Embarking a week after the end of Spring 2018 semester, Honors Tyler Hotz and Nora Smith, both rising juniors and communication majors, traveled to Poland for a month long faculty-led study abroad. Dr. Nina-Jo Moore, Professor in the Department of Communication, led a total of 15 Appalachian students on this journey, beginning in Prague before traveling in Poland for the month long trip. The group visited Warsaw, Krakow, Gdańsk, Olstyn, Kolobrzeg, Malbork, Torun, and Zakopane. While in Gdańsk, they attended classes for a week at the University of Gdańsk.
Photo below features some of the students from the group at Wilanów Palace in Warsaw, Poland. Starting on the far right, the photo pictures rising senior Raven Walker, rising senior Ally Hart, Honors rising junior Nora Smith, Honors rising junior Tyler Hotz and then rising senior Shelby Luttman.
The title and focus of this travel course was, Changes in Polish Communication Since the Fall of Communism. In this experience, students learned about the influence of Polish culture on communication patterns. Students were able to see first-hand changes in an old world culture. They visited Auschwitz as well as Wolf's Lair, Adolf Hitler's bunker for most of World War II.
Photo below features Tyler on the Green Bridge in Old Town Gdańsk. Gdańsk's Old Town is known for its colorful buildings, shipyards and amber stores. "Amber" street, or Mariacka Street, is just a short walk away, offering many stores and vendors with a variety of amber jewelry. Photo submitted by Tyler Hotz.
As Tyler described,
“I visited natural wonders all across Poland, such as the beautiful mountains of Zakopane and the bright blue waters of the Baltic Sea. I also learned much more about Poland's somber history, which includes its tragic memories during WWII and the Cold War that immediately followed. Most notably, we took a day trip to tour the Auschwitz concentration camp. To me, this day revealed to me more than any other why study abroad is so important. You can read and study all about the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, but nothing can prepare you for how you feel while walking the grounds of one of human history's darkest moments.”
Of the experience, Nora shared similar sentiments,
“Visiting Poland was one of the best learning experiences I could possibly have as a college student. The most significant part of the trip for me was being in such a historic place and visiting sites significant to Jewish history. History is so important to a Polish people, and it was really special to see preserved monuments, museums, and places. The most difficult and most important part of the trip for me was visiting Auschwitz. Although World War II and the Holocaust are things that we learn about in school, it is so much different to see them in person.”
Both Tyler and Nora found the trip tranformative, and one of their most impactful Appalachian experiences to date. Nora explained, "my study abroad experience was a total and complete experience in the best of ways. I learned much more about life outside of the United States, but I also learned even more about myself." And Tyler further reflected, "It was a month full of experiences and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life."
Top photo shows the group on a day trip to Hel, an hour-and-a-half ferry ride away from Gdańsk. The island offered stellar views and some great seafood. Some of Tylers memories from this day include climbing to the top of a lighthouse and eating an entire trout for lunch. Photo submitted by Tyler Hotz.
Story by Garrett Alexandrea McDowell, Ph.D.