Embedded Course - History of the Holocaust
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Annaliese Thoet

Major: International Politics and History
Minor: German
Hometown: Denver, Colorado

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this enrichment experience through History 426. It was an embedded course and my professor emailed all course participants about the opportunity to go to Poland over Spring Break.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My History of the Holocaust class traveled together to Poland over Spring Break. We started in Warsaw and visited a Jewish cemetery that stayed intact during the war despite being on the edge of the Warsaw Ghetto. Then we traveled to Oswiecim, a small town in Poland that the Nazis had renamed Auschwitz during the war. We toured around the town and then spent two days at Auschwitz 1 & 2. The last part of our trip ended in Krakow. While in Krakow we visited the Ghettos in place there during the war. We also had dinner at a Jewish Community Center, which is special because there is not a large Jewish population left in Poland.

How did this experience impact you academically?

My concentration in History is modern European History and this course, History of the Holocaust, fit in perfectly with it. I have always studied World War II and the Holocaust, but all I had known was from books, memoirs and professors. The ability to see it firsthand completely changed my perspective on it all. I do not think I truly realized the extent of the cruelty that was done until seeing the sites in person and imagining it 70 years ago. This trip to Poland makes me want to pursue the studies of World War II and modern European History only more. It was truly an eye opening experience and incredible to see the impact it had on Poland, a country that is rarely talked about.

"I do not think I truly realized the extent of the cruelty that was done until seeing the sites in person and imagining it 70 years ago."

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My career goal is to work for the CIA or FBI, so the History of the Holocaust is not so important to those job fields. However, we must learn from our history in order to properly prepare for our future. This experience did not impact my career goals, however it will have an impact on my senior thesis. Each time I learn something new or experience a new culture, I narrow down on my thesis topic a bit more. It is fascinating and heart wrenching to see Poland change over from being controlled by the Germans to directly becoming communists thanks to the Soviet Union. Poland had no chance to heal after World War II because it immediately became a communist state. I think this would be an interesting idea to explore in my thesis.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

This trip to Poland is a unique experience because when else will you travel to Poland with a knowledgeable professor and visit the sites of the Holocaust and be able to learn so much. Going to Auschwitz is by no means a fun experience, but 10 years looking back on it, I will be thankful that I had the opportunity to experience what I study first hand.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

I would not have taken History 426 if it had not been for the Paterno Fellows Program. I needed to begin taking 400 level history courses for my Thesis and 400 level courses also counted as honors courses when you are a sophomore and freshman. However, that was not the only impact Paterno Fellows had on this experience. The funding by Paterno Fellows and the Liberal Arts College made this trip possible. Their generous sum of $750 covered my plane ticket and eased the burden of paying for the trip. I was able to experience Poland thanks to the Paterno Fellows Program and their generous contribution.

For more information on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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