World War I Journal: Battlefields

Our World War I group is more than halfway through its J-term in Europe. As we continue our stay in Paris, we’re all still thinking about our four days at Ypres, the Somme, and Normandy, three of the most important battlefields of the 20th century.

Here I’m happy to share two reflections written by Graphic Design/Studio Art major Anna Solomon during that stage of the trip. She started by thinking about the first stop on our Ypres tour: the British cemetery at Essex Farm, where a Canadian doctor named John McCrae wrote one of the most famous poems of WWI. Then Anna reexamined her impressions of the First World War after seeing sites from the Second.

London’s Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge, London. All photos in this post by Anna Solomon – used by permission

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 – Going from the bustling metropolis of London with its energy, charm, fun, comfort, weather, and familiarity to Ypres was a meaningful experience. Ypres is quiet, solemn, open, quaint, moving (emotionally), cold… and home to some of the most remarkable experiences of the trip. Seeing where “In Flanders Fields” was written was humbling. I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the gravitas of these places. I feel like I want to cry (I kind of have a few times), but that’s good because it means it’s important. Even though my great-grandfather was the one to fight here and not me, these sites are giving me a connection with a war I never fought and a man not even my grandfather knew.

Essex Farm was also impactful because we saw workers [from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission] maintaining the graves. Seeing them serving and interacting with the site in that way was striking. Watching them tend the grounds they seemed like gardeners of honor and ghosts of the past. The war still means so much to them, as does the conservation of these sites and of the sacrifices of the past. Here history walks the grounds and shakes me to my core.

Grave of an unknown WWI soldier

Saturday, January 12, 2019 – …at the WWI sites I felt distraught and bitter about the war. My great-grandfather’s dog tags and victory medal felt impossibly heavy on my mind and in my pockets. My eyes would tear up thinking of how brutal and awful a war it was. The WWII sites at Normandy, however, felt different, and it quite frankly made me ponder why I felt that way. At the beaches and bunkers I felt excited… maybe because this seemed like a place and a war where Americans were heroes, the good guys; we were victorious. In movies and TV shows I’ve heard about these events, and it’s exhilarating to be in the place where they happened. The feeling of this being a glorious war swiftly faded upon contemplation. What horrors were seen and committed here… how many lives were lost here… what a different world this would have been to live in and through… what a haunting legacy.

Arromanches home, with Gold Beach in the distance
Arromanches-les-Bains, France… with remnants of the temporary “Mulberry harbour” on what used to be Gold Beach

On Wednesday we’ll take the train to Munich, where we’ll conclude our trip by studying some of the most important legacies of the First World War: the rise of National Socialism, the start of a second world war, and the radical evil of the Holocaust. Look for a final set of student reflections next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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World War I Journal: London

Today our World War I group will head to Oxford to learn about the world wars as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis experienced and interpreted them. Meanwhile, we thought we’d share a few student responses from our first days in London, as they reflect on some of the commemorative sites we’ve visited.


“The memorial that I found most interesting was Trafalgar Square because it hit me the most in terms of generating empathy… if I had been there in 1914, I would have joined the war, too. The monuments to past generals, admirals, and war heroes inspired me, and I am not even English. I would have… wanted to be remembered in history as a part of them.” (Drew Davis, senior Business major)

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square, still a gathering place for Londoners – All photos Chris Gehrz

After going to multiple memorial sites, I found the one most memorable to be the Women of WWII memorial… The monument itself is stuck right in the middle of the road, which you’d think would grab the attention of the drivers who go past it. But it seems like it’s part of their daily routine. I love how tall it was and how it was solid. It serves as a constant reminder of the women who stepped up in the war effort to preserve the life that was still going on at home. I also like how the clothes represented different roles, which showed the diversity of the women who served.” (Laura Dahlquist, senior Nursing major)

The Women of World War II memorial in Whitehall, London

For me the most interesting memorial was Australia’s… due to my lack of knowledge of Australia’s involvement in the wars. I was really amazed by the simple beauty of the wall, and by how many people had died… Their sacrifices in the wars were interesting due to their location… Their involvement and the number of battles show that the wars was appealing universally. Not just for Europeans, but to others around the world. A chance to prove oneself or to prove a country’s capabilities…” (Logan Olson, senior History/Political Science major)

Australian war memorial in Hyde Park Corner, London
The Australian War Memorial is one of four WWI memorials in Hyde Park Corner, joining memorials for New Zealand, the artillery, and the machine gun corps

On Wednesday we’ll start our tour of WWI (Flanders, The Somme) and WWII (Normandy) battlefields. Come back here next week to read some student reflections on that portion of our tour.

