Illinois State University history-social sciences teacher education major Brandon Diericks recently shared this dispatch from England, where he is student teaching during the spring 2016 semester:

So far, this study abroad experience in Europe has been exciting, eye-opening, and very interesting from a historical standpoint. My school, Cavendish School, is similar to and different from schools in the United States.

I appreciate the emphasis that the school’s history curriculum places on inquiry, central questions, primary source analysis, and argument building. This important strategy of teaching history sets students up to really begin to start thinking and acting like historians.

Outside of school, I have seen so many interesting places in Europe, including the medieval town of Lewes; London; the Roman baths in Bath; Salisbury Cathedral, where a copy of the Magna Carta is kept; Paris; the Palace of Versailles; Berlin; a concentration camp; and Amsterdam.

The most recent places I have visited were Berlin, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and Amsterdam, on the two-week spring break from school.

Berlin was an interesting city. While London and Paris have very old architecture, Berlin has mostly modern, post-World War II architecture, because a great deal of the city had been destroyed by Allied bombings and when the Soviets plundered the city in 1945. Some of the big sites we saw were the Brandenburg Gate, the former Luftwaffe headquarters, portions of the Berlin Wall, and the Reichstag. Reflecting on the history of Berlin, this city has been through a lot of turmoil and tension, from World War II, through to the Cold War, when Berlin was separated into East Berlin and West Berlin.

Sachsenhausen concentration camp was an interesting but sad place. The camp was a symbol of the horror and the legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi era. Interesting to note, our tour guide told us that the son of Joseph Stalin, who was the leader of the Soviet Union, died in Sachsenhausen camp during the war.

Leaving the camp, we took an overnight bus to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is an amazing city. The architecture is very pretty, including the many canals. We toured Anne Frank’s house, the Van Gogh Museum (Starry Night is not in this museum, but in New York’s Modern Art Museum), and the Rijksmuseum. We also walked through a couple of neat markets, which sold many different items.

Now, I am back in Eastbourne, and I will be heading back up to London later this week to see some places I haven’t visited yet.