04.10.2013 - 13.10.2013
Whoa! Sorry guys, it has definitely been a while. I’ve been making my way around Europe, So my apologies for the delay in this post.
Let’s start with Fall Break. I went to three cities in Poland (Krakow, Torun, and Warsaw) and Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Poland trip has been hands down one of the most impacting weeks in my life. I went on what is called a Study Trip sponsored by the Rome Center at Loyola. This trip was, as you can imagine, an educational trip; we were accompanied by a two professors, the dean of faculty at the Rome Center, a SLA (Student Life Assistant), and a few alumni of the John Felice Rome Center who all played an incredible role in making this trip happen.
So why Poland? Why do this study trip? Why not back-pack around Europe for 10 days bar-hopping in Dublin or party hard in Amsterdam for a much cheaper fall break alternative?
Well back in September, we were introduced to these study trips that the Rome Center would be offering throughout the semester. While I could make my way to Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Paris, etc on my own at some point in my life, I realized that I probably wouldn’t do Poland as extensively as the study trip was laid out, on my own. So I went for it.
The trip consisted of a Jan Karski Symposium, several museums and walking tours, but seeing and getting a tour of Auschwitz –Birkenau was the heaviest and most emotional part of the trip. For those of you who know me personally, it takes a lot for me to get emotional. I think the reason why I felt so sensitive in the duration of this trip was because I placed myself and my family into that time period. Having a sister with special needs, it absolutely disgusted and infuriated me that medical experiments would have been done on her had she not been killed instantly upon arriving to Aushwitz. It made me sick to my stomach to think that I could have been used as an object of pleasure to Nazi soldiers. And lastly, it broke my heart thinking that I would be torn apart from the people I revolve my life around –my family.
It’s disturbing to read. It’s uncomfortable to say. It’s even more repulsive to think that this was reality.
It has been one thing to read of the Holocaust in books and seeing documentaries about it in middle school and high school, but experiencing polish history hands on and seeing the remnants of World War 2 took these historical events to a completely surreal level. Walking through and standing in a gas chamber where millions of Jews lost their lives and then walking back through the “Road to Death” where it was decided who was to live and who was to work to death is a vivid image that I will forever hold in my mind. Typing it out, I can’t even come close to describing the anxiety, the fear, the anger, and the shock that went through my mind as I was listening to the intense, unbelievable and horrid details of the step-by-step process of the mass murder of each group sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I have never felt so immersed in history.
I felt as though I wasn’t just there in Poland to “drink beer and eat pierogi” there was a reason I went on this trip. It was a reminder-be nice to your neighbor, be aware of what is going on in the world, and come forward when someone is in need of help. It was a reminder of “breaking down my wall” from the presentation I have heard several times by Jamie Utt in the Hugh O’ Brian Youth Leadership Conference. It was a moment where something clicked and I realized what I valued most in my life was education because that is what gives me the power to lead, move forward, and ultimately make a difference.
Going forth with my studies in science, I came into Loyola Chicago being exempt from history courses because of AP credit. Needless to say, my ignorant self was content that I no longer had to read through endless facts about dead people and events that did not apply to me. Being abroad in Rome, and especially after having gone on the Poland Study Trip, has completely diverted my views on history. It is because of history that we are thus far in society and although much has yet to be done, we have made a tremendous amount of progress. It is because of the fact that I was lucky and courageous enough to have been given the opportunity to step into Auschwitz-Birkenau and read about the life of Jan Karski that I can go on and spread this knowledge to my peers, family, acquaintances or anyone else to whom I may cross paths with in the future. It is because of this trip that I can place an immense amount of importance to medical ethics whilst in the remainder of my studies. I am greatly thankful for this incredible opportunity that the Poland Study Trip has given me and I take with great pride and seriousness the responsibility of spreading what I have learned to others.
After the Poland trip, I had a few extra days left in my break so I decided to visit two of my high school friends-Julie and Olivia- in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Denmark has by far, been one of the best cities that I have been to. It was a small little town with very efficient transportation, and the crisp leaves that crunched below my feet as I walked through the scenic parks near ship harbors along the water.
Well we arrived in Denmark early Friday morning and, needless to say, we were exhausted! So like any human would, we napped. After, it just so happened that Copenhagen has this event called Cultural Night help annually and it just so happened to be that we were in town that night! For the first time, I had Moroccan food and it was the most delicious food I had ever tried ( I have to admit, I wasn’t expected much from it, but I gave it a shot and was more than satisfied)
We went to a bar and watched the Denmark-Rome soccer game. I have to say, this was absolutely exhausting. I consider Italy to be my home (at least for a little while) but I was in Denmark. I felt like (Rebecca Black during that game: “which team should I pick”) funny thing is, that it was actually a Friday. Okay, enough of my corniness)
Going on to a whole another level of things, we saw a drag show. I am a pretty awkward person to begin with, you can only imagine how I felt watching “girl” by “girl” walk across a red carpet with a very eccentric fashion sense. Whatever, I went by my life motto and took pictures just because you only live once, so why not experience everything?
To end off the night, I made some arts and crafts and called the work “Complexity” because I have no artistic ability whatsoever and thought my piece was rather, well you know, complex.
The next day we walked around the harbor which had a breathtaking view and walked downtown as well. How can I forget, I had a good old-fashioned meal of McDonalds and it was probably the most delicious thing (now I know the last two meals I described were delicious too, but what can I say? Europe has turned me into a foody) I saw the famous Little Mermaid statue!! To top off the day, we had a nice demark dinner, ate a deliciously rich chocolate icecream cone and hungout at a Denmark bar (which by the way, played all American music. I guess America’s doing something right because the place was hoppin’ and jammin’ to Macklemore!)
Overall, I was very impressed by this small but wonderful country. I wouldn’t mind going back and establishing a vacation home of my own (uh-oh that adds up to 3 if you include Bari, and Positano, Italy. A girl can dream right? I guess that’s just more of a motivation to be successful in school)
Fall break was incredibly successful, and it came in perfect timing after the mid-term craze that hit everyone. Eastern Europe holds a large place in my heart.