College of Arts and Sciences to offer Poland study abroad program


Photo courtesy of Andrea Noall.

Emily Fulmer

The College of Arts and Sciences will offer a spring break study abroad program in Poland for Holocaust remembrance.

The course, Perceptions and Remembrance: The Holocaust in Literature, Cinema, and Public Display, is a one-credit hour course – open to all majors and class standings – that students will have the opportunity to take while abroad.

Chaya Kessler, director of Jewish Studies, will be teaching the course and leading students during the trip.

“The trip evolved from our annual visit to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C.,” Kessler said.

Kessler said at the end of their visit, which is always the first Sunday in November, the Jewish Studies Program met with a Holocaust survivor. After the meeting, the students were asked what struck them the most.

Kessler noted that several students mentioned the size and information about Auschwitz was what interested them the most, so she later asked students if they would be interested in traveling to Poland.

“Everybody said yes,” Kessler said. “Coming back, I said ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s do Poland!’”

Kessler said 20 students have already registered for the program ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline.

With the limited time students have during the program, Kessler said the group only travels to two cities in Poland.

“We go to Warsaw, which is the capital,” Kessler said. “Then we go to Krakow, and from Krakow we go for a day trip to Auschwitz.”

Kessler also said that students visit Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory, which is in a town outside of Krakow.

“It’s a very strong experience for students, (and) is a bonding experience with those who go because they experience something very powerful (and) very emotional,” Kessler said. “All the movies, books and all of the stuff you study or you learn about … you see it for yourself, and that’s very powerful.”

In the past, Kessler said groups of students were originally taken to Israel.

“(Kessler) had a program going to Israel for several years that was very under-attended,” said Kristin Stasiowski, director of international programs and education abroad for the College of Arts and Sciences. “We know that the Kent State student population typically gravitates toward European destinations.”

Stasiowski said it is a uniquely inspiring course to take if you want to be a human being.

“(The trip) is not about revisiting a depressing, heart-wrenching, awfully depressing period of history just to mind the depths of evil, for the sake of minding depths of evil,” Stasiowski said. “It is a very contemporary course that does look at history from a wide perspective.”

Stasiowski said what students take away from this trip is how they think about human dignity, human suffering and the role everyone plays in being a witness to certain events.

“The trip is uniquely inspiring — absolutely a must-do for anybody who is a Kent State student and wants to graduate with a degree of higher education,” Stasiowski said.

Kessler said she expects this trip to be very important, emotional and an experience that will stay with students forever.

Emily Fulmer is a religion reporter, contact her at [email protected]