Poland Excursion March 2015

During our trip to Poland I particularly enjoyed visiting the Krakow Easter Market. Luckily the hotel in which we were staying was located right in the heart of the city and just 1 block away from the central market, which was an amazing place to spend time after the group activities and try some of the local foods such as pierogis, kielbasas and kolaches. The timing of our trip also matched “Palm Sunday” which is a locally celebrated event in which neighboring towns submit tall and colorful “palms” to compete for the highest one. All in all it was a lot of fun and a very nice place to walk around and relax.

Regarding the educative aspect of the trip, I would say that the experience that stuck with me the most was the visit to concentration camps of Auschwitz; a terrible place that should be visited by anybody who has the opportunity regardless of religion or nationality and a cornerstone in humanities capability for atrocity. Since my education in a Jewish high-school, visiting Auschwitz in order to witness and preserve the memory of what happened to the European Jewish communities during the Nazi regime has been one of the most imprinted targets of my education. In multiple previous conferences and chats arranged by my high-school I also had the opportunity to meet some of the few remaining survivors of the concentration camps and listen to their stories, and now this trip to Auschwitz allowed me to put a face to the place that their stories mentioned.

However, I must say that I was in a certain way disappointed. Disappointed because even though the exhibitions show what the darkest moments of humanity accomplished, the experience was much less horrifying than what I had always imagined it to be. There was nothing ominous about the geographic place itself. The grass was green and there were no black clouds of death surrounding the buildings. Had it not been for the dreadful exhibitions, informative billboards and the guide’s explanations, one could have passed without realizing the horrors the buildings hid. This dissipated my preconception of inherent evil associated to the places where the Nazi regime acted, perhaps aligning me with the observations made by Hannah Arendt, which pointed out that it is even in the ordinary places where monstrosities can occur. >Santiago<

KrakauI really enjoyed our time in Krakow. I was surprised by the strong and colorful personality of the city and all of the welcoming people who we met there. Every spot was so picturesque and unspoiled by modern day tourism. It was also very neat to learn about different aspects of Poland’s history, culture, and economy from Polish professors in Poland. Being back in lectures filled with other Dickinson students almost made me feel back at home again! It was also great having George there with us; it was almost like having a personal tour guide everywhere we went, since he was always able to provide us with pieces of information that we otherwise would not have known.

This excursion had me thinking bigger than just the United States, Germany, or Poland: in today’s global economy, the actions of one state can have drastic effects on another and it is important to be aware of the benefits and consequences of international relations. >Madison<

I became interested in Poland’s history this summer, when I spent the night in Krosno Odrzańskie in July this past summer. My interest was heightened when I was visiting a friend in Switzerland, whose mother comes from Poland. She talked a little about how she met her husband, and how hard it was to live in a communist system. Since then I have wanted to learn a little more about Polish history, but I had not really had the chance, and therefore, I was quite excited for our Dickinson excursion to Poland.

I was really pleased with the program, especially in Krakow. I think the most beneficial part of the excursion was the opportunity to meet and talk with polish students from the Jagiellonian University. I met up with the students multiple times after our dinner with them on the first night in Krakow. Through the students I got to see polish culture from a different perspective, and I learned a little more about what daily life is like in Poland for members of my own generation. I think what really struck me, was that the dreams and aspirations of the Polish students are very similar to those of American and German students, despite the differences in economy and historical background.

I also really enjoyed the Underground Museum in Krakow. The museum is very well done, and I think it really took the ideas we had been learning about in our lectures and made them come to life. It is rare to find a well done interactive museum that is not explicitly made for children. The POLIN Museum in Warsaw as well done too. I gained a lot of knowledge from our tour and think it would be worth visiting again to go through slower on my own, if I am ever back in Warsaw.  In the end the excursion to Poland really was a valuable experience. I learned so much about the history, economics and culture that I have a much better appreciation for Poland. I think just being able to spend time in Krakow alone made the trip worth it. It is a beautiful city. >Adrienne<

One of my favorite things about Poland was meeting the American Studies students in Krakow and spending time with them. As someone who is interested in languages (I had tried to decipher the Sky Mall magazines on the plane which were in both English and Polish) I wanted to have a chance to learn new Polish phrases and pronunciations from native speakers. For example, there is a Polish letter that looks like an “l” with a line through it! (It’s pronounced like an English “w”). The American Studies students from the University of Krakow also knew which food and restaurants were the best! We had a great time discussing US trivia and history and learning more about Poland while eating Perogies. It was an excellent example of students engaging in a cultural exchange and learning more about each other’s countries.

