Ready to Face the Past

Has it really been four months since we found out we were selected to go to Poland?  I remember when I first heard the news.  I was so stunned that, when they announced we were going, I just sat there, not quite taking in what was said.  When it finally started sinking in, I hopped out of my chair and screamed!  However, I still don’t think the reality of it has sunken in completely.  I feel excited to go, but I think that until I’m on that plane and in Poland, the fact that I’m going to be there won’t have made it all the way through my mind. 

With eagerness, I’m looking forward to being there.  I feel more ready than ever to open my eyes and see Krakow around me.  I want to see the people, to understand their culture, their history, their likes and dislikes.  I want to hear the Polish language being spoken on the streets, and I want to try my hand at a few words (even at the risk of unintentionally saying something stupid!).  I want to bravely try every possible Polish dish that I can, even if it looks questionable!

Mixed with this eagerness and excitement, however, is a fear.  Not only am I afraid, in a way, to feel like an out-of-place American (which is inevitable)… I am afraid of Auschwitz.  How many times have I read about that place?  I’ve been researching the concentration/extermination camp of Auschwitz over the last few weeks (it was the topic assigned to my partner and I), and I am truthfully afraid to see it.  Don’t get me wrong… I want to see it.  It’s just that now that I’ve done a little more research into it, and have read books like Night, I’m afraid of what I know I’ll see there.  I’m afraid to see the remnants of one of the greatest places of human suffering in the world.  Just reading about the place makes me feel a torment of emotions, from anger to a deep melancholy.  How am I going to be able to look and see the truth of what one man can do to another?  Well, even though I’m afraid, I know I will look upon Auschwitz… and when I do, I hope that I can take what I learn there and never forget it.  It’s so important that we never forget.

~Janelle Gross

Published in: on February 28, 2008 at 3:39 pm  Comments (1)  

no seriously . . . we’re going to POLAND

As I was researching the entertainment in Poland for my class presentation, I was not very thrilled. It was a beautiful day outside and I did not want to spend it in the HELC. However, Ricky (my good friend and partner for this assignment) pointed out that some of the pictures we were looking at online were the actual places we would be visiting in Poland. All of the sudden these images on because so much more real to me and I started to get excited about researching the popular entertainment found in Poland.

It was then that I remembered that this is no ordinary class we sit through on Monday afternoons, it is a preperation for what lies ahead. In just a few short weeks we will be flying to Poland and all of the presentations, lectures, and research will become a reality. This isn’t like every other class where we just see pictures in a book, we will actually be going to those places and seeing them for ourselves!

So even though some lucky kids may get to experience the beach and warm weather for spring break, we will get to experience history. How sick is that?!? I don’t know about you guys but I am STOKED!

Published in: on February 24, 2008 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment  

It Won’t Be Long….. 20 Days!

Another week in history has been recorded thus it has passed, it has passed very quickly. Time sure flies when one is in college.  The funny thing is that it slows down when one needs it to go faster and it speeds up when it seems one doesn’t have any time for anything.  Usually when I am going to travel it seems as though my trip will never arrive. This trip coming up is different though, before I know it we will be on a plane across the universe, or at least across the world.

Monday in class we were given a lecture on how to better our picture-taking skills. It was quite helpful; at least I think I benefited a lot from it.  We were given some pointers on how and when and where some of the best pictures should be taken. I cannot wait to start taking pictures on our trip.

Marisela and Katie presented their PowerPoint on “International Flight Preparation.” It was a good presentation. Flying on an international flight isn’t anything new for me, but it does sometimes get confusing if one doesn’t prepare. The hardest part about traveling for me whether it is in a car, bus, plane, or boat is the time it takes to arrive at the final destination. I am not looking forward to being in the air for countless hours, but still I cannot wait to get on that plane and relax and then get off in Poland!

There are still a few things I need to do before we leave. I need a new suitcase because the one I have has broken and is too old. My mom has asked me to come to Dallas in a few weeks so that I can go shopping since Amarillo doesn’t have much of a mall. I am really excited to see my family before I leave to Poland. I have never left the country without my mom hugging me and wishing me a safe trip, so going home before the trip will put both my mom and me at ease.

My official countdown till the trip began the day after I was told I was going. As of today, February 20th, we only have 20 days till we leave! I am so excited, yay!

Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 2:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday’s lecture

Monday’s lecture took me by suprise.  I had no idea how much history Poland has.  Before the whole getting to go to Poland situation, I bearly knew Poland existed. Isn’t that sad? Thanks to the great opportunity of going, I have now learned about such a beautiful country. It is amazing how old Poland is when this country is about a few hundred years old! Wow! Poland could be our great great great…… ancestor! Any way, I am thrilled to have had the chance on Monday to learn about such interesting facts. Our trip is coming up soon, and how great is that?!


Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 2:43 am  Leave a Comment  

I have always been fascinated by other countries and their differing cultures. It interests me to learn about how other types of people do things and how they carry themselves among the environment of a completely different world.  I am extremely excited about going to Poland because I absolutely love learning about other countries. I have been to Europe a few times, but I never once considered to take a trip to Poland. Before this competition of winning a trip to Poland, I never even knew what it looked like! I am looking forward to meeting the people, and tasting the foods, and seeing all that there is to see. I truly believe this will be an extremely life changing experience simply because of the fact that we are going to be able to see the actual concentration camps from the Holocaust. Just thinking about it, is pretty crazy.  In going on this trip, the main thing to remember is to keep an open mind and just take in this new environment to the full. I can’t wait to go and I can’t believe it is almost here! I have a feeling that I will be writing something down in my journal for most of the time that we are there. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am incredibly thankful that I get to partake in it.


Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Open to Change

First I just want to say that I was very upset that I had to miss class last Monday and I am very excited for tomorrow!  I agree with Allan about how wonderful it is to read about everyone’s personal encounters in their essay reflections and their individual wants of change.  Everyone has been so open and willing to groups, pairings, and research topics, and I know that each will experience, if they have not done so already, a positive change.  For me, this experience has really opened me personally to all the change of being able to interact closely with people of different backgrounds, studying a different culture, and making new memories.  I used to be a person that was content with my group of friends and staying in my comfort zone, but now I really have opened up to this change of experiences. I find it kind of ironic that the sermon in mass today was that for a person to make a change is that we must remain open to new ideas.  Duh, right!  Everyone else has probably figured this out by now.  Anyways, my point is that personally me being open to have even participated in the essay contest was a big step and I can already see a change in myself.  A positive change in my outlook and how I want to make a change so that I may be able to have an impact on someone else.  I’m just so excited that I have had this opportunity to experience my change with this group that I have learned so much from already.  I know that there is tons more in store for the semester and our BIG TRIP and I’m bouncing off the walls I’m SO EXCITED….less than 4 weeks!!!


Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Photos and Memories

After several of us have put together presentations about what to expect in Poland, I was surprised at how interesting everything has been! Because of the huge amount of information that we’ve been presented with the last couple weeks, I’m just going to make a few comments on the things that stick out in my mind. The first presentation was about polish Food – and who doesn’t get excited about food? There were some surprising similarities between Polish and American food. I’m definitely excited to try some infamous Polish sausage! And dessert doesn’t look so bad either.. :There was also a presentation about Polish entertainment. Again – I guess that I assume since Poland is so far away that its culture is going to be completely different, but surprisingly, music is very similar to ours.I guess overall what I’m expecting is something very different from what were actually going to encounter. I mean – I know it’s a different culture, but at the same time, globalization has definitely taken its toll on the individualistic identities of cultures throughout the world. Today we had a presentation about photography. It was EXTREMELY interesting and Professor Anwar is a wonderful photographer. What I do love about photography is that it can emphasize the many similarities that we as human beings have – no matter where we are from. The pictures we saw today were from everywhere – but many of them looked very familiar. That’s what I would like to do with my trip – I want to bring the world to the panhandle. I want to let people know that even though we may be half a world away, we’re all so much more alike than we realize.As time passes I’m getting more and more excited about heading over to Europe. I was lucky enough to visit England and Scotland over Winter break, and I’m ecstatic to be able to go back so soon. I love Europe because of its colorful and long history and can’t wait to get back and take some more photos and memories back with love! Katie

Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Weekly Pick-me-up!

