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February 11, 2011

Berlin study abroad trip a historical highlight for ULM students

A group of University of Louisiana at Monroe students and several others joined Elle Walker, ULM history instructor and Study Abroad coordinator, for an educational trip to Berlin during ULM's Wintersession.

The trip began with a brief historical intro and walk to major historical landmarks including the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag.

Participants were also taught how to use Berlin's underground public transportation system.

Students visited the Wannsee Villa, where the final decision leading to the death of millions of Jews was made, and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, one of the first camps built before World War II and a prototype for other concentration camps.

"It was much colder inside Sachsenhausen than outside the camp," said Carol Toler, a participant who joined the students and Walker for the trip.

Berlin's many palaces, including Sansouci, Cecilienhof and Schloss Charlottenburg Palaces, were also on the students' itinerary.

"Sansouci, a French term that translates 'without cares,' was built in the late 18th century by Frederick the Great," explained Walker. "Cecilienhof Palace is the newest, dating back only one century, but historically it might be the most significant."

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof Palace at the end of World War II and was where President Truman made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan.

Frederick III built Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest palace in Berlin, in the late 17th century for his wife Sophie Charlotte to rival Versailles Palace in Paris.

Some students and faculty also visited the town of Wittenberg, the residence of Protestant reformer Martin Luther and location of Castle Church, where he posted his 95 theses and forever altered the historical path of Christianity.

This is the fifth trip Walker has directed on behalf of the ULM History Department and her student organization. Previous excursions have included Egypt, France, Greece and England.

The excursion consisted of 11 ULM students, two ULM professors and two participants from Atlanta. Walker plans tours to foreign locations at least once per year.

"There is only so much that students can grasp in the classroom," she said. "Experiencing other cultures firsthand is the cure for ignorance."

Walker said some ULM students take the trip for course credit, while other students and members of the community go just for the experience. "Everyone who goes walks away with a history lesson, whether they intended to or not," Walker concluded.


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