My experience with study abroad, rethinking the future by visiting the past in Eastern Europe

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.

Enjoying a sunny afternoon with Professor Beltran (center, I am the first one on the left)

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.

A candid shot of our travel group.

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.

Polisci students join ECSU sponsored visit to Eastern 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.

PSP&G students present their work at the CREATE conference

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!


Additional information and the program can be found at: or click here for the CREATE Program

Professor Chris Vasillopulos publishes a novel on Colonial North America

Last month Professor Chris Vasillopulos published his novel “Heirs to Freedom”. This novel depicts the tribulations of a family in South Carolina in the decades that preceded the American Revolution. His ink, loaded with prose on political constants such as justice, equality and freedom, provides a creative insight in the mindset of representative actors of the period, with emphasis on the values that lead to the emancipation of this emerging nation. The landscape is filled with many of the challenges of that historical period in North America, such as issues of race relations, generational strife, slavery and religion. Additional information can be found at the publisher site, Dog Ear Publishing and the book is also available on

Professor Vasillopulos holding a copy of his new publication

ECSU Communication Professor Cesar Beltran brings students to Poland and Hungary to learn on the Holocaust

As part of a Global Field course, Communication Professor Cesar Beltran, who also collaborates regularly to the activities of the Department of Political Science, took several students to Poland and Hungary last May. “History, the Media and the Holocaust” served as the overriding theme for an intense two-week Global Field Course (GFC) to Poland and Hungary, May 15-30, 2014. Given the political and military crises unfolding in neighboring Ukraine at the time, the sub-theme “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe” also served as a focus for fact-filled meetings and discussions for the eight students participating in the GFC. Six of those students were from our own Eastern Connecticut State University (the trip organizer), one was from the University of Connecticut, and one from Yale University. Professor Beltran led the GFC, assisted by a Program Coordinator provided by the academic travel contractor CISabroad.

Global Field Course participants at Szabadsag Ter (Freedom Square) Fountain, in front of an unfinished and controversial Holocaust memorial located near the U.S. Embassy.

            In Poland the trip participants were able to tour scenes of the Warsaw Ghetto and Old Town, both of which were completely destroyed in inner city fighting during World War II, as well as the historic Polish Royal Capital of Krakow, which successfully avoided serious wartime damage. Krakow also served as a base for excursions to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and ancient Jagiellonian University. In both Polish cities and in Hungary’s capital of Budapest the GFC travelers met with noted European academics, European student peers, U.S. Embassy officials, and recognized experts on the Holocaust and Judaic Studies.

            In a 12-page trip report one student summed up her GFC experience this way:

“Although I came on this trip to learn about the Holocaust, history, media and the Nazi aftermath, I learned much more. I was finally able to experience cultures other than my own, and I was able to use my information and knowledge bank collected over the years (the most recent from Eastern) to good use on the trip.” 

Click here for a photo montage of the trip.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivers a message of international responsibility at ECSU

Former Secretary Madeleine Albright and Professor Mendoza-Botelho during the Q&A

Last March former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited ECSU as part of the Arts and Lecture series. During her talk ““Economy and Security in the 21st Century” she emphasized the pivotal role that the U.S. plays in an always changing global political scenario. As the first female Secretary of State in the US, and at that time the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government, she also commented on the many challenges that she faced as woman diplomat in a global political world still dominated by men. One of her powerful arguments was related to the importance of continuing building democratic institutions around the globe and the respect for international norms. In the Q&A section that followed moderated by Professor Mendoza-Botelho, former Secretary Albright provided a unique insight to the world of high politics, splashed by anecdotes of her interaction with global figures such as Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger and Sadam Hussein during her tenure as Secretary of State. At the end of the event Ms. Albright  received a gift on behalf of ECSU from the hands of honor student Erin Drouin (Class of 2016).