Natalie Heller

Student overlooking hill in Verdun, France
College '23
Political Science & Criminology
Program
Penn Global Seminars

Program:

  • PGS: The Great War in Memoir and Memory, France

Ask me about...

  • Traveling abroad for the first time since COVID.

  • Immersing yourself in a language you don't speak fluently.

  • Making friends with locals.

My Experience Abroad:

As a student interested in security policy, many of my classes have focused on how populations react to and remember conflict. These reactions ultimately influence a country's laws and policy - making them a key part of understanding international security. I have spent a lot of time exploring how modern conflicts have impacted the American population and the policy it supports – especially September 11th.

HIST 329 was an exciting course because it allowed me to navigate the remembrance of conflict through new lenses. I’m used to exploring conflict from a political science perspective, but this class allowed me to explore conflict through a historical approach focused on individual, personal impacts. Additionally, prior to this class, I'd done little exploration of memorialization of conflict outside of the U.S. It was fascinating to learn how a century-old conflict continues to impact European culture and policy today, a fact that was made very real to me through our site visits in France.

Other Highlights:

  • Our site visit to Iwuy. Iwuy is a very small town in France with around 3000 inhabitants. Our professor’s grandfather fought in WWI at the Battle of Iwuy, and it was amazing to see the continued connection between the town and Professor Breckman. As an American student, WWI doesn't often feel like a living memory in our history classes, so seeing how real memories of occupation and war continue to be in Iwuy was really impactful.

  • Seeing the “Last Post” ceremony in Ypres – a daily tribute the town continues to hold to honor the fallen of WWI. The tradition has continued every night since 1929, with the exception of the German occupation of Ypres during WWII.

  • Making friends with the owner and employees of a local thrift shop in Arras, who gave us lots of restaurant and café recommendations. We even met up with them again during our free time in the city!

  • Our farewell dinner, where we shared French foods like escargot and quiche Lorraine.

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