April 9, 2009
Dear Dr. Keck,
First of all, when Mrs. Hickey and Dr. Kazen informed me I had to write a reflection on the Poland trip I have to admit, I was stumped. How does one even attempt to explain an experience that is so beyond words? Overall, the trip impacted me in several different ways: physically, emotionally, and mentally and as such I will attempt to explain how it did so. Hopefully then you will be able to grasp, if in a small measure, the gravity Poland had on my life.
The least important, I believe, is physically. Because I was not accustomed to walking such distances every day, the week’s exercise caused me to lose weight. The majority of the foreign food did not help with this either, but on a positive note, I learned to appreciate my car and was able to try Polish cuisine.
Moreover, I do not believe anything has hit me so hard emotionally or, God willing, ever will, as the experience at Auschwitz. I have read books and listened to numerous lectures about the cruelties the Jews and countless others faced, but I have to say that none compared to the real thing. Seeing entire rooms with piles up to my shoulders in height of human hair, shoes, utensils, and toiletries, make the reality of the situation come to life. I believe if everyone had an opportunity to see this, we would not have to worry about racism or intolerance, because at Auschwitz, you see the consequences those thoughts can cause. It may be the only way to truly learn from history, to assure that it does not repeat itself. I cannot say that it was a great experience, but it was an eye-opening and humbling experience.
In my opinion, the Poland experience has impacted me the most mentally. As an individual, I had not been out on my own, away from my parents at all, much less out of the country. The airplane flight was an experience in itself. In Poland I lived on my own and in doing so I learned that I can really do anything I set my mind to. Before this trip, I never imagined I would be brave enough to travel or study abroad. I was afraid, but not anymore. Poland has left me with a thirst for adventure and knowledge as I realized how big the world really is and how little I have seen. It makes me excited because I want to be a teacher. Imagine all the stories I can tell them, that there is so much more than Laredo, Texas. I can tell them that when I was a freshman, I traveled all the way to Krakow, Poland, and saw history and in doing so, lived it.
Last, but not least, Dr. Keck, I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude because without all your support, the trip would not have been possible. I understand you are a busy man, but I just wanted you to know how much an insignificant fish, is thankful for the opportunity.
Sonia Renee’ Alvarado