How to Follow Our 2019 World War I Trip

This afternoon Prof. Mulberry and I will fly to London with 23 Bethel students for the fourth iteration of our HIS230L World War I travel course.

Map showing sites on the Bethel WWI travel course for January 2019

As usual, we’ll start with eight days in London and Oxford, then cross the English Channel for our battlefield tour — this year including a day at Normandy to start making connections between the two world wars. We’ll finish with four days in Paris and five in Munich before heading home.

If you want to follow along with our journeys, we’ll be sharing photos on our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages, or you can look for the hashtags #BethelWWI and #BethelAbroad. We might even blog a bit from the road, as students reflect on sites they visit and primary sources they read.

Please pray that we’ll all have safe travels and transformative experiences as we delve into the history of a war that ended a century ago last month.

Studying Abroad… at Sea

Today we’re happy to revive our occasional series featuring students who have spent a semester abroad. Christina Sibileva ’18 is a Social Studies Education 5-12 major and History minor; she was kind enough to answer some questions about her experience of the unique Semester at Sea program.

How’d you decide to major in Social Studies Ed? Was it something you knew you wanted to study when you started college, or did you choose it later on?

As a freshman at Bethel, I knew I wanted to pursue a major that allowed me to work with people. During my first two semesters, I believed the way I would work with people would be in the medical field. Through trial and error of the science courses at Bethel, I realized at the end of my first year that the medical field was not for me. In the summer before sophomore year I was flipping through the Bethel catalog for a new major and found myself intrigued by the courses offered in a Social Studies Education 5-12 major. As I began my first semester of the sophomore year with a completely different course load, I realized my skills and interests lined up quite nicely with the courses being offered in my major. I began feeling confident in my ability to grow within my field and step into a career path that allows me to be challenged by learning every day. The social sciences within my major correspond well with the way I perceive elements in life and allow abstract thoughts to mingle with concrete thoughts in terms of history, geography, and the other various topics in Social Studies.

Likewise, what sparked your interest in spending a semester off-campus? Was it hard to fit that kind of program into the Social Studies Ed major?

There were days where I looked outside at the snowy campus of Bethel and found myself regretting choosing a college with a limited climate range. One day I was informed of a program called Semester at Sea, and later on, I saw some peers were currently on the study abroad program, which allowed me to commit to seeing how I could spend a semester off-campus. Due to discovering about the program well into my second semester of sophomore year there were hurdles to jump through in order to fit the program into my schedule. Fortunately, my advisor was willing and able to work with me to ensure the courses I needed would work with my major on the study abroad program and also to ensure I took required courses at Bethel in different semesters than my semester off-campus. The biggest hurdle to face is running into courses that are taught in certain semesters either in the fall or spring, but working with my advisor and registrar allowed me to create a unique schedule to fit all the pieces in and still be on track for graduation.

Christina Sibileva on the Semester at Sea ship
Christina in her usual classroom during Semester at Sea
You picked a particularly distinctive experience. Can you just tell us a bit about Semester at Sea, how you heard about it, and why you went with that option?

Looking at the website alone for Semester at Sea gave me enough insight on wanting to pursue the program. The images on the website include a shipboard community where students live on a ship as their campus and take classes there as well. The locations the program can take you is another reason I became committed to pursuing the program right away. Scrolling through the list of destinations in Asian and African countries allowed me to realize this is a program that can provide me a unique learning experience. I can honestly say I was sold right away with the program because there was something that simply felt right about it, similar to my major choice. 

[See also our earlier interview with Meloni Rudolph ’94, who worked for Semester at Sea as a student life staff member.]

What were the most formative aspects of that semester? Any particularly evocative memories of the places and people you visited?

The shipboard community stands out. There were 600 students from various parts of the world embarking on this journey together to study abroad and learn through a broad range of experiences. Within this community, there were unique conversations that occurred allowing each community member to share experiences from the study abroad program, or learn from one another through sharing each person’s story. The community allowed a space to process each experience, learn from one another, and feel refreshed to collect more experiences and memories in each new day that came.

Along the journey, the experiences that stood out the most include taking a seat in a foreign country on a bench and soaking in the new surroundings. With each day there was something new to stimulate your senses, whether that was a new language or culture, climate or season, as we were circumnavigating the globe. I especially remember trekking through Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in various forms of transportation to have an opportunity to take a tour of the Mekong River Delta. Seeing how local communities live and rely on the river was eye-opening and breathtaking. I was able to catch a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals in that specific region and I find myself in awe of the transformative capacity of such an experience.

