high school my teacher expressed that she spent a portion of her time exploring various areas of Italy and parts of Naples for the purpose of visiting the cite of Pompeii. She insisted that the only way she could properly teach us about the culture is by being where they were. I wholeheartedly agreed with her on this point and when the opportunity came for me to go on a study abroad program, I made sure I did everything in my power to make it a possibility. For this trip we would we abroad for two weeks and the countries of visit would be the UK, Germany and Austria. The specific cities were London, Munich, Nuremberg, Wurzburg, and Vienna.
Truthfully this is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. In psychology we spent countless hours and lessons discussing the work of Sigmund Freud but absolutely nothing comes close to the actual experience of being in BOTH of his homes. Our first visit was his home in London after he was forced to flee Vienna. His home was very shocking to me, specifically his study. When I imagined Sigmund Freud, I did not consider him to be cultured, or partial to histories and artifacts of the world. To my surprise he was a bit of an anthropologist, his office was full of various precious and interesting artifacts. I must admit that after being in his study in London I found a much greater liking to him. Beyond his somewhat eccentric and important findings it was also very interesting to learn about his life, his family and what came of his home in Vienna. While in the London home we were told he missed his home in Vienna and at the time it seemed strange to me because his home was truly wonderful, that was until I went into his apartments in Vienna. That home, even empty and with white walls, was exceptionally perfect. Anna Freud’s room held fragments of what the room once was, and I could feel Sigmund’s sentiment to that home immediately. It was also truly heartbreaking to learn that his home was used as a temporary holding space for 79 Jewish individuals who were sent off to the concentration camps and perished. Even more infuriating to learn that his home was then used by Nazi’s and their families. None of these experiences could have ever computed the same had we been taught through textbooks and videos; it was necessary to walked through and felt firsthand. Another type of experience I think needed to be felt in person was visiting a concentration camp.
By far one of the hardest days on our trip was the day we visited the Dachau concentration camp. This day was full of pain, sorrow, and emotion. My entire group was silent the entire time spent there; we were all processing our emotions in different ways. This experience as painful as it was, was necessary for us to understand this very dark part of human history. While being there we were forced to think about human psychology and what could cause so many people to do such unspeakable things and how they could justify their actions. This type of education is detrimental understanding human behavior and how something like this could be prevented from occurring again in our future. In my opinion I also think it is important to pay respect and for the remembrance of those who struggled, suffered, and lost their families and their own lives. A few days later we visited the Nazi rally grounds and something really stood out to me. During one of the exhibits there was mention that everyone was included in these rallies. They did not discriminate based on class or rank within their Nazi followers and included all in the participation. Their mentality was to include as many people as possible to continue their reign of terror. This kind of inclusivity seemed so ironic when they made a powerful attempt to extricate the Jewish bloodline from the human population. Again I feel the urge to insist that the things we learned and observed would not have been as impactful had they been provided to us in a classroom setting.
In a mere fourteen days I was able to experience a lifetime of memories and have learned more about human psychology than I would have been able to in one single semester in class. I have created multiple friendships, formed new perspectives on different parts of the world and have learned new facts about human history which fascinate me. This trip truly is an invaluable asset to the students who choose to go on adventure and educate themselves around the world.
Valentina Robinson (BS Psychology) spent Summer 2022 in England, Germany, and Austria as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course.