How studying abroad changed my life

Kelly Farrell Chief Photo Editor

In March of 2017 – my sophomore year of college – I had the opportunity to study abroad. I had signed up for the Auschwitz, Poland spring break trip on a whim and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I knew coming into college that I wanted to study abroad, because I felt that college is the best time in your life to do it. Once I was into the swing of things at school, it seemed hard for me to imagine studying abroad for a whole semester – it just did not seem like the right fit for me.

I had heard about the Poland trip briefly, but I never gave it a second thought until I saw the sign for the trip and began researching it. From there, I was in full speed, applying for the trip, being interviewed and then setting up my passport. Our trip lasted for eight days, which was the perfect amount of time for me. That said, this was also my first time in a foreign country besides vacationing to the Caribbean, so I was in for a real culture shock.

Our trip was paired with a class taught by Dr. Elena Procario-Foley, an associate professor in the Religious Studies department, which focused on the Holocaust. I knew from the beginning that this would be an emotional trip, due to the fact that we would spend most of our time touring the concentration camps and learning about their history. I tried to prepare myself, and although I was able to handle most of the trip, there was still a piece of me that was so taken aback once we were actually standing in the camps.

Although it was an emotional trip, it has become one of the best experiences of my life. On the trip, we had two amazing professors, Dr. Procario-Foley and Dr. Malissa Scheuring Leipold, who are the most compassionate and intelligent women I know.

I went on the trip with 17 other amazing students that I never even knew before we were in the class together. Spending eight days in a foreign country with 19 other people experiencing the same thing as you allows you to bond and develop a special connection with each other. Our trip and academia were heavy, but once we came back from visiting Auschwitz to rewind, we were able to have fun and make lasting memories with each other.

Studying abroad exposed me to a different part of the world, new people, new views on life and a growing curiosity in the history of the Holocaust. I was able to leave my comfort zone by travelling to a new country and having to live there for a week. I am so glad I chose to study abroad and even happier that I chose the Poland spring break program – it was a trip I will forever hold close to my heart.