One of the chief advantages of the size and flexibility of the History major at Bethel is that it’s easy to study abroad without enormously complicating the four-year plan. Indeed, we encourage every one of our students, if at all possible, to get off-campus for a semester (or to take a J-term trip like the one we’ll be leading next January). Today we’ll showcase another Bethel History major who’s currently studying in Europe: Nic Carlson (’13), who is wrapping up a semester in Prague, Czech Republic.
How’d you decide to major in History? Was it something you knew you wanted to study when you started college, or did you choose it later on?
It wasn’t until I came to Bethel that I had any idea what I wanted to do with myself and still have my doubts going into senior year, but I realized how important history is to understanding our world today. It is what creates who we are and helps us define who we will not be. History is what helps me learn the easy way instead of having to go through what someone else already has.
When’d you first think about studying abroad? How did you pick your destination? (If you had the chance to do a second semester abroad, where would you go?)
I first thought about studying abroad during my tour at Bethel during high school. I picked Prague because it seemed like a place near so many beautiful cities in Europe. I was right: Vienna, Salzburg, Krakow, Berlin, and of course Prague itself. I would go back in a heartbeat.
If I had a chance to do a second semester abroad, I would probably choose a country further east, maybe Russia. The area’s history is so unique, with a lot I haven’t learned about before. The people in East Central Europe generally love to share their culture with you, and have a lot to share.
What’s been most enjoyable about your experience abroad? Most challenging?
I have loved the easy travelling, with and without friends. My favorite trip was visiting my family in Norway. I had a chance to grab a cheap flight and track down documents with my family’s genealogy back to 16th century!
Although I have enjoyed Prague thoroughly, it has been the most spiritually challenging, yet rewarding I have experienced. My personal walk with Christ has been tested here, but I have never felt closer to God.
How has studying abroad broadened or deepened your understanding of history?
I have learned so much through travelling. I learned about the Habsburg Empire, and it is amazing to look out the window of the classroom to see what you are learning about. It was also amazing to travel and to see the places I had been learning about in class! Literally right out of my classroom window, I can see where the Thirty Years War began. My school is also a two-minute walk from where Jan Hus was burned at the stake, where Nazi Germany claimed control over Czechoslovakia during WWII, where so much of history has taken place.
I have been able to go to concert halls that famous composers have played in for centuries, seen the home of Bach, stood on great European battlefields, and experienced the silence of Auschwitz. What you learn here is an experience of a lifetime, and I would recommend it to everyone would like an adventure.