Through international education opportunities like study abroad, textbooks can be brought to life and events that students only read about become real. Trevor Tuxill, an AIFS Student Blogger spending his semester in Salzburg, Austria, reflects on visiting the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps — a sobering and emotional experience, but one he feels helped open his eyes and reminded him that we must learn from history so it does not repeat itself.
“Arbeit macht Frei.” Those were the words that loomed over me as I walked through the gates of not only Dachau, but again in Auschwitz. I had the opportunity to visit both concentration camps in one week and the experience was anything but easy. Walking through the camp grounds, you feel the sadness and sorrow from all the stories you’ve heard, all the history you’ve learned. But nothing gives you the same effect as being there yourself and seeing for yourself where hundreds of thousands died.
I knew that these were both places that I wanted to visit while studying abroad, but I didn’t even come close to realizing how sobering it would be. Studying abroad can truly open your eyes to what so many have experienced.
“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
It’s so vital that we learn from our past, and the best way to do that is to immerse ourselves into the stories of others who lived it out and see what it was like ourselves. While America does have its history, Europe has been through so much in the last one hundred years alone from World Wars to revolutions to a refugee crisis. People are able to share their own personal stories of what life was like during their times of struggle.
I had the pleasure of meeting in Salzburg who told me about when she lived in Budapest, Hungary during the Russian occupation. As she put it, “it was a cold and dark place and life seemed so empty with no hope.”
Not only am I thankful for the places I have been able to explore and travel to this semester, but for the stories I’ve been able to hear and the wonderful people I’ve met. If I had done a semester at my Uni this fall I would never have experienced anything close to this.