2017 Study Abroad Essay 1 Sarah Robinson

By Sarah Robinson

My expectations and concerns about studying abroad in Poland have only been constructed on a limited amount of knowledge. Knowledge has been obtained from limited sources that do not provide firsthand experience, these sources include but are not limited to discussion, research, and documentaries. While my expectations for studying abroad in Poland is to gain personal experience in the culture, international travels and the history my concerns are the manors in which these experiences are obtained.

International travels are expected to be accompanied by distinct pros and cons. Expectations for international travels include language barriers, different mannerisms, and distinct cuisine unique to that specific area. Perceptions of typical American attitudes lead to many of the concerns that I am hoping to be largely false tales. Acknowledging that these misconceptions derive from incidents, these concerns are actual factors. Concerns for international travels include a vast array of subjects, from minor thefts, to kidnappings, and to major incidents like political unease and terrorist attacks. These specific concerns correlate with a class that I just finished, Weapons of Mass Destruction. In this class, we primarily discussed the definition of a weapon, and the definition of mass destruction, as understanding this principle was the foundation for the class. This class often found itself discussing current political events and the catastrophic consequences that could unfold because of them. We also looked at examples of weapons and mass destruction in a historical context to gain perspective on how similar events could unfold or be prevented. From looking at these examples of terror inflicted on the world certain characteristics become prevalent and realistic actualities. However, these expectations and concerns are likely a part of the culture that I am accustom to.

Culture is a learned behavior that is varies upon multiple factors including geographic location, religion, and the past. Being from America I feel as though we are taught to not view the world as an equal. Expectations for the culture of Poland is formed on a second-hand experience passed from mentors and professors. I fully expect different meanings for gestures, unique food, a predominantly catholic religion, but a welcoming culture and people whom will be just as eager to learn about me as I am about them. Concerns for the differences in culture are mainly focused around the idea that there will likely be miscommunication errors. In another class that I just recently completed, Comparative Politics, the cultures of the world were analyzed and contrasted. This class enabled the thought process to occur that different parts of the world encase certain and often distinct practices for a reason. In the analysis and contrast of European and Russian cultures compared to the American culture it is obvious that different practices will be common. Much of the preconceptions that have been formed about the culture can also correlate to the history that had been written about Poland.

The history of any area is spread throughout the world and perceived through fogged eyes, as it is hard to understand or interpret an event or custom when you yourself are likely not involved, affected, or able to obtain similar perspective. In my historical methods class, we were taught that being a historian you must consider multiple factors when history is being written, read, and taught. These factors include how to immerse yourself so that you can understand the history from the perspective of those whom were experiencing it, considering the historical context (why what this history written and by whom), and finally how can this particular part of history be magnified or diffused to engage itself into a bigger or smaller part of history. Poland has a rich history that is often trampled by more recent events of the second world war. My expectations are to gain a more extensive knowledge of the history of Poland. My concerns are that this history will be focused on the twentieth century, as this is where it appears that a majority of the Poland’s history is focused on by historians and I would like to dig deeper perhaps into the medieval time period. The history of Poland will provide a window into other historical contexts, methodologies, and historic events.

While I feel like I am allowing myself to have high expectations and relatively low amount of concerns the actualization is unknown. I am eager to step off of the plane and become an official international traveler, emerge myself in a new and interesting culture, and learn about the history that the people of Poland are familiar with. While I am confident that each of these things will be accomplished, I will be cautious of the concerns that I have formed prior to my travels.

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