Going abroad gives so many different opportunities to grow and learn as an individual. AIESEC can be a great program to be able to go and live in another country and to fully appreciate the local culture. It also opens you to different countries histories and their perspectives. Usually, tourists or travellers immediately want to go see the beautiful architecture and museums that an area has to offer. One can really learn what has shaped a country from their history and what the country has experienced.
My second AIESEC internship is in Krakow, Poland. The history that has shaped this amazing nation is very difficult and the people have endured a lot of suffering through the years. It was eye-opening to comprehend the different tragedies in Poland’s history. After my first week in Poland, I was invited by one of my new Polish friends to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp outside the city. I had heard it is a difficult experience but it was very important to be able to understand the history of Poland.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp was the largest Nazi death camp during the Holocaust, which was able to hold hundreds of thousands of people over the three different camps that covered hard manual labour, medical experiments and racist extermination. Many Jewish, Polish, Soviet soldiers and gypsies were murdered here from 1940 until 1945 when the camp was finally liberated. It is said that an estimated 1.5 million people were killed during the time this camp was running from various gas chambers and many people also died from starvation, forced labour, disease, shooting squads, and monstrous medical experiments.
This is the most difficult and interesting day of my travels abroad so far. History is always a rich experience where one can see the world differently or comprehend a nation further. Walking onto the death camp that was situated in beautiful rural Poland, it was hard to initially grasp what I was really seeing. Venturing down the same path that many unfortunate souls had to, down to the terrifying buildings that only held pain and fear for these individuals was the most eye-opening moment of my life.
Understanding a truly horrifying moment in world history changes your personal view. I was not honestly aware of the situations of World War II, or at least not fully aware of how people truly suffered at the hands of other humans. Walking through the buildings and I saw all the items that the Nazis had kept after they had murdered millions of people, they kept their clothing, personal belongings and even their hair to sell for clothing and other items. It was emotionally devastating to see all these items and realize they had all belonged to a person that was killed for no other reason than hate—that they died without their dignity and they died in pain.
It is such a terrible time in history but the memory of those who suffered should never be forgotten and as a reminder of what humans are capable of. Travelling abroad has given me more than just beautiful pictures and new friends; it has also changed my personal view of the world. It has changed my previous thoughts about a country and broken down so many barriers in my mind.