Students Explore Europe as Part of a Course

In May, Dean of Arts and Science Marilyn Thomas and a group of 8 students traveled to Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, and Munich as part of a course. Here are her reflections on the trip:

“We can read about events like how Hitler managed to seize power in Germany, but there’s nothing like actually seeing the building which played such a key role in the transition of power from the government under Chancellor Hindenburg to that of the Nazis under Hitler. As we stood in front of the Reichstag Building in Berlin, our tour guide explained how the Nazis, then a party struggling for power, blamed the Communists in Hindenburg’s government for setting the building on fire on that fateful day in 1933. The truth is that the Nazis themselves might have started that blaze. Whatever the truth might be, that blaze marks a tragic turning point in history. From now on, whenever we, the members of that group read or hear about WWII, we will no doubt be reminded how one small event can have such tragic consequences for so many. Happily, the same is true of good deeds. Nor will we forget the impact of actually touching remnants of the Berlin Wall, walking through the Brandenburg Gate, and standing over the bunker where Hitler committed suicide. These are all more real now for our having been there.

This year’s study abroad took us from Berlin to Dresden, both cities having risen out of the ashes of WWII to become model cities, the former glorious with state-of-the-art public buildings, the latter boasting the reconstruction of a medieval cathedral destroyed when the city was bombed by both the US and England. Remarkably, the builders used as many of the original stones as possible, the dark, medieval stones serving as a stark reminder of war and its devastation.

From Dresden to Munich, we saw the sites where history was made. Whether it was the ancient fort that overlooks Salzburg or the John Lennon Graffiti Wall in Prague, we all gained a new appreciation of our past and how it impacts our present.”