Goodbye, USA; Hello, Europe!

One of my biggest regrets that I have from my (almost!) thirty years, is that I didn’t take advantage of studying abroad during my undergrad. I have told myself throughout the last few years that one day I would go on an extended trip to Europe, and I also told myself that I would MAKE SURE that ALL of my children spent a summer studying abroad during college.

The problem with this mindset….is that it is all set in the future. And one thing that I have really come to realize, especially in the last two years, is that life is so unpredictable. You can have big plans that you truly do intend to execute, yet then life happens, and that extended European vacay gets pushed back to the next summer… and then to the next… and then to the next.

Kids? Yea, I want them. Eventually. But not now. And gosh, why am I thinking about my non-existing children’s’ college study abroad program? I am the one that is currently back in graduate school. I am the one on a college campus. I am the one who is single, no kids, and no “real” job. (FACT: graduate school is 100% a full-time job. And when you add part-time jobs (plural if you didn’t notice), family time, keep a health and fitness routine, plus a social life, you are PUSHED to the MAX. So to those that think graduate students have it easy…. just, think again.)

So what is keeping me from going and doing the one thing I truly regret not doing?

The answer: ME. I was keeping myself from going and pursuing my dreams.

Over New Year’s Eve of 2016, I had the ultimate pleasure of becoming acquainted with my best friend’s grandmother-in-law, Hana. Hana is from Łódź, Poland, born in 1929, emigrated to the United States in 1959, and then settled in Beverly Hills, California.

Hana is also a survivor of the Łódź Ghetto as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her testimony of survival is amazing, and I consider myself very lucky that I have been able to develop a personal relationship with her.

As a twentieth century, graduate student of history, I had to present a topic and thesis to write about. Hana became my focus while the overall theme is Post-Holocaust Memory in the U.S.: Changing the Way We Study the Holocaust through Hana’s Story.

I spent time with Hana, flying out from New Orleans to Beverly Hills. I spent long hours interviewing her, as well as visiting museums dedicated to the Holocaust in LA. But I needed more. It was important, if not imperative, that I came to Europe to continue my research on the Holocaust, and lucky me again, because of my (now) occasional employment at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, I have had the pleasure of meeting many historians and award-winning authors such as Dr. Alexandra Richie. A professor at a private university in Warsaw, Poland, Collegium Civitas, Dr. Richie encouraged me to come and study in Warsaw.

I applied, I was accepted, and I was even offered an internship at the POLIN Museum due to my museum studies and current work. POLIN tells the thousand-year story of Polish Jews, and was recently chosen as the recipient for the European Museum of the Year award for 2016.

Before leaving for New Orleans, I spent a couple of days in my hometown of West Monroe for Mother’s Day and to say goodbye to my family. This was the hardest part for me. Before I left West Monroe, I sat in my dad’s lap with his big arms around me, and he prayed for saftey, guidance, and wisdom. My sweet mom couldn’t keep the tears back, and it broke my heart to see my parents so worried and so sad to see me leave. My oldest brother Joe repeatedly told me to be careful, hugging me long and hard. Zach, in typical fashion, told me “Bye. Love you. Come home.” and left the office. Anna, my little sister and best friend, was quiet, standing next to me the entire time.

I said my “I love you’s” and many “byes”….

And then we end up going to Red Lobster as a family for one last family meal! After the meal, I had to run to Ulta, and as I was walking out the store, I saw my dad’s truck pull in, followed by Joe’s, and then Zach’s. So once more, we prayed, said our goodbyes, shed some tears, and took some selfies. All in the Ulta parking lot.

See Zach’s hilarious selfie and insta post; that caption! I am still laughing! Cłick here: https://instagram.com/p/BUKfME8lmPb/

I left New Orleans on May 17, 2017 on the Condor airline’s direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I had two bags that combined, almost weighed 140 pounds. In addition to those ridiculously heavy bags, I had my rolling carry-on, weighing 12 pounds, and my sister’s old college backpack, stuffed to the max with “necessities”. Oh, and of course, my purse.

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Do you know how hard it is to maneuver three rolling bags weighing 150 pounds while wearing a backpack and backpack purse through the airport? My arms were killing me!

I landed in Frankfurt at 12:45 on May 18th, and life has been whirlwind since then.

But I am here in Warsaw, and I am so thankful for this opportunity. I could have never done this without the support and unconditional love from my parents and siblings. I don’t know if I would have ever gotten the internship at POLIN Museum if it wasn’t for  the letter of recommendations from my sometimes boss, Nathan and sometimes manager, Molly at the WWII Museum. I also don’t know if I would have ever really taken the plunge to go and study and work abroad if it wasn’t for Hana’s encouragement and desire for me to go back to her place of birth.

There are so many others that contributed in making this summer happen, and to each one of you, know that I am so thankful. Every morning I wake up, and as I drink my terrible tasting, Polish coffee, I think about how truly blessed I am.

So here I am in Warsaw, Poland, living out my dreams of studying and living abroad. I have been here for a little less than a month, and I am the happiest I have ever been!

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Last picture before I head into the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Huge thanks to Cait for driving me to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, and then to Christie for taking me to the airport!

 

Follow along for more posts on my travels and weekend adventures. A lot of my post may be WWII and Holocaust heavy, but its my way of educating and sharing knowledge! Plus, you will hear about how I accidentally pushed the emergency button in the sauna in Frankfurt, jumped a tall, gated fence in Warsaw, accidentally ate raw beef, and many other “Lucy” moments. Next post, Germany and then followed by Warsaw, Kraków, concentration camps, and Gdansk.

All the best and many, many X’s and O’s,

Sarah

 

 

One thought on “Goodbye, USA; Hello, Europe!

  1. Sarah,

    You are such a delight! I want to hear first hand about jumping the tall fence! (?). You haven’t shared that adventure with us!

    Seriously honey, I enjoyed reading your blog and I hope that Mae reads it to Hana or at least pulls it up so Hana can read it! Be careful on the next exploration! XOXXO! Mom

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