I thought the Poland program was interesting, because as a German major, understanding the history and culture of the countries which border on Germany is just as important as understanding the history and culture of Germany itself. Therefore, I enjoyed many of the lectures about Polish history, economics, and politics. My favorite speaker was the “Alphabet of Poland” professor. He decided to go through Polish history using an A… B… C… etc. approach rather than the traditional approach of chronological order. I also enjoyed how the Poland trip allowed the Dickinson students abroad in Germany to connect with the other Dickinson students in Italy. It was also interesting for me to compare the experiences of being abroad in Germany vs. in Italy. I would suggest more trips which allow different Dickinson abroad groups to connect— I was also able to spend time with students that I did not yet know very well at Dickinson College. >Ezra<

My favorite part of the Poland Excursion was the choir concert we attended of the high schoolers from Krakow and Germantown, PA. They were both very talented groups and the music program was great, but I especially loved at the end how both the groups and their history were explained by the school directors. It was nice to see other students of an even younger age getting to experience the culture and friendship of people from another country, especially Poland. I am also grateful to have learned so much about a country that I originally didn’t have too much knowledge on. It was a nice contrast learning intellectually about Poland in the lectures while also getting to see the two major cities of Krakow and Warsaw, whether it be by walking around, museums, or bus tours. Overall it opened my eyes to yet another country of Europe, and it turned out to be one of my favorites.  I can’t wait to go back. >Cassie<

Our excursion to Poland consisted of many lectures, tours of Krakow and Warsaw, and many delicious meals. The two lectures I found most interesting were entitled; “From Communist to Solidarity and Further” and “Church and the State in Poland.” Poland has a rich history and relationship with the USA, Germany, and Russia and this lecture explored this history as well as Poland’s current role in international affairs. I also found it interesting to compare everyday life in communist Poland with that in the DDR. In the second lecture I learned that 80-90% of Poles, depending on the poll, identify themselves as Christian and how this is reflected in Government policy.

Personally, I found the visitation of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau to be the most compelling and I find myself very fortunate to learn about this piece of world history. >George<

On our excision to Poland I was very surprised by the city of Krakow. I never would have imagined how beautiful and alive it would be. It was very interesting to witness their easter celebrations and markets, as they were not present in Bremen. The culture was very warm with people performing every day in the market square, whether it was break dancers, musicians, or people blowing huge bubbles entertaining swarms of children. The lectures at the beginning of the excursion helped with all the future museum visits and documentaries. I was embarrassed by how little Polish history I knew before this excursion, but I feel like I came out of it with a basic understanding. I never knew how deep Poland’s connections with America were. I really enjoyed how it seemed like at every new exhibit or lecture there was not only Polish and American but also German and Italian history involved. I was very impacted by the visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau, especially as a German Studies major, World War II is almost always a part of our curriculum, but it’s a much more emotional and real experience that’s hard to achieve without physically being there. >Katie<

I was most entranced by any of the events that taught our group the long and complex history of Krakow, the two most interesting being the city tour and the visit to the Rynek Underground museum of Krakow. For me, going out into the city and being able to gaze at the buildings while hearing their history, or see an elaborate exhibit that transports a person back in time with the sights and sounds of medieval times, allowed me to experience history in an almost tangible way. On the city tour, we not only heard about dates and historical figures, but above all stories, the words that I live for and drive the heartbeat of the city. It is one thing to see the magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica on the town square and discuss the complex history of the church’s role in Polish history, which we did frequently during our trip. However, to hear the tragic story of the brothers who supposedly built the church allowed me a glimpse into the beautiful narrative of the city. Among the many treasures of the Rynek Underground, four meters underground and at the same level as the original town market place, was the initiative of the museum to preserve these stories for the next generation. In this extremely interactive museum there are undisturbed sections of rock left purposefully to be excavated by the next generation of archeologists. So while the entire trip was fascinating and exciting for me, exposing me to new sights, tastes, languages and people, it was these stories that are collected and preserved by the citizens of Krakow that I felt most honored to be a part of. The Poland excursion was a whirlwind of new places and information, that above all exposed me to a section of history and the part of the world I would have not gotten the chance to see. >Rachel<