JST 197: Embedded Program
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Melanie Kovacs

Major: History, Jewish Studies
Minor: Art History
Hometown: Newtown Square, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I sat next to Dr. Brinkmann at the Schreyer Gateway Dinner in the fall and he informed me about the trip. I was also taking a Jewish Studies class in the fall and my professor passed around a flyer related to the trip.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

We spent time in Warsaw, Oswensim, and Krakow studying subjects related to the Holocaust. We spent our first two days at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto and visiting the Jewish Cemetery. We then took the train to Krakow and went to Oswensim, the town a few miles from the Auschwitz death camp, in order to learn about the Jewish population of the town and visit the memorial. We spent two days on a private tour and walking around the grounds of the camp for personal research. We then spent the rest of the time in Krakow learning about the Jewish life there, including the Ghetto and the synagogues.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience allowed me to fully comprehend the material I have been studying for the past four semesters. It was valuable for me to be able to stand in locations I have been learning about, like Auschwitz and Birkenau, in order to make my studies less of objective ideas and more into solidified information, because I could place things that I had been studying in their locations. In addition, we learned from experts who were available to us on location whom we probably would not have been connected with otherwise. These experts included tour guides or professors that had connections to our professors through conferences or other meetings.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I aspire to go to law school and study the practice of art dealing and art restitution. With this, I would like to work for different agencies that participate in the efforts to return artworks looted by the Nazis during World War II to their original owners, or to the heirs of the owners. This enrichment experience, while not entirely related to the art industry of World War II, was valuable because it explained further the Nazi occupation of Poland and the repossession of the property of those living under the occupied rule, how it was sorted, and where some of it ended up.

"The opportunity to visit Auschwitz is not one that arises often."

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend this experience to Liberal Arts students because the opportunity to visit Auschwitz is not one that arises often, and is also not typically a vacation destination for most people. However, I think it is something that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime if at least just to see the camp and be able to cement the idea that the events we learn about actually occurred in this place.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program influenced me to understand the importance of studying abroad and learning hands-on in the locations of our studies. In addition, the funding provided by Paterno Fellows made this experience possible for me because it assisted me to have the funds necessary to pay for the trip.

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