My name is Andrew Henley and I am going into my senior year at Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pennsylvania). As an International Studies scholar and an avid historian, I wanted to do something to pair the two together!—So, why not travel to Kraków, Poland and study a semester at Jagiellonian University!
We often are consumed by thoughts of what to do with our lives, or whether we are living our lives to the fullest. These thoughts tend to occupy my mind daily, leading me to the fact that I want to experience what this world has to offer and learn how I might fit into its larger context. Through this program, I will be able to live and study in a culture that is different from my own so that I can understand my place and purpose.
This purpose is shaped by the destruction of lives, cultures, and historically significant sites that seem to be more common these days. I have always been interested in understanding the reasoning behind the latter of those three—the destruction of historic sites. When I tell my parents of my interests, they are hesitant to allow me to go into the field where destruction has occurred; however, they are always supportive of every wildly spontaneous idea or proposal that I create. So I have decided to focus on the historically significant features that previous cultures have offered to humanity. Through my International Studies major, I am able to focus primarily on the cultural significance of historical landmarks.
I am in a constant debate over where my drive for such studies originates. Could it be from my interest in genealogy, local history, or even museum studies? It might very well stem from all three. The common denominator that underscores each of those disciplines is preservation—the preservation of past family origin, the preservation of thoughts, and the preservation of objects that have historical value and meaning.
My genealogical interest also drives me toward this particular program of study. As my mother is one hundred percent Polish, I grew up in a culture of polka dancing, grandparents conversing exclusively in a foreign tongue, and, of course, kielbasas and pierogis. When I went to college, I found that these cultural elements, typically taken for granted, are very rare in today’s society more generally. As my grandparents are now deceased, the classes, “Religion and Identity of Poland” and “History of Polish Culture” will give me the opportunity to investigate at a deeper level the culture I found so fascinating when I was younger.
Many of those who I talk to say that traveling, in general, helps you find to yourself. As Mark Twain so eloquently stated, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” This experience will help me to develop a knowledge and skill set that will prepare me for a humanitarian-driven career, while working to preserve artifact of ancient culture and become closer to my Polish origin. Thus, I know I have a place in this vast world, but it will take time and experience to define this purpose. And I believe this program will help me to connect the two.
I will be leaving mid-September and this money will be used for myself to travel across Europe, experiencing the world as it is, meeting new people, and trying new foods. I will be having a blog on my family’s website (henleyfamilyarchives.com) if you would like to “travel with me” and read about my journey!
If you so choose to donate or follow along with my journey, I will be entirely grateful! Thank you once again for everyone who has motivated me or have been a major piece of my life!