Monthly Archives: August 2014

Branch Out: Travel Abroad

Have you ever considered traveling abroad through one of the IU South Bend programs? The study abroad programs take you beyond the classroom to experience an entirely new environment – new sights, smells, sounds, and way of living. I took part in IU South Bend’s Mexico program last summer.

Lowell Ritter photo

Personal photo – Hierve el Agua

As soon I got off the plane, it was obvious I was in a different country. Bits of conversation in Spanish were heard and I attempted to translate the directional signs. Four weeks later, each member of our group had grown in their Spanish skills and felt comfortable in the country. Things that were unusual at first (like not flushing toilet paper!) were the new normal.

On the Mexico trip, students stay with a host family, which not only makes it necessary to utilize your foreign language skills, but lets you see what it is truly like to live in Oaxaca, Mexico. The house where I stayed with one other IU South Bend student was large and also had students from Stanford University staying. The family was friendly, the neighborhood was extremely safe, and there was a festival almost every weekend, most notably the Guelaguetza. In addition, we visited famous archaeological sites, such as Teotihuacan.

The trip combines studying Spanish at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, visiting archaeological sites, and staying with a host family to create a rich experience. The institute also allows you to take cultural classes, such as cooking (my personal favorite), salsa dancing, or creating Alebrijes.  My one piece of advice is to not be afraid to try the trip. If finances are holding you back, remember there are scholarships available and you should speak with the Office of Financial Aid. If you are nervous about what you may experience, take a leap and travel overseas because you will be thankful you did!

Remember, there are many trips. If Mexico is not the right trip for you, consider traveling to Germany, Costa Rica, Berlin and Prague, Florence, or London.

This post is by Lowell Ritter (, who graduated in May 2014. 



Diary of a Young Girl

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

August 1, 2014 was the 70th anniversary of the last entry in Anne Frank’s infamous diary. On June 12, 1929, Anneliese Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany and moved to Amsterdam in 1933, the year that the Nazis gained control of Germany. The Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, and by 1942 started to deport Jews. For two years, Anne and her family hid in a secret room, with only a small window to see the outside world, until the family was “discovered” after a tip from a still unknown informant. The family was deported to Auschwitz and then Anne and her sister Margot were then transported to Bergen-Belsen, where they succumbed to typhus in March 1945, just a few weeks before Allied troops liberated the camp. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only member of the family to survive. After moving back to the Netherlands, Otto was given Anne’s diary from Miep Gies, who helped keep the family safe during their two years in hiding. Otto was surprised at the depth of his daughter’s thoughts and Anne’s written desire for it to be published. He sought a publisher for it, eventually succeeding in 1950. The Diary of a Young Girl has become one of the best-known pieces of Holocaust literature.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

Anne Frank, May 1942

Since its publication, an edited version has been used throughout the US high school as a valuable learning tool in both literature and history classes. In the mid-1990s an unabridged version was published that created controversy because of Anne’s discussion of sexuality amongst other things. The controversy continues, but unfortunately another problem has been occurring: schools have stopped using The Diary of a Young Girl. As someone who loves history and plans on attending grad school in that field, this concerns me. American high schools are doing students a disservice when they stop using first-hand primary resources concerning history. History is more than fact based memorization; it is a dialogue between historians, both trained and untrained. I feel that, if anything, more primary resources should be employed in high schools. That is bare-boned history and it needs to be taught in that manner. Too many students feel that history is boring; utilizing primary resources is an important step in rectifying a problem that most likely stems from a lack of delving into primary resources as the core teaching material.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”