By Quanece Williams
Participation in a study abroad program was an opportunity that I had often heard about, yet dismissed due to my stringent academic requirements as a double major. Therefore, when I learned of the Global Field Course being offered for the Summer 2015 session by former U.S. diplomat and Eastern professor Cesar Beltran, I was eager to receive more information. The course, titled “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe: History, Media, and the Holocaust”, exposed myself and four other Eastern students from various academic disciplines to the cultural, political, and religious climate in Poland, Austria, and Hungary and was an experience that I will never forget.
Poland, the first country that the group visited, was perhaps the most stimulating to me because of its historical relevance. The group visited the Warsaw Uprising monument that the former chancellor of Germany, Willy Brandt, symbolically kneeled at. This monument was so significant to the Polish population because it symbolized accountability by the Germans for the atrocities committed in WWII. The group also toured Mila 18, a bunker in which Jewish resistance groups courageously fought Nazi soldiers during German occupied Poland. In addition, the group visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was extremely saddening. While our time in the concentration camp was heart wrenching, it allowed me to further understand the brutal and gruesome conditions in which 1.1 million Jews experienced before being senselessly executed.
One of the most enjoyable experiences in Poland was the visit to the Community of Democracies. This opportunity was truly invaluable to me as a political science student because the organization’s mission to spread democracy was examined. Additionally, the discourse between the officials and the students was interesting, as the principles of democracy such as political participation, accountability, and transparency were explored. The visit to the U.S. embassy was also an activity that was exciting. I was truly shocked to uncover the extensive relationship the United States seeks to establish with Poland by use of the media.
Although our stay in Austria was rather short compared to our time in Poland and Hungary, the group had an opportunity to visit the Centropa. This was perhaps the most significant activity to me because of the organization’s desire to preserve Jewish life by conducting interviews of individuals who lived through the Holocaust. Our time there allowed us to understand the way in which interviews are facilitated and their usefulness. The group was also given a substantial amount of leisure time in Vienna, which allowed us to visit the Freud museum. The museum was interesting because it also serves as the former residency where Freud made numerous psychological discoveries.
In Hungary, the group received a lecture from a professor at McDaniel College. This lecture was extremely vital to my understanding of Hungary’s political climate because we were able to understand the way in which Prime Minister Viktor Orban exercises power. It is Orban’s control over Fidesz, the “Hungarian Civic Party”, that allowed me to examine that political corruption is much more severe in Hungary than in the United States. The party not only redistributed the country in order to secure their success in the future, it changed the constitution when they received 2/3 of the vote in 2010 in order to maintain their political power and to exert their dominance.
Overall, the course “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe: History, Media, and the Holocaust” was life changing. The opportunity to analyze the world in a lens that does not reflect the American agenda was very rewarding. I was able to analyze the rich history, language, and cultures of three countries in a way that allows me to better understand Central Europe.
Eastern Connecticut State University’s Communication Department carried out a Global Field Course May 14-31, 2015, that utilized a sweepingly interdisciplinary approach to analyze the communication environment prevailing in today’s Central Europe. The GFC tour (COM 471) was entitled “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe: History, the Media and the Holocaust and included Warsaw and Krakow in Poland; Vienna, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary. GFC programs focused on the historic, political, economic and cultural elements of the communication milieu, with highlights that included lectures and meetings with professors and students at Krakow’s prestigious Jagiellonian university, briefings with U.S. Embassy officials in Warsaw and Budapest, research work sessions at Vienna’s Centropa Institute and Budapest’s Central European University Library, and a literary dinner with World War II “Enigma code breaker” historian Tessa Dunlop. The tour also allowed participants the opportunity to explore Central Europe’s numerous and varied touristic and cultural sites, such as Warsaw’s newly-opened Polin Polish History Museum, Krakow’s royal Wawel Castle, Vienna’s opulent Imperial Ring, Budapest’s rich Castle District, and the odious Holocaust concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The travelers included polisci students Quanece Williams and Tess Candler.
The CREATE Conference – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern, will run this Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, April 17-18. Among the 170 students presenting their work are our own political science, philosophy and geography (PSP&G) students: Matthew Hicks, Je’Quana Orr, Harrison McNair and Alexander Zacharie. Come and support them if you can!
Come to the “Dig Into Democracy” debate Wednesday, April 8, in Room 223 in the Student Center at 7 p.m. This debate will explore the issue of corruption in American government and ways we can fix it. Free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream will be provided. The event is sponsored by Represent ECSU (email@example.com; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/activateeasternct).