Wow! I cannot believe how fast these past 9 days have gone by!  When we finally arrived in Krakow last week of Thursday, I remember thinking, “One whole week until our last day here…gosh this is going to be forever until we leave.”  Now it seems like yesterday we were just settling into our dorms.  What really amazes me is how close we all came together within these past days in Poland.  We have all been through so much.  We’ve been through times of excitement, nervousness, fear, emotions, laughter, and so much more.  What makes this special is that we shared all this together all as one.  Everyone is very sad about leaving Poland because of the wonderful memories we have made here, but this experience is not even close to becoming over.  This ending has only begun our journey to change our communities and even most importantly, the world.

-Ricky Mariscal


I can’t say that I have ever blogged from 30,000 feet.  I also can’t say that for once in my life, I am left speech less.  We are on the way home from the trip of a lifetime.  I have made new friends, experienced new emotions, and tasted new things. 

We have decided that we are now apart of an “Army of Resistance!”  And I can’t wait to be apart of this new resistance.  Just to give you a taste of what we are thinking…  we have made a plan to resists against ‘standing idly by.’  We are going to act, to dream, to have passion, and to listen.  We are going to stand up, to fight, to choose love over hate.  We are going to resist the things of the world that bring up powers of Night and begin to be beacons of light.  We are going to be catalysts.  We are going to create change… a positive ripple effect as we have called it.

Going to Auschwitz Monday and Tuesday was a real eye opener for me.  I don’t really know what words to say that can describe that I went through.  But things I thought…

“How am I going to make this trip personal?… What am I going to feel?… Hair… Pots and Pans… shoes….”… and it was at that point that I began to see it all on a personal level.  I was seeing my friends going out for girls night, family cooking with those pots and pans.  I was thinking about playing with each others shoes.  I was seeing dear loved ones with these items left behind…. And then realizing that if I were to be living the Holocaust, that I would be losing all of those people that I held to close to my heart.  I’d be losing friends, families, teachers, pastors.  

It was just a scary realization of what they went through. It was heartbreaking.  And it was personal.  It was no longer someone else’s words.  It was now my story.  It was now my heartache.  It was now the baton in my hands.  Its now my job to be an intellectual activist. 

The world is going to try and fight me.  But the world is only one.  We are 23. 23 friends, close enough to be family.  23 passionate beings with a desire to spark change.

See you soon [hopefully with a dr. pepper in hand],



It was this time last year that I was stressing out about where to go for college.  I was worrying about scholarships and degree programs.  I remember that fear.  I was so afraid to face all of the changes that came with leaving the family I loved and heading to a strange place to get my degree.  I questioned my abilities and I wondered how I’d really do.  I dreamed, yes, occasionally, of achieving extraordinary things while there, but I was also afraid to dream.  Sometimes dreams just stay dreams. 

Not this time.  This time, I believe through God’s guidance, I achieved at least one of my dreams.  I went to POLAND!!!  We are just now on the long flight back. 

So many things happened on this trip, I don’t know where I want to begin with this blog.  I feel like I had the experience of a lifetime.  I learned so much that my mind is constantly running with a train of thoughts, both about what we were shown and taught while there and about my own introspective musings as a result of those things.  I was blown away by the group that’s sitting next to me now, on this transatlantic flight.  As I’ve gotten to know each of these people, I’ve been amazed at what I saw.  I know that each and every one of us has to ability to make dreams reality.  I suppose that was one of my greatest discoveries on this trip.  I learned that if we put our minds to it, we can each spark a positive change in this world.  The thing I feel we can all do now, though, is not just dream big.  We can seize those dreams.  We’ve shown that we can work for them.  We can support each other as we fight for what we believe in and as we struggle to make our dreams reality. 

So now I’m not afraid to dream.  In fact, I’m relishing it.  I want to learn, and I never want to stop.  I want to fight for what I believe in, to support those around me, to have compassion and love, to put others before myself, and to encourage others to do the same.  When I get back to WTAMU, the school I love with all my heart, I want to ignite this fire within others as well.  I believe that all of us can unite to enact change.  It may just involve simple things, like befriending someone who has no one to talk to in class, or it may involve fighting the horrific injustice that is occurring to people, just like us, in Sudan and around the world.

Everyone can dream.  What many people often forget, though, is that dreams will always stay just that, dreams, unless we fight to make them reality.  We can all enact change.  We can all fight for good in this world.  It all starts with one person and a single act, and it grows with the support and efforts of those around us.

Wow… I’m so excited to see what we can do when we get back to WT!