Mekong River Delta
The Mekong Delta in Vietnam – photos courtesy Christina Sibileva
How did studying abroad broaden or deepen your understanding of history, or shape how you’re going to approach education?

Through this experience I found myself being able to interact with history in a new format that was unattainable at Bethel. Courses in my program were taught by faculty who have lived and experienced cross-cultural historical events or provided insight on how they learned about various elements of history.

Through visiting various countries and being able to explore classrooms in Asian and African countries, I was able to interact with students and teachers about their educational systems specific to their country. One moment from India that stands out was interacting with those students in the classroom about how much they love to learn. I was really intrigued by the passion for education within various classrooms I visited because these students shared similar passions with me. Despite language barriers and varying cultural values; our shared passion to seek and pursue knowledge through education became common ground. The students I met in these various Asian and African cultures showed me how much they wanted to learn from me and made me realize one important reason I want to be a teacher: how much I wanted to learn from them. I discovered my own passion for becoming a global citizen and bringing pieces of who I am, what I have learned, and what I desire to learn into the classroom to inspire my students to become global citizens. Semester at Sea inspired me to continue seeking these moments of being able to learn from students and families abroad simultaneously as I am able to teach students about the places I have been, the places I am going, and connect curriculum to these stories.

<<Read the previous entry in the series

Student Presentation on Living in Uganda

Please join us next Thursday (March 29th, 11:15am) in the Bethel University Library for a presentation by junior Social Studies Education major Rachel Land, “Uganda: Learning to Live, Love, and Find a Home Outside My Comfort Zone.”

Rachel Land '19 during her stay in Uganda

Part of the Global Perspectives of Students series sponsored by the Office of Off-Campus Studies, Rachel’s presentation will cover her experience in Uganda and Rwanda, and “address the changes she experienced in her faith and worldview, her new-found understanding of community, her experience with reverse culture shock, and many other aspects of her time abroad.”

Learn More about Our January 2019 World War I Trip to Europe

Interim 2018 is barely in our rear view mirror, but it’s time to start thinking about January 2019… when Prof. Mulberry and I will take our fourth group of Bethel students to Europe for the travel course HIS230L World War I!

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Here’s the course description:

An experiential study of the history of the First World War built around travel in England, Belgium, France, and Germany, including visits to battlefield sites, cemeteries, memorials, and museums. Students will learn what it was like to experience and remember total war and to appreciate this particular conflict’s larger significance for American and European culture.

The itinerary is still taking shape, but will roughly follow this schedule:

  • Depart MSP: Dec. 31, 2018
  • Stay in London (with a day trip to Oxford): Jan. 1-8
  • Battlefield tour of the Western Front and Normandy: Jan. 9-12
  • Stay in Paris (with a day trip to Versailles): Jan. 13-15
  • Stay in Munich (with a day trip to Dachau): Jan. 16-20
  • Return to MSP: Jan. 21, 2019

Yes, this year we’re cutting a day out of our stay in Paris in order to extend the battlefield tour to include some sites from the Second World War. It’s a topic we’ve always touched on — especially during our last leg in Munich — but wanted to expand a bit as we mark the 100th anniversary of the peace conference that ended WWI and started the clock ticking on WWII. (It’s also a chance to preview my actual WWII class — HIS231L — next offered in Spring 2019. On campus, that is.)

Current students: if you’re interested in joining the trip, here’s how you can learn more.

  • Find our course page on the new Bethel Study Abroad website
  • Stop by our booth at the annual Interim Abroad Fair: Wednesday, March 28, 11am-2pm in the BC Atrium.
  • Attend our first informational session: Tuesday, April 10, 11:15am-noon in CLC 109.

And you can read reflections from students on the 2017, 2015, and 2013 trips here at AC 2nd.

The Significance of Public Memory

Yesterday Prof. Gehrz joined Art professors Michelle Westmark Wingard and Ken Steinbach for a conversation about memorials and monuments moderated by Bethel digital librarian Kent Gerber. Entitled “The Significance of Public Memory,” it covered everything from debates over Confederate memorials and the memory of the U.S.-Dakota War to examples of European memorials from our World War I trip (coming again in January 2019).

You can watch it at YouTube:

A J-Term Photo Essay: WWI in Europe

Today we’re happy to share a photo essay by History major and department TA Connor Larson ’17, who spent Interim in Europe with Profs. Gehrz and Mulberry and nineteen other Bethel students. 

