Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

A group of 17 Lafayette students recently spent three weeks in Russia and Poland discussing memories of World War II and the Holocaust with veterans and survivors, and studying the effects of communism on post-communist countries.

The summer interim study abroad course was led by Joshua Sanborn, associate professor of history, and Robert Cohn, Berman Professor of Jewish Studies.

“Interim abroad courses are attempts to offer students a course that for one reason or another cannot be effectively taught on campus,” Sanborn says. “In our case, we studied monuments, visited out-of-the-way villages and major metropolitan areas, and spoke with Russian and Polish citizens about their experiences.”

From May 20 – June 6, the class visited Warsaw and Krakow in Poland, St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia, and numerous smaller towns and villages.

“We expected that each student would ‘get’ something different out of the course depending on their background,” says Sanborn. “Some were experienced travelers; others had never been outside of the U.S. At a minimum, we wanted them to become critical observers of the physical environments in which people live and the role those environments have in creating and sustaining both collective and individual memories.”

With this being her first trip to Europe, Marquis Scholar Madeline Stavis ’08 (Bryn Mawr, Pa.), a history and government & law major, did get something unique out of the experience.

“I was really surprised by how clearly I could see the differences between Poland and Russia,” Stavis says. “I did not expect Poland to feel so westernized, and I could really see how Poland is the hinge between the East and West.”

The goal of the course was for students to examine how Poland and Russia’s violent twentieth century histories have shaped the two countries and their people.

In Poland, the students toured the World War I battlefield and cemeteries in Gorlice, visited the concentration camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau, and spoke with World War II veterans and important Jewish people.

On the Russian portion of the trip, the class visited World War II sites in St. Petersburg, toured the Kremlin and Red Square, and discussed the history of war with young Russian scholars and World War II veterans.

“The more touristy places, like Wawel Castle and St. Basil’s, were very interesting to see, and certain sites in Russia demonstrated imperial grandeur, such as Peterhoff, the summer palace of the emperors,” says Stavis. “The more memorable places, however, were those less traveled. The site of the Warsaw ghetto was really moving, and we took day excursions to Gorlice, Novgorod, and Yasnaya Polyana that allowed us to see the countryside, which is a landscape rarely viewed by tourists.”

Students had to prepare for the course by doing a great deal of reading prior to the trip. There were also two days of classes on campus before departure and an exam to ensure the students were intellectually ready for the experience.

“Study abroad is, of course, very important,” says Sanborn. “Being a responsible American citizen in this day and age requires knowledge of other parts of the world. Interim trips provide this only partially. Few of our students knew Polish or Russian and we lived in hotels and spent most of our time in a rather large group. But interim trips do allow students who are unable to go abroad for an extended period to have some foreign experiences.”

Other students who went on the trip were: Dana Bernstein ’08 (Saint James, N.Y.), a double major in anthropology & sociology and history; Solange Bethart ’08 (Miami, Fla.), an American studies major; Marquis Scholar Christian Dato ’07 (Poway, Calif.), a double major in history and government & law; Lindsay Dennis ’07 (Torrance, Calif.), a double major in geology and government & law; Neal Follman ’07 (Radnor, Pa.), an English major; Joshua Goldstein ’07 (Hockessin, Del.), a double major in physics and mathematics; Marquis Scholar Theresa Hearn ’07 (Suffern, N.Y.), a double major in mathematics and economics & business; William Huddleston ’09 (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.), an international affairs major; Andrew Jameson ’09 (Hagerstown, Md.); Marquis Scholar Ashley Jermusyk ’08 (Miller Place, N.Y.), a chemical engineering major; Jessica Kissen ’08 (East Brunswick, N.J.), a double major in Russian & East European studies and international affairs; Marquis Scholar Danielle Koupf ’08 (Randolph, N.J.), an English major; Kristen Lahoda ’08 (Woodbury, N.J.), an international affairs major; Garland Millican ’07 (Brookeville, Md.), a double major in A.B. engineering and international affairs; Marquis Scholar Stephanie Morain ’07 (Des Moines, Iowa), a biology major; and Marquis Scholar Allison Shapp ’08 (Plainville, N.Y.), a double major in international affairs and music.

“This trip has definitely motivated me to travel,” says Stavis. “I am going to continue taking Russian history courses, and I think that this visit will really enhance those classes. Taking a trip led by professors is a great experience. I felt like I was constantly learning, whether we were out to dinner or taking a tour.”

Stavis is Gilbert’s co-chair for Lafayette Activities Forum, serves as secretary of the History Club, and is a member of the executive board of Holla Back.

Categorized in: Academic News