~Janelle Gross


I’m not sure what time it is, where we are, or how long it is until we get to Chicago. What I am sure of is that I’m anxious to get home. Being on this trip has been one of the most amazing opportunities of my life. I love Europe, I loved Krakow, Auschwitz was an extremely emotional experience, and Zakopane was beautiful. All the same, there really is no place like home. Now, even though I am a bit homesick, this trip has been wonderful! I had some of the best times I’ve ever had in Poland. The first Friday night we were there, the faculty was gracious enough to trust us to go out with some local Polish (English-speaking) students. We headed to a club that was a 10-minute walk away and proceeded to talk and dance until 9:45 pm – when we had to leave for curfew. Unfortunately, this is usually the time that clubs actually get started, and the students were all extremely interesting, so I know I was sad to leave. In the conversations I had that night (there were several) I was asked about the Presidential race and who I thought would be our next president. I heard the name “Chuck Norris” every time I mentioned that we were from Texas (something that puzzled me at first, but then I remembered – of course, Walker Texas Ranger). I asked someone how they felt about the EU potentially becoming a new “United States of Europe”. And of course, I danced to some hip-hop music that was released when I was in middle school! The following Monday we trekked out to Osweciem to visit Auschwitz. That was a trip that I will never forget. The first day was not what I expected. I always picture Auschwitz-Birkenau when I picture the Holocaust. I didn’t really know much about Auschwitz I. What was so strange was that everything was still standing. The tall red brick buildings housed several different exhibits concerning those who perished. One of the displays that affected me the most was a room that displayed a huge case full of human hair found after the liberation. The fact that it was real made everything else come to life. But the part that really affected me the most was the crematorium. Apparently, this was the only crematorium that survived the liberation, only due to the fact that the German forces had converted into a bomb shelter. Walking into the undressing room and then the small, haunting gas chamber gave me a feeling of such sadness and anger that I sobbed for those lost for the next twenty minutes. Because that day had been so emotionally exhausting, visiting Aushwitz-Birkenau the second day was a very different experience. We were the first to drive up at 8:30 that morning, and it started snowing as we turned the corner. There we were faced with the “Gate of Death”. An image that will forever be linked to the tragedies that occurred there. Walking up into the tower, then through old barracks, then past the destroyed crematoriums, and seeing the red brick chimneys of hundreds of destroyed barracks, I somehow felt very empty inside. I was also almost emotionally detached – feeling like because of the day before, I didn’t think I could cry again. The night before I had just finished the book “I was Dr. Mengele’s Assistant” in which the author related his experiences as a physician working in a crematorium inside Birkenau. Being able to read a first-hand experience about a place and then walk right past it is an extremely surreal feeling. I could picture what had happened there and how that place was enshrouded in evil and death. After it was all over, I wanted to leave that place and find happiness again. Even cracking a smile there had been difficult. It was so cold that most of our teeth were chattering and limbs shaking. Although I know that I will not be able to describe how it felt to be there adequately to anyone else, I know that with my words and pictures I will surely try my best. Luckily not every day was depressing.  A lot of our time was spent in the Rynek Market Square, with horse-pulled carriages, soft snow falling, music playing, street performers, market stalls open, and people milling about. It was a beautiful, beautiful place that has its very own place in my heart. I loved being there and walking from shop to shop, finding good deals (especially since the currency exchange was in our favor!). I loved people-watching, and hearing all the Polish-speaking citizens enjoy this market they had so close to their homes. This trip was amazing and I wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world. It has inspired me to travel abroad and see more of this wonderful world. I am motivated to learn more of my own history and be aware of my surroundings. I am very grateful for the life I lead and wouldn’t change a thing. Again, although my time spent there was great, I am glad to be heading home to my loved ones. It will be nice to have a day to just sit and reflect. My plan is to sleep all day Saturday, and then get some work done on Sunday. I can’t wait to be there!! J

                        -Katie Gustainis


Right now I am sitting next to Adriana and Allison on a plane from Germany to Chicago! I am super excited about going back to Canyon; I thought I would never say that in my life. I must admit, that I already miss Poland. As far as loving Poland, I absolutely love it! I cannot wait to go back someday. Oh yeah, the time right now is 1 in the afternoon in Chicago, but we have been up since 3AM Poland time, which means that in all we’ve been up for too many hours. Oh yeah, we are actually over the Atlantic Ocean right now. I never thought I would be writing in the air in the middle of the ocean!

Yesterday was our last day in Poland; it was one to remember always. We toured Jagiellonian University and then had free time to do whatever we wanted. At 5 in the afternoon we had our last supper in Poland. The food was interesting but very good. We also had cake in honor of Heather and Marisela’s birthday. After we ate we went back to the rooms and had our final meeting. It was so sad, a lot of people were crying. I couldn’t believe that our ten days had passed so quickly. Everyone had something inspiring to say about the trip. I told the group that Monica and I had been talking and wished that we all remain friends after our trip ended. I think most everyone agreed with us. The coolest part of yesterday was the amazing blizzard that hit Krakow in the afternoon right before we met to head to the restaurant. I absolutely wanted to see some snow before we came back to the states. Yesterday overall was a good end to our trip.

Days before we had visited the Tatra Mountains and walked around the small village shopping, eating, and just relaxing. Some of us went up the mountain to witness the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life. It was so pretty and so relaxing.

We visited Auschwitz a few days ago, on Monday and on Tuesday. I really wish I could describe what I saw and felt in a short blog, but I know that I am going to need more time and space to even come close to share my feelings with others. I know that I am so ready to begin my duty as a WT Ambassador and help change our school and people who would like to make a difference in the world just like I do.

Like I said at the meeting, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible. I would also like to thank all the amazing people I had the chance to hang out with in the last week and a half. I cannot wait to hang out with them in Canyon now. Monica and I both agreed that most of us will remain friends until the end of our lives, I really hope so.


Published in: on March 23, 2008 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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