My biggest piece of advice when studying with IES Abroad is signing up for any and all excursions offered. It's an amazing opportunity to see more of France without worrying about finding it on your own. Plus it's all covered in what you have already paid so why not take a weekend of prepaid tours and food? So far my favorite trip has been our overnight trip to Normandy. It's hard for me to describe just how special this experience was, but for the sake of the blog I'm going to try my best. It was a highly emotional and humbling experience that I know I'm going to take with me. I've always felt like I learned a lot about the World Wars throughout my educational career. It was a subject that was repeated over and over in history classes starting in elementary school and up until college history courses. It’s true that we had increasingly gone a little bit more into depth as we got older, but not nearly as in depth as I seemed to learn in two days of visiting museums in Normandy.
In the states, I would say that we learn the history of our country more than anything with brief bits of information for other countries. This makes sense because we as humans tend to look at things through our convenient scope of culture, so in history classes in America taught by Americans, it is no surprise that American will always be the main focus. The world has been around for a long time so of course there’s far too much history for any person to learn everything about everything. Topics have to be narrowed down to what is most "important" for everyone to know. WWII is, of course, something we learn a lot about. I have never been particularly good with history and even I could talk about WWII so obviously, it is ingrained into our minds through education. We learn about the holocaust and Nazi rule over most of Europe through historical references and reading novels. We learn a lot of information about the big events of the war and all of the accomplishments American made to help or how life was for the wartime efforts back home. But some are events skimmed over more quickly, I'm assuming because it isn’t as relevant to our country.
Apart from Hawaii, the states weren’t really touched and affected in the same drastic ways as a country like France was during WWII. We did have some struggles to help the war, but we weren’t occupied by Nazis. We Didn’t have german soldiers walking through our streets
and being a part of our daily lives in that way. It’s hard for us as Americans to imagine that and relate to what the constant fear could have felt like. The French had to adapt to this. They had to figure out how to go on and continue living their lives. This absolutely amazed me that I had never thought about that before.
As I was walking through these museums we visited over the weekend, I couldn’t help but keep this thought in the back of my head. What life would have been like. How recent that all this was. My host siblings grandparents could have been alive during the war and experienced the Nazi rule. That would have to affect the family in some way or another. The way other countries learn about historical events like a world war is going to be different from how we do in the states. It’s crazy to think that although we share this history, we see it from two different sets of eyes.
Our last stop of the trip was to the American cemetery which was a shock to me to see just how many American soldiers gave their lives to help another country's safety. It leaves me in awe to think about how terrible and terrifying war can be, but these amazing citizen from all different countries come together to help for the greater good of our world. We walked through this massive cemetery and learned about some of the most famous men and women as well as some that were connected with past students in the IES Abroad Paris program.
Being in Normandy and walking on the beaches where our countries mutual history was made was something amazing that I couldn't explain without babbling and making no coherent sense. It was a perfect time to slow down, reflect, and put my toes in the ocean again. Our night in Normandy is going to stay as one of my most cherished memories from this semester. Even just being with other IES Abroad friends, walking along the ocean late at night and talking about life was so great because in Paris we all live in such separate places it's hard to all get together and connect like we did. I really loved my experience in Normandy and I think I would have regretted not going. 10/10 would recommend.