Study abroad students experienced history and culture firsthand during trip to Germany

| By: Jordan Ardoin, Photo Credit Dr. Derek Zumbro | casshcommunications@uwf.edu

students and faculty pose in germany during study abroad program
Students and faculty in Germany during the UWF Study Abroad Program.

When International Studies student Gabriella Valenti saw the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany with her own eyes, she felt the visceral reality of history in a way she never had before.

Valenti said, “You can hear about the Holocaust all you want from lectures, and you can see the graphic pictures that send a message, but you won’t get the gut-dropping feeling that you get when you're actually stepping on the grounds of a concentration camp.”

Valenti’s experience at Sachsenhausen was part of a UWF study abroad course in Germany this summer semester. Dr. Derek Zumbro, instructor with the UWF Department of History, taught the course, which took place May 15-June 8. During the trip, students visited several significant historical and cultural sites in and around the cities of Berlin and Potsdam and experienced German history and culture firsthand.

In addition to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, students also toured Moritzburg Castle, Sanssouci Palace, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Cathedral and more. Inhabiting the atmospheres of sites featured in their lectures added a new dimension to the educational experience of students in attendance.

Jane Plummer, early American history graduate student, said that during this course, she and her classmates learned in ways that would have been impossible in a traditional classroom setting.

“There are some aspects [of history] that cannot be taught and can only be experienced,” Plummer said.

In addition to visiting historical sites, students had free time while in Germany to explore the modern culture and way of life in Berlin. This experience was especially beneficial to Antony Henk, German language student. Henk said that the total immersion he experienced on the trip gave him confidence in his German that he would not have without this experience.

Whatever their primary disciplines of study, students who participated in the course broadened their perspectives and made personal connections with German culture.

Henk said, “The most impactful part of my trip was probably the chance to make friends and get to know people in Berlin. As a person, I've always been very interested in getting acquainted with a wide variety of people, as I feel that people grow the most when they get to know people who are not like them.”

Find information about more study abroad opportunities, visit Office of UWF Study Abroad online.