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My co-op at Auschwitz

In fall 2016, I embarked on a research co-op that would quite literally change the course of my college career. Through a connection made during a Dialogue of Civilization (a unique Northeastern-run 5-week summer study abroad), I created  a co-op position at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. I spent the next semester in this small, southwestern Polish town, conducting archival research on contemporary antisemitism.

I faced different challenges when I first went abroad, mostly concerning cultural and language barriers. I am frequently asked how I emotionally handled working daily in a place responsible for the death of millions of people. I asked my full-time colleagues all the time and they all said the same thing: it is more important to think about the future given our history – every time we step into the former camp, we contribute to the end of antisemitism and mass atrocities. By the end of my co-op, after developing a greater understanding and appreciation for Poland and Polish culture, these barriers lessened and I was able to make lifelong connections. I am still in contact with many of my co-workers and plan on visiting next summer.

Receiving funds from the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowship, I created an original research proposal to be conducted throughout my time abroad. Traveling throughout Germany and Poland, I had the opportunity to interview leaders in the field of contemporary antisemitism and develop more comprehensive mass atrocity procedures

It has been over a year since I co-oped in Poland – so much has happened since then! After analyzing my conclusions and writing a final paper in the months after returning, my faculty advisors encouraged me to submit my abstract to various international conferences. The result was a European summer trip, presenting at the Stockholm Criminology Symposium and the International Congress on Law in Mental Health in Prague, Czech Republic.

Receiving funds from the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowship, I created an original research proposal to be conducted throughout my time abroad.

I have yet to mention the obstacles throughout my co-op/research process. The majority of my work involved self-motivation, fighting for interviews, and grappling with countless technology casualties. I learned that my curiosity and ambition for continuous learning can be stalled, but never stopped. My desire to study and prevent world conflict has only been reaffirmed and I am ready to make change happen. Over my four years at Northeastern, I have traveled to fifteen countries in three continents and engaged with histories and cultures so different from my own. I am determined to learn as much as possible from history and the people living in its repercussions, and I would not have found this underlying drive had I not chosen to come to Northeastern in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

This blog post was written by Hannah Sattler, a fourth-year Sociology major with minors in Political Science, Urban Studies, and International Affairs. You can contact her at sattler.h@husky.neu.edu.

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