While making summer plans for this year, ASU Honors Program student Jessica Tharp decided to go Dutch.
A San Angelo native with a double major in history and communication, Tharp got the experience of a lifetime by participating in the first-ever Summer Institute on Holocaust Remembrance at Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, the Netherlands.
“We were studying the Holocaust and talking about the things that led up to the Holocaust – the conditions, people’s attitudes, stuff like that,” Tharp said. “Taking those lessons and applying them to modern issues.”
With her trip paid for by the New Family Honors Program Enhancement Fund, Tharp worked alongside 10 other American and Dutch college students to complete small-group projects over the two-and-a-half week institute.
“Each group had to produce a few projects,” she explained. “My group chose to compare the Holocaust with the Syrian Refugee Crisis today, which is obviously more of a big deal in Europe than it is here because there are so many more refugees there.”
Each group had to produce a photo series and a TED Talk. All the work for each was done at Westerbork, a transit camp during the Holocaust that has since been turned into a memorial and museum.
“The Holocaust, the level, the magnitude, of depravity that occurred, it’s really hard to talk about that,” Tharp said. “In our photo series that we did, we had to think about it in terms of bystanders. We think about perpetrators and victims, but what about the people who were on the side watching it happen?”
“We actually used photos that we took at Westerbork,” she continued. “We presented it all to the director of the museum and some people from Hanze University. Our photo series was actually displayed at the Westerbork Museum. People who came to the museum could see it.”
“I never would have been able to go on this trip without the Honors Program and the Alvin New Family. I am eternally grateful for them. This trip will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Her first time out of the country, Tharp didn’t feel too much of a culture shock. She was nervous about flying internationally for the first time, but found the Netherlands relatively easy to adapt to.
“The Dutch really aren’t that different from Americans for the most part,” she said. “They’re really friendly and they all speak English, which was definitely a plus.”
One of the biggest challenges? Riding a bike.
“One thing the Dutch do that I didn’t know until I got there was that they bike everywhere,” Tharp said. “It was kind of scary for me because I haven’t ridden a bike since I was like 10 years old. I am very proud that none of us Americans fell off!”
And while she stayed busy, Tharp’s trip wasn’t all work and no play. Besides working on projects, the group enjoyed excursions to Amsterdam, Berlin and Schiermonnikoog, a coastal national park.
“It was a good mixture of work and fun,” Tharp said. “I really liked the Rijksmuseum, an art museum in Amsterdam. I got to see art by Van Gogh and all these really cool pieces.”
“In Berlin we visited the Pergamon Museum,” she continued. “It’s an archeological museum. There was stuff there that was like 4,000 years old. We walked around and were just in awe of everything we saw.”
They also got to visit Bergen-Belsen, one of the Nazi concentration camps in Germany.
“There’s nothing left because the British burned all the buildings down when they liberated it,” she said. “But walking around and seeing it, there are still mass graves there. You’re filled with this heaviness because you know what happened there.”
Now back at home, Tharp sets her sights forward. Scheduled to graduate in May 2018, she hopes to attend graduate school and eventually earn her Ph.D. in history.
And she knows that her Dutch experience is a big step in the right direction.
“We have a lot of opportunities through the Honors Program that we would never get if we weren’t a part of it,” Tharp said. “I never would have been able to go on this trip without the Honors Program and the Alvin New Family.”
“I’m eternally grateful to them,” she added. “This trip will stick with me for the rest of my life.”