The J-term trip through Europe studying World War I and its effects on society and culture was a resounding success. Here is a glimpse at some of what we did.

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The trip began with a layover in Iceland. Unfortunately that layover consisted of a brisk walk to the next flight.

England: Jan. 3-11

Upon arriving in London and passing through customs we quickly unloaded our luggage at the lovely Wombats Hostel and began our journey.

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Although jet-lagged and disoriented the walking tour went well, fast-walking tour guide and all.

One of the amazing things about London is the vast amount of memorials and monuments for the numerous wars and events the country has been involved in throughout its history. Luckily for us that means there was no shortage of WWI-era memorials to examine.

For many of the memorials visited in London the students gave lessons on the importance of the memorial and influence of those honored both in the war and in the years after.

One of the highlights for many on the trip was a visit to the Imperial War Museum, and it was an experience many would never forget.

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Imperial War Museum

 

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Donavan Heide ’17, Accounting and Finance major and History minor, gives a lecture on the creation of the IWM

Our trip, while grounded in the First World War, spent an equal amount of time on the impact of war on society by looking at the arts (primarily fine art and poetry). Art and war are deeply connected, and through our museum visits we were able to see how the war affected society in a way that books and artifacts rarely have an ability to portray. I am omitting photos of this portion of the trip because I believe the impact of what we read and saw would be reduced in such a degree where it would be a disservice to attempt recreating it here.

On our free day many of us went and stormed Dover Castle. Here is our journey.

All joking aside, it was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to learn about both medieval and modern history, as the castle and town played an important role in both World Wars.

To wrap up our time in England here are some more photos that are neither educational nor related to World War I.

Belgium & Northern France: Jan. 11-13

The few days spent exploring the front lines of the war were the climax of the trip for most, if not all, of us. Despite our enthusiasm none of us were ready for the emotional toll this portion of the trip would have on us. Reading about casualties and statistics pales in comparison to seeing the hundreds of grave sites scattered around Belgium and Northern France, let alone the front lines throughout the rest of Europe. Here, for example, are some photos from the former military hospital near Poperinge, Belgium.

Langemark was the first German cemetery we visited. Where American deceased were sent back to the states and British troops given individual graves in the field where they fell, German soldiers were given a much different burial. German soldiers were soldiers for their fatherland first, individuals second. Individual graves were time consuming and costly to the war effort, meaning that mass graves were common behind the German front lines. This is not reducing the individual to nothing but rather putting the state in front of oneself, an important distinction to make.

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The central open area is a mass grave of 30,000 soldiers. The names of each soldier etched on the tablets seen above.
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Each gravestone represents 5,000 German soldiers.

As we went from one grave site to another many of us had trouble fighting off the inevitable desensitizing nature of witnessing the aftermath of so many lives. As difficult as it was to witness the amount of lives lost we would rather feel that weight than have those emotions watered down in the face of incomprehensible numbers.

We visited various memorials during our time in Belgium and Northern France as well, including one honoring the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in the war, specifically at Vimy Ridge.

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Along with the beautiful memorial pictured above, the Canadian government, when given the choice to do with this land what they wished, opted to preserve the landscape, keeping it in the same condition as it was immediately after the war. The only changes were in trees that had been transplanted and grass that has been grown there.

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Here we see a man outstanding in his field.

We were given the opportunity to walk through recreated trenches at Vimy Ridge, giving a feeling for the distance one would have had between the enemy and themselves.

While we visited numerous other memorials and cemeteries in our time we had to move on, visiting somewhere completely different, both physically and mentally.

Paris, France: Jan. 13-18

To say that Paris was a shock after travelling the French and Belgium countryside for the past few days would be an understatement. On top of the new city and transportation system to learn, we struggled with a language barrier, general travel fatigue, and the mental drain of visiting and seeing all that we had in the past few days.

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A chilled sunrise over Paris.

Much like our time in London, Paris occupied our time with walking tours of famous monuments and visiting various museums located throughout the city. Our museum and transit passes (included in the trip) filled our stay with fine art and exploration.

Yet again, not all of our time was devoted to the history of Europe. Much of our time was also spent enjoying the city.

There is one last thing that we did which has a special place in the hearts of everyone who was on this trip: The Handball Tournament.

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Both Dr. Gehrz and Prof. Mulberry mentioned this optional outing while we were touring Belgium and Northern France. After everyone decided to go, they feared that an overstatement was made in how great it would be. If their visions of grandeur were anything, it would be understated. Handball is easily one of the most fun sports to watch, and although the stadium was mostly empty we certainly made enough noise for everyone who was absent.

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We had no ties to either team playing, confusing those around us as we cheered for everything that happened. Many came out without a voice and the events that went down in that stadium will never be forgotten.

Munich, Germany: Jan. 18-23

If one thing prepared us for coming home during our last week in Europe it was the weather. Munich was by far the coldest location we visited, although not as cold as the Twin Cities while we were away. Our standard walking tour, while cold and windy, gave our tired feet a brief respite; snow is much softer to walk on than cement.

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Obligatory walking tour photo

Despite the weather Munich was a beautiful way to end our time in Europe. The food was delicious and cheap, people were nice (generally speaking), and our free day was a blast. Many of us decided to take a train to Salzburg, Austria and witness hills alive with the sound of music (spoiler alert; the hills were, unfortunately, not alive regardless of the state of music in said hills). We explored yet another castle and came closer to grasping the true meaning of the term “winter wonderland.”

As the trip progressed my photography effort declined due to a combination of fatigue, overload, and a desire to be more fully enveloped in the experiences of the trip. As great as documenting a journey such as this can be you end up focusing more on getting the right shot rather than enjoying the right moments. There is a balance that I have yet to discover, but for now I am glad I can look back at everything we had been through and all that we had learned.

The flight home seemed to take twice as long as the journey taken a few weeks prior. As with all ends to great adventures the homecoming was bittersweet. I think we all were glad to be home, thankful for the experience, and sad to have it be over. I hope that as many people as possible get the chance to travel and expand their thoughts and horizons, and this trip was a great opportunity to do just that. We were able to learn more about ourselves, new cultures, and a pivotal moment in history that affected nearly every nation in the world.

HIS230L group at MSP airport

Coming to Bethel in Fall 2016: Prof. Charlie Goldberg!

Charlie GoldbergToday we’re very happy to introduce Prof. Charlie Goldberg, who will join our faculty starting this fall!

A native of Buffalo, MN who graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Charlie is about to finish his doctorate in Roman history at Syracuse University. His research explores the intersection of politics and gender in the Roman Republic, with a particular interest in Roman ideals of masculinity.

In our department Charlie will regularly teach HIS311 Roman Civilization, as well as HIS310 Near Eastern and Greek Civilizations and HIS312 Medieval Europe. He’ll also become the newest member of the teaching team for GES130 Christianity and Western Culture. Response to Charlie’s teaching demonstration was overwhelmingly positive, with one student describing him as “incredibly engaging and personable…. You can really tell he enjoys what he does.”

In addition to teaching ancient and medieval history, Charlie will work with faculty and staff from across the College of Arts and Sciences to help develop an exciting new major in the Digital Humanities (DH). As coordinator of that program and instructor of new DH courses, Charlie will draw on his work experience with a software startup and what one English professor who met him on his campus visit called his “entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to helping facilitate cross-departmental learning…. Just as Charlie is a ‘digital native,’ he also seems to be a ‘collaborative native.'”

You can hear Charlie reflect on the role that digitization plays in his own discipline and field at the end of this extended interview, in which he also talks about the importance of a study abroad experience in fixing his desire to study ancient history.

Please join us in congratulating Charlie, and welcoming him to Bethel.

Learn About Our January 2017 World War I Travel Course!

In January 2017 our own Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz will again take Bethel students to Europe for a three-week travel course, HIS230L World War I. It’s an especially good time to take this trip — not only is Europe in the middle of its ongoing centenary commemoration of the war (1914-1918), but 2017 also marks the 100th anniversaries of the U.S. entering the war and Russia undergoing its famous revolution, so we’ll no doubt see some special exhibits along the way.

If you’re a current student and would like to learn more, we have two events coming up in early April:

First, we’ll have a table at the 2017 Interim Abroad Fair — Wednesday, April 6th, 11am-2pm in the Brushaber Commons Atrium. Sam and Chris will be there, and perhaps some of the students from the 2015 trip.

Then we’ll have an information session about the class on Tuesday, April 12, 10:20-11:00am in CLC 109. Chris and Sam will explain the details of the trip in more detail, including the cost (tentatively set at $3,799 — lower than in the past thanks to a favorable exchange rate and more reasonable air fare.)

If you can’t wait till April, you can click through to see a day-by-day digital preview of the three-week trip — featuring video, photos, and student comments from the 2013 and 2015 courses.