One thing I have noticed while being abroad is not only differences in education systems but also how that has impacted global perspective among different populations. In the United Kingdom, and many other countries, they not only know of their own history and keep up with their own news but are also educated about other country’s histories and current events.
While abroad I have become hyper-aware of how much I might know about American history and politics and so little I know about every other country, while everyone else knows about my country’s politics among their own. For example, during the the U.S. election, my British and foreign national co-workers knew just about as much as I did about the election, kept up with the results, along with keeping up with British politics and constant Brexit updates. I was already aware of the egocentrism of the U.S. but that awareness has increased in my time abroad.
One area of history that I have always found interesting, studied in U.S, and now have studied in my 20th century British History class is World War II and the Holocaust. As part of my class here in London we visited in the Imperial War Museum and I took time to see the Holocaust exhibit, which was truly striking.
As a history major I don’t just enjoy museums and soak up the information like a true nerd-sponge but I also enjoy analyzing the presentation tactics that museums use. I enjoyed comparing the presentation tactics that the Imperial War Museum used, well aware that not only do British and Americans visit this museum but also many international visitors, including Germans. I enjoyed comparing this museum and the Holocaust exhibit to my experience at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C.
This past weekend I visited an extremely remarkable country, not just one of great food and interesting history, but also very cheap to visit and travel to, a reflection of its destitution that it is still recovering from—the country of Poland. I spend the past weekend in the city of Warsaw, notable for food, Christmas markets, colorful buildings, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
Warsaw was one of the most striking cities I have every been, not just for its culture, but the perspective I gained there. I really enjoyed the city, it’s colorful buildings were as beautiful as the pictures promised, most reconstructed since WWII and quite beautiful. Warsaw’s food was incredible, we definitely ate our way through the city, partaking in sausage, goulash, potato pancakes, and rye soup. The Christmas markets were just opening this weekend so the wooden huts were being built and opening with charming goods sold, of which I bought many. The weather was cold and with Christmas lights strung everywhere it felt like Christmas.
Dreamy right? This is old town I am describing, with beautiful restaurants, some tourists, and reconstructed to be beautiful again following its massive destruction during WWII. Warsaw did have bright colored buildings in parts but it also had torn down half burned buildings, war monuments and statues every way you turned, and a continuing political controversy around the President’s Holocaust Bill.
I saw a country still hurting from something that happened over 50 years ago, something that I thought was over but didn’t realize still impacted and pained its people every single day. I loved my trip to Warsaw, not just because it was my last trip of this semester with friends but because I felt like I left the city not only more cultured and with more experience, but I felt like I had perspective I didn’t have before, that I had lived a small piece of history, experienced it in the present in a place that is still pained—a place that is beautiful but still in recovery over fifty years later.