Sometimes history is best taught outside the classroom and, instead, on the battlefields, in the camps and on the shores of where events took place.
World War II came alive for 17 Carthage College students in June on an approximately two-week trip through several European countries led by Eric Pullin, assistant professor of history and Asian studies at Carthage College.
The trip, which Pullin said focused on “learning, learning, learning and exposure to new things,” counted as the World War II course Pullin also teaches in the classroom at Carthage.
Nicholas Weir, a senior studying history, said he has been interested in World War II for years.
“I got to see the actual terrain people fought in, and see the way that Western Europe was dramatically changed by the war,” said the 21-year-old Racine resident in an email.
The Carthage students, who are pursuing a variety of majors, were accompanied by 17 students from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. The group spent the days following the 70th anniversary of the storming of Normandy’s beaches in the French city, Pullin said.
“No one got to storm the beaches, but we went right from the town to where the British embarked and we disembarked where the British hit the beaches,” he said.
Another highlight of the trip was visiting a former concentration camp, the assistant professor added.
“I was genuinely impressed with ... the seriousness, the maturity that the students brought with them going to the camp and carried with them when they left the camp,” Pullin said of the experience.
Students visited cemeteries of the fallen, talked to veterans and toured many museums as well, Weir said.
“The lines and lines of gravestones are silent reminders that war and hatred kill people,” Weir said. “Seeing those places in person will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
“It really brought home the human cost of the war,” Pullin said.
Weir said he would recommend the trip for future students and was grateful he was able to go on the trip.
“I don’t know if I could ever properly understand exactly what it was like to be a person in a world war, but this trip brought me closer to understanding it (more) than anything I have done before,” he said.
The trip was one of numerous short-term study-abroad programs offered through Carthage, Pullin said.
According to Carthage’s study abroad Web page, the college is ranked sixth in the nation among baccalaureate institutions for students participating in short-term study-abroad programs.