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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

UTC History Class Documents Minority History in Europe

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

During Spring Break, most of UTC rested with family and friends or vacationed in familiar get-aways; meanwhile, roughly two dozen students braced themselves for a historical adventure across the world. 

In far flung Hungary, Germany and Austria, a variety of UTC majors split into three teams to investigate and document the conditions of Europe’s Romas, Jews and Germans. Students moved out of the comfort of their classrooms and textbooks to explore monuments and landmarks up close. Thus, their Professor, John Swanson, enabled them to learn about European history from the perspective of the continents’ peoples.

“Sometimes it's about being where history happened, to be in the location, and just to interact with people,” Swanson said. “The students knew very little about Roma, but now they’ve met Roma students and Roma children.”

Swanson explained that interactive trips such as this give students the chance to see history up close, allowing them to connect and find a better understanding of the lessons they learn in class. One such lesson, while not particularly inspirational, did incite inner reflection among the students.

Despite being thousands of miles away from home, they discovered a disturbingly similar phenomenon: politicians rewriting history. While it was her first trip across the ocean, UTC junior Taylor Thompson found the political system interesting.

“The whole class is about minorities in Eastern Europe,” Thompson said. “You see a lot of right-wing oligarch’s trying to rewrite history for their own political narratives. A lot of the time, it worked.”

In one documentary video, “A Memory Divided,” students explored a local controversy around Hungary’s Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation. As the class discovered, many Hungarians felt the memorial strategically avoided mentioning how the Hungarian government collaborated with the Germans during the Holocaust.

“There’s stuff in our history we aren’t taught until later,” Thompson added. “It’s interesting seeing that same thing in another culture.”

Each team filmed and edited their interviews into video documentaries around ten minutes long. Some students, like Mo Wilson–a sophomore– enjoyed the creativity involved in telling a story visually.

“I couldn’t even count how many hours of film we had,” Wilson said. “I’ve never filmed a film before, so learning while we’re in a different country was definitely a challenge.”

Still, despite the multipurpose intentions of learning and filming in Europe, senior Abby Presley’s opinion reflected that of most other students. Even though the history of European minorities could fill entire libraries, many of their problems remained unresolved.

“There’s a lot of interesting information we didn’t get to put in there, but I’ll take it with me,” Presley reflected.

“A Memory Divided” as well as the other two documentary videos, “Hungarian First” and “Redefining Resilience” are viewable via the History Department’s Vimeo.

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