For once in my entire life I am actually looking forward to Mondays. They reason you ask? Because I can enter into my Poland class completely drained from the week before and leave with the same excitment I had the day we won this trip! It is so fascinating for me to be learning about this whole other culture that before going in I didn’t know much about. Until now, for me, the word Poland became synonymous to the Holocaust and oppression throughout their very long history, but I’m beginning to see why the Polish people are so proud of their culture.This week we learned all about Polish customs, entertainment, and current events. Some of the Polish traditions I found really funny, most notable, was the tradition of setting an extra plate out for an unexpected guest, who I guess is supposed to be God. I really wish we were going during Christmas so I could walk into random peoples houses and they treat me like God! (Is that sacrilegious?) It was quite morbid, however, when we learned that you are supposed to have and uneven number of people at Christmas dinner or somebody will die before next year! So…. maybe, I wouldn’t crash random peoples dinners. I can tell that this is going to be such an amazing experience! I am looking forward to meeting new and fascinating people and visiting such beautiful places like the Tatra Mountains and all the castle and cathedrals. But I also hope to grow a lot during this trip. I have to admit that going to Auschwitz is something that I am dreading, but I feel that it is something that I need to see to better understand the Polish people, and in doing so better understand myself, my world, and my heart. To look at the remains of what was pure evil and to refuse to stand idly by!-Brant

Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Here Comes the Sun

As the sun goes up each morning and then settles down each evening my level of excitement rises each time a bit higher. Our trip to Poland is coming up really close, in like 26 days as of today.

In a way I feel as though I am being selfish about the trip. When I think about it I think about getting to go to another country, going to shops, meeting new people, tasting the food, and maybe doing some fun activities. Most of the time I don’t really think about the real reason that we are getting to go to Poland. This is the part that makes me feel ashamed about thinking about the other things. If it wasn’t for one man’s book, for his past, for his suffering, for his loss, and for history we would not be going to Poland this spring break. I then feel terrible and ask myself why I think more about the fun stuff than the real matter of why we are going.

I regret not knowing more about Poland’s history and its people. I feel bad that I don’t quite know all about the Holocaust, I feel as though I am lacking the knowledge that probably everyone else that is going already knows too well. I wish that I knew more about the Holocaust, I wish I knew more about the history of Poland, I wish I knew more about the people and their culture. Luckily, these past two class meeting we have been discussing some of Poland’s foods, customs, entertainment, and recent events. This doesn’t quite make up for everything I wish I knew more about, but it definitely helps.

This past Monday Cristin and I presented our PowerPoint to the class about Poland’s customs. We both really enjoyed getting to know some of Poland’s most popular traditions and holidays. Some of the kids in the class did too, or at least that is what they have told me. Lindsey and Ricky also presented their homework on entertainment, as well as Mandi and Desiree with current events. A lot was learned during the class meeting.

I look forward to Mondays, only for the reason that we are going to be meeting and discussing Poland and the amazing trip that we are about to embark upon soon. I and my friends leave that class more pumped about the trip than when we are first going into the class.

I can only say that once we have returned from Poland my perspective on many things will change. I believe that this trip will change my view on many things, including my life. I hope to learn much more before and while we are in Poland. I hope to understand more of the country’s past and its people.

For now I can only end this blog by saying that I cannot wait to see the sun settle down on Tuesday, March 11, 2008!



Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  


There are so many things I’m excited about. I am excited to go to this country, to learn more about it, its people, and its history. Even though I’m a little nervous about trying some of the “interesting” Polish cuisine, I’m also excited about it. I relish opportunities to try and experience new things!

I’m curious to learn more about the Polish culture, as well. Before this whole experience, I knew very little about Poland. I never really thought about it. I suppose I was another self-focused American… not really taking the time to see what else is going on in the world around us. Now, though, I’m beginning to wonder just how much in this world I don’t know. There are so many people in this world. We are all different, and yet, at the same time, we are all alike. The more I learn about Polish culture and beliefs, the more I become introspective and begin to examine my own culture and my own beliefs. It makes me wonder why we do certain things. For example, why is it that Americans, on average, know so little about their country’s history? In class, Dr. Clark was explaining to us how Polish children learn about their country’s history from the time when they are just toddlers, at their mothers’ knees. I wish our culture was more like that… it would have made my U.S. History classes a lot easier! Really, though, I want to be more familiar with everything that happened in our nation’s history, as well as in the histories of other nations around the world. I think that by studying our history and the history of other countries, we learn more about ourselves as human beings, and how we interact with and influence each other every day. Maybe, if we look at the trials and triumphs within history, we will take a look at the world around us, and discover a way to support the people within it. One of my greatest wishes for this upcoming trip is that I will not just let this be another trip. I pray that I will take this experience, this newfound understanding of the world around us, and I will be inspired to use this knowledge that I have gained to serve others.

Anyway, I continue to look forward to the day we fly out of Amarillo and thus begin our journey to learn more about Poland, its people, its history, and its incredible endurance through the Holocaust.

-Janelle Gross

Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment