One of the most rewarding things I have done at Presbyterian College is participating in one of our many Maymester programs. At PC, a Maymester is a unique study abroad experience in which you enroll in a course during the spring semester, which meets once or twice a week, and then you go on a trip that relates to the course you took. The travel part of the course takes place in May and lasts for about two weeks. This past spring, I took two courses for my Maymester program, one on the Holocaust and one on religious strife, and then the group of twenty-one students and three professors traveled to Central Europe, visiting Germany, Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic. I was able to relate to my peers and professors on deeper levels than I could have imagined, touring the towns and sharing in experiences that only a Maymester could bring. I got the chance to see a part of the world that I had never visited, but through the unique lens of a PC student. When we went sightseeing, we learned the history and importance of many sites. Some of these sites were grand, such as the cathedral to St. Vitus in Prague and some were grim, such as the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. When we went to our meals, we had diverse options each night and were taught how to say various greetings and salutations in the languages of the places we visited. When we went shopping, we were tasked with making currency conversions and bargaining with the locals, immersing ourselves in the culture rather than simply observing it. While we saw many amazing things, historical landmarks and the like, we also met amazing people with whom we were able to discuss politics and cultural differences, making us more informed citizens of the world.
My friend and fellow traveler, Abby, summed up her experiences saying, “The time I spent with my classmates overseas has given me a completely new outlook on the academic study of history. The things we learn and do in the classroom have real-world consequences, and experiencing history first-hand has opened my eyes to a whole new way of living and learning.”, and I could not agree with her words more. We only spent about two weeks outside of the United States, but I have come home with experiences that will last a lifetime, and I cannot wait to take another trip.